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.
Yoon Mi Oh (Aoju University, Seoul)