Liaison (French)

In French, liaison (French pronunciation: [ljɛzɔ̃] (listen)) is the pronunciation of a linking consonant between two words in an appropriate phonetic and syntactic context. For example, the word les ('the') is pronounced /le/, the word amis ('friends') is pronounced /ami/, but the combination les amis is pronounced /le‿zami/, with a linking /z/.

Liaison only happens when the following word starts with a vowel or semivowel, and is restricted to word sequences whose components are linked in sense, e.g., article + noun, adjective + noun, personal pronoun + verb, and so forth. This indicates that liaison is primarily active in high-frequency word associations (collocations).

Most frequently, liaison arises from a mute word-final consonant that used to be pronounced, but in some cases it is inserted from scratch, as in a-t-il ('has he?'), which is the inverted form of il a ('he has'). In certain syntactic environments, liaison is impossible; in others, it is mandatory; in others still, it is possible but not mandatory and its realization is subject to wide stylistic variation.


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