Paradigm uniformity effects on French liaison
Benjamin Storme
February 2024

French liaison is a type of external sandhi involving the use of a special consonant-final allomorph before vowel-initial words. Consonants occurring at the end of these allomorphs are challenging for phonological theory because of evidence that their prosodic and segmental realization is intermediate between the realizations of word-final and word-initial consonants. This puzzling behavior of French liaison has been used to motivate new phonological and lexical representations, including floating consonants, lexical constructions and gradient symbolic representations. This paper proposes an alternative analysis: the variable realization of liaison is derived as a paradigm uniformity effect, assuming traditional phonological and lexical representations. In a Word1-Word2 sequence, the liaison consonant at the boundary between the two words ends up acquiring properties of both word-final and word-initial consonants because of a pressure to make contextual variants of Word1 and Word2 similar to their citation forms. The proposal is implemented in a probabilistic constraint-based grammar including paradigm uniformity constraints and is shown to account for the intermediate behavior of liaison both in terms of prosodic attachment and segmental realization. The paper provides evidence for two key predictions of this analysis, using judgment data on the prosodic attachment of liaison consonants in European French and phonetic data on the interaction between liaison and affrication in Quebec French.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/006457
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Natural Language and Linguistic Theory ( ; data and code available at
keywords: french liaison; paradigm uniformity; phonetic detail; constraint-based grammar; laboratory phonology, phonology
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