Update: 2012-11-24 07:03 AM +0630


TIL Grammar Glossary


Compiled by U Kyaw Tun (UKT), M.S. (I.P.S.T., U.S.A.), and staff of TIL (Tun Institute of Learning, http://www.tuninst.net ), from various sources. Prepared for students of TIL Computing and Language Center, Yangon, Myanmar. Not for sale.

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Grammar Glossary - L

• lemma • letter • lexical category or part of speech • Lexical Density Test • lexical word • lexicon • liaison (linguistics) • limerick • linear text • linking verb • listserv • litotes • loan word • logical agreement • logical fallacies • lower case • lurking

UKT Notes
• lemma • liaison (linguistics) • Limerick

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See lemma in my notes.

lemma 1 n. pl. lemmas or lemmata 1. A subsidiary proposition assumed to be valid and used to demonstrate a principal proposition. [UKT: English uses prepositions, whereas Burmese uses postpositions.] 2. A theme, an argument, or a subject indicated in a title. 3. A word or phrase treated in a glossary or similar listing. [Latin lēmma from Greek from lambanein to take]

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See • grapheme

From UseE
There are 26 letters in the English alphabet; the letters are the individual characters that are used to represent sounds in a written form, either individually or in combination with other letters. Letters can be either lower or upper case. The latter are the larger versions of the letters that occur at the start of a sentence or the beginning of a proper noun and the term capital letter is also widely used for them. Lower case letters are used for the other transcriptions of the word or the sentence.

letter n. 1. A written symbol or character representing a speech sound and being a component of an alphabet. 2. A written or printed communication directed to a person or an organization. 3. Often letters A certified document granting rights to its bearer. 4. Literal meaning: had to adhere to the letter of the law. 5. letters used with a sing. verb a. Literary culture; belles-lettres. b. Learning or knowledge, especially of literature. c. Literature or writing as a profession. 6. Printing a. A piece of type that prints a single character. b. A specific style of type. c. The characters in one style of type. 7. An emblem in the shape of the initial of a school awarded for outstanding performance, especially in varsity athletics. v. lettered lettering letters v. tr. 1. To write letters on. 2. To write in letters. v. intr. 1. To write or form letters. 2. To earn a school letter, as for outstanding athletic achievement: She lettered in three collegiate sports.
   Idioms: to the letter 1. To the last detail; exactly: followed instructions to the letter. [Middle English from Old French lettre from Latin littera perhaps from Etruscan from Greek diphthera hide, leather, writing surface]
   Synonyms: letter epistle missive note The central meaning shared by these nouns is “a written communication directed to another”: received a letter of complaint; the Epistles of the New Testament; a missive of condolence; a thank-you note.

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lexical category or part of speech

From: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexical_category 080620

In grammar, a lexical category (also word class, lexical class, or in traditional grammar part of speech) is a linguistic category of words (or more precisely lexical items), which is generally defined by the syntactic or morphological behaviour of the lexical item in question. Common linguistic categories include noun and verb, among others. There are open word classes, which constantly acquire new members, and closed word classes, which acquire new members infrequently if at all.

Different languages may have different lexical categories, or they might associate different properties to the same one. For example, Japanese has at least three classes of adjectives where English has one; Chinese and Japanese have measure words while European languages have nothing resembling them; many languages don't have a distinction between adjectives and adverbs, or adjectives and nouns, etc. Many linguists argue that the formal distinctions between parts of speech must be made within the framework of a specific language or language family, and should not be carried over to other languages or language families.

The classification of words into lexical categories is found from the earliest moments in the history of linguistics. (wiki-fn01). In the Nirukta, written in the 5th or 6th century BCE, the Sanskrit grammarian Yāska defined four main categories of words (wiki-fn02) :

1. nāma - nouns or substantives
2. ākhyāta - verbs
3. upasarga - pre-verbs or prefixes
4. nipāta - particles, invariant words (perhaps prepositions)

These four were grouped into two large classes: inflected (nouns and verbs) and uninflected (pre-verbs and particles).

A century or two later, the Greek scholar Plato wrote in the Cratylus dialog that "... sentences are, I conceive, a combination of verbs [rhēma] and nouns [ónoma]" (wiki-fn03). Another class, "conjunctions" (covering conjunctions, pronouns, and the article), was later added by Aristotle.

By the end of the 2nd century BCE, the classification scheme had been expanded into eight categories, seen in the Tékhnē grammatiké :

1. Noun: a part of speech inflected for case, signifying a concrete or abstract entity
2. Verb: a part of speech without case inflection, but inflected for tense, person and number, signifying an activity or process performed or undergone
3. Participle: a part of speech sharing the features of the verb and the noun
4. Article: a part of speech inflected for case and preposed or postposed to nouns (the relative pronoun is meant by the postposed article)
5. Pronoun: a part of speech substitutable for a noun and marked for person
6. Preposition: a part of speech placed before other words in composition and in syntax
7. Adverb: a part of speech without inflection, in modification of or in addition to a verb
8. Conjunction: a part of speech binding together the discourse and filling gaps in its interpretation

The Latin grammarian Priscian (fl. 500 CE) modified the above eight-fold system, substituting "interjection" for "article". It wasn't until 1767 that the adjective was taken as a separate class (wiki-fn04).

Traditional English grammar is patterned after the European tradition above, and is still taught in schools and used in dictionaries. It names eight parts of speech: noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, preposition, conjunction, and interjection (sometimes called an exclamation).

Since the Greek grammarians of 2nd century BCE, parts of speech have been defined by morphological, syntactic and semantic criteria. However, there is currently no generally agreed-upon classification scheme that can apply to all languages, or even a set of criteria upon which such a scheme should be based.

