Paradigm uniformity effects on French liaison
Benjamin Storme
December 2022

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 they pattern ambiguously between word-final and word-initial consonants. This ambiguous behavior has led to proposals to expand the French phoneme inventory or lexicon with new representations (e.g. floating consonants, lexical constructions, gradient symbolic representations). This paper proposes an alternative analysis: the ambiguous patterning 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 (i.e. words as pronounced in isolation). The proposal is shown to account for the ambiguity of 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 European French and phonetic data on the interaction between liaison and affrication in Quebec French. The ambiguity of liaison is modeled using a probabilistic constraint-based grammar including paradigm uniformity constraints.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/006457
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: resubmitted (data and code available at
keywords: french liaison; paradigm uniformity; phonetic detail; constraint-based grammar; laboratory phonology, phonology
previous versions: v1 [February 2022]
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