Kingsley Coman

In French broadcasts of the ongoing UEFA Euro 2016 tournament, the name of the French forward Kingsley Coman is almost universally pronounced as [kiŋs.lɛ.kɔ.man] by commentators, with the final n realized as a consonant. This is in contrast to what many learners of French would guess, based on the fact that a final n in French in combination with the preceding vowel usually produces a nasalized vowel. Specifically, a final -an is usually [ɑ̃], as in Jean [ʒɑ̃], Alban [al.bɑ̃], Florian [flɔ.ʁjɑ̃], and Lacan [la.kɑ̃].

In fact, according to Kingsley Coman himself, the original pronunciation of Coman in the French Caribbean territory of Guadeloupe, where his parents hail from, is [kɔ.mɑ̃] with a nasalized vowel. However, this makes it an exact homophone of the French word comment, “how”, which led to a lot of teasing growing up for the young Kingsley who was born in Paris. So he came into the habit of saying [kɔ.man]; he also thought it sounded better. But both [kɔ.man] and [kɔ.mɑ̃] are fine, he now says.

In English, therefore, it would be perfectly fine to use the pronunciation with the [n] instead of imitating the nasalized vowel. KOH-ma(h)n [ˈkoʊ̯.mɑːn] is a reasonable approximation. In American English, where French names are often given final syllable stress to imitate the phrase-final emphasis in French prosody, it could also be koh-MA(H)N [koʊ̯.ˈmɑːn].

French final n following a vowel is commonly realized as a consonant in names of foreign origin, such as Kevin [ke.vin] from English, Erwan [ɛ.ʁwan] from Breton, and Bergson [bɛʁk.sɔn] from Yiddish. The Arabic element Ben is [bɛn]. The element van which is common in Dutch names can be either [van] or [vɑ̃].

Final -en following a consonant is more likely to be [ɛn] in general—this occurs in words of learned Latin origin such as abdomen [ab.dɔ.mɛn] and lichen [li.kɛn]; however, examen is [ɛɡ.za.mɛ̃] with a nasalized vowel. So names ending in -en following a consonant are almost exclusively pronounced with [ɛn], not just in names of more obviously foreign origin such as Le Pen [lə.pɛn] and Le Guen [lə.ɡwɛn] from Breton but also in cases such as Suffren [sy.fʁɛn] and Lenglen [lɑ̃.ɡlɛn]. Belgian footballer Eden Hazard, also currently competing in UEFA Euro 2016, is likewise pronounced [e.dɛn|a.zaːʁ → e.dɛ.na.zaːʁ].

Similarly, Citroën is pronounced [si.tʁɔ.ɛn] in French, although in many other languages it is pronounced as if it had the nasalized vowel based on a mistaken assumption about the French pronunciation. Citroën Korea uses the form 시트로엥 Siteuroeng [ɕʰi.tʰɯ.ɾo.eŋ] instead of 시트로엔 Siteuroen [ɕʰi.tʰɯ.ɾo.en], for example (Korean approximates French nasalized vowels with the velar nasal [ŋ]). The name comes from a spelling-based French alteration of Dutch citroen [si.ˈtrun], where the oe digraph represents [u].

When the French final n is doubled as -nn, it is a guarantee that it is pronounced as a consonant, as in Yann [ʽjan] from Breton and the ubiquitous -mann ending from German as in Hausmann [ʽos.man] (in the transcription of French used here, the symbol [ʽ] indicates that the following vowel or glide does not undergo the normal processes of contraction and liaison). This can also be seen in the surname of Kingsley Coman’s international teammate Antoine Griezmann [ɑ̃.twanə.ɡʁi.ɛz.man]. The non-native spelling -hn is another giveaway, as in Kahn [kan] from German.

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