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Learning to parse liaison-initial words: An eye-tracking study*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 February 2011

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Address for correspondence: 2090 Foreign Language Building, 707 S. Mathews Avenue, Urbana, IL


This study investigates the processing of resyllabified words by native English speakers at three proficiency levels in French and by native French speakers. In particular, it examines non-native listeners’ development of a parsing procedure for recognizing vowel-initial words in the context of liaison, a process that creates a misalignment of the syllable and word boundaries in French. The participants completed an eye-tracking experiment in which they identified liaison- and consonant-initial real and nonce words in auditory stimuli. The results show that the non-native listeners had little difficulty recognizing liaison-initial real words, and they recognized liaison-initial nonce words more rapidly than consonant-initial ones. By contrast, native listeners recognized consonant-initial real and nonce words more rapidly than liaison-initial ones. These results suggest that native and non-native listeners used different parsing procedures for recognizing liaison-initial words in the task, with the non-native listeners’ ability to segment liaison-initial words being phonologically abstract rather than lexical.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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This research was supported by the University of Illinois Research Board. I am very grateful to Vanessa Bordo, Chris Carignan, Juliette Dade and Éléonore LeCorvaisier for their assistance with this project, and to Sarah Brown-Schmidt, Jean-Pierre Chevrot, Caitlin Coughlin, Anne Cutler, Gary Dell, Zsuzsanna Fagyal, Cindy Fisher, Scott Frauendorf, Susan Garnsey, Meryl Garrison, Peter Golato, Angie Isaacs, Scott Jackson, Tuan Lam, Eun-Kyung Lee, Nathan Owens, Elsa Spinelli, Alison Trude, Duane Watson and three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. Of course, I am solely responsible for any errors or misunderstandings in this article.


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