Gradient behavior without gradient underlying representations: the case of French liaison




french liaison, coarticulation, paradigm uniformity, output-output correspondence, maxent


French liaison consonants are challenging for phonological theory because they pattern ambiguously between word-initial and word-final consonants. In recent works, these facts have been used to motivate different underlying representations for liaison consonants and non-liaison consonants. This paper argues that this move is not necessary. The gradient behavior of liaison consonants can indeed be derived through constraint interaction while maintaining that liaison consonants and non-liaison consonants have the same underlying representation. Two independently motivated hypotheses will play a key role in deriving this result: (i) word variants strive to be similar to their citation forms via output-output correspondence and (ii) concatenating two words (word 1 and word 2) has phonetic/phonological consequences on word 1's final segment and on word 2's initial segment. Together with the fact that liaison consonants are absent from the citation forms of liaison words, these hypotheses predict that liaison consonants will be less protected against changes than stable word-final consonants but more protected than word-initial consonants, thus explaining their gradient behavior. The analysis is illustrated with a detailed case study on Quebec French affrication combining corpus data and grammatical modeling.

Author Biography

  • Benjamin Storme, Universit√© de Lausanne

    Section des Sciences du Langage et de l'Information (SLI)







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