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


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.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: 2090 Foreign Language Building, 707 S. Mathews Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801 USA
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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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Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
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