French liaison is a relatively frequent morpho-phonological process occurring between two words (e.g. les amis –> [le.zami]). Liaison is particularly challenging for infants, since the surfaced form (e.g. zami) is non-aligned with the word boundary (e.g., ami). In this talk, I will focus on how infants between 20- to 36-month-old resolve lexical ambiguities when word boundaries are unclear due to liaison. I will outline a series of experiments aimed at testing infant’s encoded form of new words, and report an eye-tracking study aimed at testing the phonetic representation of familiar vowel-initial words. I will argue that infants’ segmentation is first guided by an onset bias, and their ability to eventually parse vowel-initial words correctly stem from their sensitivity to distributional information and their gradual understanding of the syntactic contexts in which liaison occurs.
Antje Mefferd (Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences, Vanderbilt University Medical Center)
Jonah Katz (West Virginia University)
Michele Gubian (IPS, LMU Munich)
Nancy C. Kula (University of Essex)