*Kaïn, "Parle-moi d'toi"
Class team (Cliff Hopkins, Max LaPorte, Rasseck Ndiaye, Suzanne Peckham) project for French 496: annotated transcription** of a popular Quebec song, in celebration of National French Week. Numbers heading notes refer to line numbers in the song (click on title). We have included an English interpretation of the lyrics, and a questionnaire in French to guide students.

        Grillons-en un ben gentiment
        Rions un coup pour rien
        Sans faire de mal à personne
4      Je l’sais que Québec c’pas Amsterdam
        C’est plate mais c’est comme ça
        C’est pas moi qui fais la loi
        On s’en fout respirons la nuit
8      Comment ça va ta vie
        Ta job pis ta p’tite famille
        Moi j’suis devenu c’que j’ai voulu
        J’chante ma vision d’l’affaire
12    Pour c’qu’y est d’l’argent pas d’commentaires

                Mais parle moé pas des femmes
                Non c’est l’plus grand mystère
                Que Dieu a mis sur la terre
16            Je les aime mais j’sais pas comment faire
                Pis parle moé pas d’amour
                De tout c’que tu veux
                D’n[']importe quoi mais pas d’amour
20            J’te jure que j’saurais pas quoi t’dire
                Non c’est vrai j’saurais pas quoi t’dire

        J'sais pas quoi t’dire j’ai mal à t’suivre
        J’pensais qu’t’étais heureux
24    Même que ça m’donne le gout d’rire
        Non c’est vrai moi j’étais envieux
        Toi t’as pas de p’tite famille
        T’es libre comme l’air t’es chanceux
28    Encore hier j’me trouvais vieux
        Ris pas mais r'garde moi l’air
        À tous les jours j’cours après l’temps
        Mais mes enfants y sont tripants
32    Y courent partout, y touchent à toute
        Mais si tu savais c'qui m’font en dedans

                Mais parle moé pas des femmes
                Non c'est l'plus grand mystère
36            Que Dieu a mis sur la terre
                Je les aime mais pas de la bonne manière
                Pis parle moé pas d'amour
                De tout c'que tu veux
40            D'n’importe quoi mais pas d'amour
                J'te jure que j'saurais pas quoi t'dire 
                Non c'est vrai j'saurais pas quoi t'dire


                Mais parle moé pas des femmes
44            Non c'est l'plus grand mystère
                Que Dieu a mis sur la terre
                Je les aime mais pas de la bonne manière
                Pis parle moé pas d'amour
48            De tout c'que tu veux
                D'n’importe quoi mais pas d'amour
                J'te jure que j'saurais pas quoi t'dire 
                Non c'est vrai j'saurais pas quoi t'dire
52            J’te jure que j’saurais pas quoi t’dire
               Non c’est vrai j’saurais pas quoi t’dire

*Perhaps the best known song of Kaïn,  a Quebec concert and recording band formed around 2001 from four friends who attended the Cégep de Drummondville (Yanick Blanchette, Patrick Lemieux, Eric Maheu, Steve Veilleux). The song is in their album, Pop Culture (Montréal: Les Disques Passeport, 2004), though it was first a single. Kaïn has its own MySpace

**Our intention is to study the lyrical structure, the rhythmical context, the phonology (including allophones), dialectal traits, and the compromises we accept as part of a song. With no immediate access to a musical score, the transcription is an edited version the one on the "Disques Passport" website. We have added the third repitition of the refrain from the officially recorded performance, made stanza divisions, numbered the lines by four, and labeled some sections. We note that the website acknowledges Steve Veilleux as composer/lyricist, but we wonder how close to authorial text and officially recorded performance the transcription is.

v.1: This is probably an invitation to toke up. At the time of the song's composition marajuana was illegal in Quebec, an act reflected in v. 6, where the lyricist says he does not make the laws.  The incorrect transcription often found, "Rions-en...", is due to the unfamiliarity of the expression "Grillons-en un", because the initial consonant cluster /gr/ and the consonant /r/ can easily be confused (voiced velar, voiced uvular), and because line 2 begins with "Rions". A "joint" because if the reference were to a cigarette, the words would have been "Grillons-en une".  Finally, like the Latin saying "in vino veritas" this beginning is a kind of guarantor of frankness in a conversation between two long-separated friends.   The word "ben" = "bien".

