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date: 18 April 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The aim of this chapter is to show, through the examination of a central area of French phonology, liaison, how corpora have contributed to a better understanding of the phenomena at play. The chapter adopts a historical perspective in going back to the influential work of S. A. Schane, who in the 1960s offered the first generative phonology treatment of French liaison. It is argued that a number of the issues debated within theoretical models since then are probably dead ends because they are based on data which is too scarce, occasionally spurious, and often uncritically adopted from previous treatments. Corpora have helped in firming up our database and allowing us to chart which areas are relatively stable across speakers and which are variable. There are, of course, cases where the data provided by corpora is neither rich enough nor controlled enough. But our understanding of French liaison is more liable to be advanced by further corpora construction, psycholinguistic testing, and phonetic experimentation than by devising new notational models on the basis of data inherited from tradition.

Keywords: French, liaison, corpus, phonology, variation, liaison

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