Contextual factors in lexical processing: the case of French Liaison

<p>Lower-level and higher-level processes during lexical recognition were investigated using ambiguous pseudo-noun cases related to liaisons in French. In phrases such as <i>un onche</i> and <i>un nonche</i>, the misalignment in the former liaison case produces an identical surface form as in the latter consonant-initial case, both [œ̃.nɔ̃ʃ], and two possible interpretations (<i>onche</i>, <i>nonche</i>) enter into competition. Quebec-French-speaking adults performed an implicit segmentation task testing the use of different factors. Results showed a dominant effect of syntactic category, with a general bias for vowel-initial interpretation when targets followed a determiner. The use of specific liaison acoustic cues for disambiguation was found for /z/ and /n/ only in adjective context. Liaison frequency and onset probability had no clear influence. Thus, the contextual knowledge of liaison-causing words is crucial for lexical recognition. These findings are consistent with the predictions of the hierarchy proposed by Mattys, White, and Melhorn (2005).</p>