The two similarly pronounced words, "grillons" and "rions",  form a start rhyme (vv. 1 and 2).  End rhyming is variable and unpatterned, including oblique rhyme, assonance, identical rhyme and more common rhymes with verying degrees of richness (vv. 1/2, 4/5, 6/7/8, 11/12, 14/15/16, 17/19, 20/21, 22/24/26, 23/25/27/28, 30/31/33, 35/36/37, 38/40, 41/42, 44/45/46, 47/49, 50/51/52/53).  The lyrics present a similar variety of interior rhyme: ("ben/gentiment" v.1, "c'est/mais/c'est" v.5, "moi/loi v.6, "ça va ta" v.8, "pis/p'tite famille" v. 9, "devenu/voulu" v.10, "mais/sais v. 16, "c'est vrai/saurais" v.21, "tous/jours/cours" v.30, "enfants/tripants" v.31, "touche/toute" v. 32, "mais/savais" v.33, etc.).

v.2: "Rions..." Since marijuana use is commonly said to induce uncontrolable and euphoric laughter, and since "laughing grass" and "giggle weed" are comon names for it,  this whole line may be another marajuana reference.

v.2a: The word "rien" receives two syllable counts. Similar instances where the lyricict uses a schwa or another option to extend the syllable count of a word are "vie" (v.8), "l'affaire (v.11), "n'importe (vv.19, 40, 49), "heureux" (v.23), "famille" (v.26), "hier" (v.28), "l'air" (v.29), and "dedans" (v.33).  In spite of its spelling, "t'dire" (vv. 20, 41,  52, 53) also
receives two syllable counts. In the two cases where this spelling receives three (vv.21, 42), the final "e" does not have a schwa value, and is not in play.

v.4: If the full written message of this line, without it elisions, were restored, it might read "Je le sais que Québec ce n'est pas Amsterdam", but it would be 12 syllables long. There seem to be several ways to interpret the line, where the recording gives no audible evidence of the word "que", and where the "l'" may have been vocalized. One might be to read it as an awkward statement by the singer/lyricist, who fumbles to explain that his city lacks urbanity. Another might be to say that either the "l'" or  "que" is a mistake  or a fragment of an abandoned attempt at the line, and should be dropped. The comparison between the two cities provides implicit support of  our interpretation of v.1.

v.4a: Negation in the song lyrics is consistently abbreviated as in familiar colloquial speech, beginning in v. 4: "...c’pas Amsterdam", then "C’est pas moi..." (v. 6), "Mais parle moé pas..." (v. 13), "...j’sais pas comment faire" (v. 16), "...parle moé pas d’amour" (v. 17), "...j’saurais pas quoi t’dire" (vv. 20, 21), "J'sais pas quoi t’dire..." (v. 22), "Toi t’as pas de..." (v. 26), "Ris pas..." (v. 29), "Mais parle moé pas..." (v. 33), "...parle moé pas d'amour" (v. 38), "...j'saurais pas quoi t'dire" (vv. 41, 42), "Mais parle moé pas..." (v. 43), "...parle moé pas d'amour" (v. 47), "...j'saurais pas quoi t'dire" (vv. 50, 51, 52, 53).

