Variable liaison in Parisian French

Christine Moisset, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation examines stylistic variation in variable liaison (VL) among middle class speakers of Parisian French. The realization of variable liaison is sensitive to both linguistic and extralinguistic factors. Previous empirical studies demonstrated that there is intraspeaker variation (Encrevé) and sensitivity to style (Ågren) in the production of VL. These studies were based on rather formal speech, political speeches and television and radio broadcasts. This research expands prior knowledge about VL, including the status of variable liaison in less formal contexts and the range of intraspeaker variation. The cornerstone of the methodology is the recordings of the speech of 14 Parisians in different social contexts. These recordings garnered over 11,500 tokens of potential VL which were coded for four linguistic factors—consonant type, segment preceding the liaison consonant, length of the word containing the liaison consonant and grammatical category. Gender, age, style, and addressee are the four extralinguistic factors which are analyzed. Style includes vernacular, formal speech and reading. Addressee has three categories—relatives, friends and audience. Using Goldsearch and Goldvarb, the data are analyzed quantitatively. The results show interspeaker variation of 25% and a remarkably high intraspeaker variation which reached 61%. With regard to linguistic factors, the results concur with previous studies: the consonant type, the length and the grammatical category of the word containing the liaison consonant influence the realization of liaison. For example, prepositions and pronouns demonstrate high rates of liaison. In contrast, verbs have the lowest rate, but show the most stylistic stratification. Extralinguistic factors vary in their effects on VL. Gender is not significant, but style is, as seen in the high percentage of intraspeaker variation. Age, is the most complex of the extralinguistic variables with the oldest age group showing a more limited range of variation and a higher rate of liaison than the two younger groups. The data demonstrate that VL is a stable variable that displays some age-grading. The study also provides an overview of the type of errors made by native speakers and learners of French as a second language, and it examines the 87 false liaisons found in the corpus.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Moisset, Christine, "Variable liaison in Parisian French" (2000). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9965531.