Paradigm uniformity effects on French liaison
Benjamin Storme
February 2022

French liaison is a type of external sandhi involving the use of a special allomorph ending in a so-called liaison consonant before vowel-initial words. Liaison consonants are challenging for phonological theory because of evidence that they pattern ambiguously between word-final and word-initial consonants. Specific underlying phonological or lexical representations have been proposed in the literature to account for this ambiguous behavior, including floating consonants, lexical constructions and gradient underlying representations. This paper proposes an alternative analysis of the ambiguous patterning of French liaison as a paradigm uniformity effect, building on Steriade(1999). In a Word1-Word2 sequence, the liaison consonant at the boundary between the two words ends up being ambiguous between a word-final and a word-initial consonant because of a pressure to make contextual variants of Word1 and Word2 similar to their citation forms (i.e. words as pronounced in isolation). The proposal is shown to be able to account for the ambiguity of French liaison both in terms of prosodic attachment and phonetic realization. The paper provides evidence for two key predictions of this analysis, using judgment data on the prosodic attachment of liaison consonants in Swiss French and phonetic data on the interaction between liaison and affrication in Quebec French. The ambiguity of French liaison is modeled using a probabilistic grammar including paradigm-uniformity constraints, without any need for special underlying phonological or lexical representations.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/006457
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: submitted (data and code available at
keywords: french liaison; paradigm uniformity; phonetic detail; constraint-based grammar; laboratory phonology, phonology
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