In French, the circumflex usually shows the loss of letter, usually the loss of the letter s. Example: maistre (Middle French) > maître (modern French). Here its function is historical.
Also, less often, the circumflex is used to distinguish between homophones. These are words spelt the same, but with different meanings. Example: sur = on, but sûr = safe or certain. In those cases the pronunciation of the two words may be different.
Sources[change | change source]
- Catach, Nina (ed) 1995. Dictionnaire historique de l'orthographe française. Paris: Larousse.
- Casagrande, Jean 1984. The sound system of French. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press. ISBN 0-87840-085-0