The denasalization of French nasal vowels in liaison
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Traditional descriptions have characterized nasal vowels in Northern Metropolitan French (NMF) as either maintaining nasality or denasalizing completely in position of liaison. However, while research in both vowel nasality and liaison has progressed greatly in recent decades, little has been said of their intersection, particularly at an acoustic level. This study uses a variety of acoustic measures to describe how nasal vowels are produced in liaison and how vowel denasalization is manifested acoustically for speakers of NMF. Findings indicate that many speakers seem to fully denasalize in liaison but other patterns emerge. A few speakers seem to denasalize very little in liaison, while others produce partially nasalized vowels that appear to be neither fully oral nor fully nasal. This suggests a possible, partially-nasalized allophone for oral-nasal vowel pairs. Additionally, an alternative production for the possessive determiner son ‘his/her/one’s’ in liaison is observed. The nasal vowels of these determiners are traditionally described as maintaining nasality in liaison, but in a considerable number of the determiners, the nasal vowel was deleted in liaison, with the nasal onset consonant syllabifying with the onset of the following vowel. Just as the realization of liaison has been shown in recent years to vary from speaker to speaker and word to word, the acoustic findings presented in this work imply that nasal vowels in liaison are not always denasalized as predicted. The implication is that other factors such as phonological context, frequency of collocation, and social/individual difference influence whether or not a vowel is denasalized.