It suffixes to say

Tuesday, 16 January 2007 — 4:18am | Literary theory, Literature

In coining the word différance (and establishing the vocabulary of deconstruction in its immediate, nonpresent orbit), Jacques Derrida presumes that it is phonetically indistinguishable from différence. It’s the keystone of… whatever it was he thought he was saying. As I am no expert on French morphology or phonology: does anyone know if this is actually universally true? Does there exist a French accent somewhere that demarcates a clear distinction between the pronunciations of the suffixes –ence and –ance? Or is it like the English –ible and –able, which are (to my knowledge) functionally equivalent in speech wherever you go, and solely a matter of orthography?

It’s fascinating to me, as someone with more than a passing interest in random, gratuitous acts of paronomasia, that it is entirely possible to construct puns that work in some dialects and accents, but not others. This may seem like a rather simple observation, but I think it has a certain latent power. It could also be disabling. For instance, if your philosophical rhetoric is founded on punning as a substitute for logic (not saying I mind), the puns had better work. Otherwise, you might be caught, and I’ll either see you in court (in Britain) or ignore you and lie on my cot (in America).

Speaking of which: I’ll see you in hell, Pachelbel.


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