Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Mazzola, Michael Lee

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures


Metrical phonology; French language--Phonology


The area of linguistics is comprised of two major schools: sociolinguistics on the one side, and psycholinguistics on the other. The former consists of natural-generative phonology, and the latter of transformational-generative phonology. Sociolinguists maintain that language is concrete, norm-governed behavior that is influenced by culture. Psycholinguists counter that language is not concrete, but rather abstract, rule-governed activity, which can be studied apart from the culture. This thesis adheres mainly to the principles found in transformational-generative phonology. The external sandhi phenomenon of French liaison is examined, focusing on attributive and predicative phrases. It is proposed that a linear view of phonology is inadequate to explain the occurrence of liaison in French. A hierarchical representation, incorporating the use of a metrical tree, serves to demonstrate clearly in which environments liaison occurs. According to this proposal, liaison will only occur between words if both segments in question belong to the same phonological word by virtue of there being no stress clash present. If these requirements are not satisfied, liaison will not occur. Furthermore, it is maintained that liaison occurring in attributive phrases and liaison found in predicative phrases are two different phenomena. Liaison in attributive phrases is a purely phonological process, while in predicative phrases, it is an artificial, learned convention, influenced by morphology. When liaison does occur in predicative phrases, its main purpose is to define syntactic cohesion or grammatical function. This thesis demonstrates that there are indeed rules responsible for determining the behavior of segments and that the nature of these rules is prosodic rather than morphological. Language from the analysis proposed here, therefore, is not merely a sociological convention; it is a complex, rule-governed process. People learn language by internalizing rules, which are then stored in the language capacity mechanism, a universal in all humans. New utterances are created by applying these rules to new situations, rather than by learning them haphazardly. This idea is reinforced here by showing that phonological rules applied to segments account for the occurrence of liaison.


Includes bibliographical references (pages 58-59)


iii, 59 pages




Northern Illinois University

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