v.5: The tonic first person object pronoun form, "moi", appears in the song title, and then in vv. 5, 10, 25, 29 with standard spelling, and conforming to standard grammicical practices. Only in the refrain, does it appear as "moé" (vv. 13, 15, 34, 38, 43, 47). Here the form is also outside of standard grammar, since "parle moé pas" would normally be written "ne me parle pas".  Interestingly "moé" in these cases is pronounced closer to /mə/ than it is to /mwe/ . It seems that the only tonic object pronoun form which takes on the sound /...we/ in the song is  "Toi" /twe/ in v. 26, but the spelling does not reflect the sound.  It is possible that internal rhyme considerations such as "moi...loi" (v.6) could have had some influence in the lyricist's choice of spelling.

v. 6: Two possible points of consonant-to-vowel nasal assimilation: "...moi..." (v. 6), "Même..." (v. 24). The first is progressive, even if the intension was to make "moé" of "moi". The second is likely regressive, even though the word also begins with a nasal consonant.

v.7: In this line, the singer/narrator decides he has complained enough about Quebec law and wants to shift gears. In standard written discourse there would probably be punctuation indicating a pause, but the lysicist has chosen not to use any kind of punctuation anywhere in the song.

v.12: While there is no end-rhyme pattern to define strophes and refrains, these are well deliniated by the melody and syllable scansion, which we outline in the following shemas: strophe 1 (8, 7, 7, 8, 7, 7, 8, 7, 7, 8, 7, 8), refrain 1 (6, 6, 6, 8, 6, 5, 8, 9, 9+), strophe 2 (8, 7, 7, 8, 7, 7, 8, 7, 7, 8, 7, 8), refrain 2 (6, 6, 6, 8, 6, 5, 8, 9, 9), refrain 3 (6, 6, 6, 8, 6, 5, 8, 9, 9, 9, 9).

v. 13: "parle moi pas..." involves the non-standard use of a tonic pronoun. Perhaps the more standard use of "me" before the verb seemed awkward in scansion, or the usage is intentionally familiar. Regardless of the reason, "Parle-moi pas" has become part of the song's hook. A number of people transcribing the words without an official lyrics sheet have given the song a false title: "Parle moi pas des femmes." At the beginning of the refrain, these are the words the crowds in the auditorium or stadium most often sing for memory. This structure is used five more times in the song (vv. 17, 34,  38, 43, 47).

v. 16: "j’sais pas comment faire" is exchanged for "pas de la bonne manière" (vv. 38 & 46) in the second and third repetitions of the refrain. Is this an indicator that the refrain applies to a different person the second time than it did the first time? The only other changes in the refrain are the repetition of the last two lines (vv. 52 and 53), but this is idiomatic in popular music.

v.19: "[']" is the only editorial chnge we used, because "nimporte" differs from its two other appearances in the text (vv. 40 and 49), where it is spelled correctly: "n'importe".

v. 21: This whole stanza is the second voice, the friend invited by the first to talk. With "J'sais pas quoi t’dire j’ai mal à t’suivre", the listener wonders if this is a reaction to the how little the first speaker says about himself in the first stanza (vv. 10-12) or the complaint on women and love in the refrain (vv. 12-21).

v. 31: In the subject pronoun "ils" for vv. 31-33, the "l" has been voclized, leaving only the sound /i/.  Thus, "y sont" for "ils sont" (v. 31), "y courent...y touchent" for "Ils courent...ils touchent" (v. 32), and "qui m'font" for "qu'ils me font" (v 33).

Quebec French?  Our comments are not to be taken for linguitic expertise, only observation against what is frequently said concerning the pronunciation of French in Quebec. Palatalization of initial "d" or "t" is inconsistant, audible in the spelling "t'dire" (note v.2a), where it occurs in conjunction with the invisible schwa, also audible in three of the four instances where "tu" has a syllabic value (vv. 18, 39, 48), but not v. 33.  The standard French phoneme [a],  especially as represented by the letter "a", is allophonically pronounced somewhere between [ɑ] and [ɔ] with some frequency. Before we looked at a transcription, the combination "pas quoi" (vv. 20,  21,  41, 42, 50, 51, 52, 53) sounded like "pourquoi".  The nasal "a" as in"grand" frequently sounds like [ã].