Usage of angle brackets in French

D

Kwiziq community member

10 March 2017

4 replies

Usage of angle brackets in French

I have seen words or phrases in in French texts, but I haven't been able to find an explanation of what they are used for. Are they just used for emphasis, or do they mean something else?

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

11 March 2017

11/03/17

Hi D These symbols are just speech marks in French. They're called "guillemet" (also sometimes chevrons, angle quotes, Latin quotation marks, or French quotation marks).

You can read about them here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quotation_mark#French

These days you'll see a lot of French texts that use English quotations marks instead. The major French newspaper Le Monde (lemonde.fr) switched to using them, apparently, but has switched back to using guillemet.

Hope that's cleared up the confusion!

D

Kwiziq community member

11 March 2017

11/03/17

I know what guillemets are, but the ones I'm asking about look like this < > , not like this « » . Here's an example:
De plus en plus, les salaires ne sont pas calculés en fonction de la du
travail. Il résulte de cette modification dans le critère de détermination du
salaire que la de ce salaire, pour l'ouvrier, a changé.
Is this just an equivalent of the usual guillemets, and should it be translated using English quotation marks (...salaries are not calculated as a function of the "intrinsic value" of work)?

D

Kwiziq community member

11 March 2017

11/03/17

Oops, the text in the brackets disappeared from the example in my response...maybe an HTML thing? I'll try leaving spaces before and after the brackets and see if that helps.
De plus en plus, les salaires ne sont pas calculés en fonction de la < valeur intrinsèque > du
travail. Il résulte de cette modification dans le critère de détermination du
salaire que la < signification > de ce salaire, pour l'ouvrier, a changé.

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

12 March 2017

12/03/17

Hi D - The single form is known as the "guillemet simple" and is a convention they use increasingly in French-speaking Switzerland, especially for "second rank" quotes, e.g. where a journalist is quoting someone who within their quote, quotes a third person. This avoids confusion of who is saying what. In France, this tends to be handled using English speech marks. However, in the texts you've quoted, I can't tell if the whole text is a quote, in which case this could make sense. However, reading the text it looks like they are being used as the equivalent of scare quotes (i.e. it's not an actual quotation, but indicates a word or expression that a term used by certain people, or may not be a common term/usage).

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