Linguists recognize that the above list of eight word classes is simplified and artificial (wiki-fn05). For example, "adverb" is to some extent a catch-all class that includes words with many different functions. Some have even argued that the most basic of category distinctions, that of nouns and verbs, is unfounded (wiki-fn06), or not applicable to certain languages (wiki-fn07).

Functional classification
Common ways of delimiting words by function include:

Open word classes:
• adjectives • adverbs • interjections • nouns • verbs (except auxiliary verbs)

Closed word classes:
• auxiliary verbs • clitics • coverbs • conjunctions • determiners (articles, quantifiers, demonstrative adjectives, and possessive adjectives) • particles • measure words
• adpositions (prepositions, postpositions, and circumpositions) • preverbs • pronouns • contractions • cardinal numbers

English frequently does not mark words as belonging to one part of speech or another. Words like neigh, break, outlaw, laser, microwave and telephone might all be either verb forms or nouns. Although -ly is an adverb marker, not all adverbs end in -ly and not all words ending in -ly are adverbs. For instance, tomorrow, slow, fast, crosswise can all be adverbs, while early, friendly, ugly are all adjectives (though early can also function as an adverb).

In certain circumstances, even words with primarily grammatical functions can be used as verbs or nouns, as in "We must look to the hows and not just the whys" or "Miranda was to-ing and fro-ing and not paying attention".

Wikipedia references
• wiki-fn01 Robins, R. H. (1989). General Linguistics. 4th ed. London: Longman. wiki-fn01b
• wiki-fn02 Bimal Krishna Matilal (1990). The word and the world: India's contribution to the study of language. Oxford. Yaska is dealt with in Chapter 3. wiki-fn02b
• wiki-fn03 Cratylus 431b wiki-fn03b
• wiki-fn04 Beauzée, Nicolas, Grammaire générale, ou exposition raisonnée des éléments nécessaires du langage. (Paris, 1767). wiki-fn04b
• wiki-fn05 Zwicky, Arnold (2006). What part of speech is "the"? Some would label "the" as an adjective because it tells "which one" about the noun that follows it. By doing so, the word "the" is modifying the noun and, thus, it is quite adjectival. Language Log. wiki-fn05b
• wiki-fn06 Hopper, P. and S. Thompson. 1985. "The Iconicity of the Universal Categories 'Noun' and 'Verbs'". In Typological Studies in Language: Iconicity and Syntax. John Haiman (ed), vol. 6, pp. 151-183, Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company wiki-fn06b
• wiki-fn07 Broschart, Jürgen 1997. "Why Tongan does it differently: Categorial Distinctions in a Language without Nouns and Verbs." Linguistic Typology 1(2):123-165. wiki-fn07b

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Lexical Density Test

See • Flesch-Kincaid Index • Fog Index

From UseE
This is a Readability Test designed to show how easy or difficult a text is to read. The Lexical Density Test uses the following formula:

(Number of different words / Total number of words) x 100

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lexical word

Contrast • function word

From LBH
A word, such as a noun, verb, or modifier, that carries part of the meaning of language.

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n. pl. lexicons or lexica Abbr. lex.
A dictionary.
A stock of terms used in a particular profession, subject, or style; a vocabulary: the lexicon of surrealist art.
Linguistics The morphemes of a language considered as a group. [Medieval Latin from Greek lexikon (biblion) word(book), from neuter of lexikos of words from lexis word from legein to speak; See leg-in Indo-European Roots.]

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liaison (linguistics)

See liaison (linguistics) in my notes.

n. 3. Linguistics Pronunciation of the usually silent final consonant of a word when followed by a word beginning with a vowel, especially in French. [French from Old French from Latin ligātiō ligātiōn-from ligātus,past participle of ligāreto bind; See ligate ]

From DJPD-16
p315. The linking or joining together of sounds.
   In English the best-known case of liaison is the 'linking r': there are many words in English (e.g. <car>, <here>, <tyre>) which in a RHOTIC accent such as US English or Scots would be pronounced with a final /r/, but which in BBC pronunciation end in a vowel when they are pronounced before a pause or before a consonant. When they are followed by a vowel, British English speakers pronounce /r/ at the end, e.g.:

<the car stopped>  /ðə kɑː stɒpt/  (US)  /ðə kɑːr stɒpt/
<the car is blue>  /ðə kɑːr ɪz bluː/  (US)  /ðə kɑːr ɪz bluː/

In BBC English there is also 'intrusive r' -- an /r/ inserted between two vowels at word boundaries where there is none in the spelling. This does not occur after close vowels ( /iː uː/ ), or diphthongs which end with a close element ( /eɪ aɪ ɔɪ aʊ əʊ/ ), e.g.:

<China and Japan>  /ʧaɪnə r ən ʤəˈpæn/  (US)  /ʧaɪnə ən ʤəˈpæn/
<law and order>  /lɔː r ən ˈɔː.də/  (US)  /lɑː ən ˈɔːr.dɚ/

It is said that liaison is done to link the words without sliding the two vowels together though many languages do run vowels together.
   Another aspect of liaison of English is the movement of a single consonant at the end of an unstressed word to the beginning of the next if that is strongly stressed. A well-known example in British English is <none at all>, where the /t/ of <at> becomes initial (and therefore strongly aspirated) in the final syllable for many speakers.

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From UseE
A limerick is a short, humorous poem. It is generally about five lines long, with a strong rhyme and often using sexual innuendo as its source of humour.

n. 1. A light humorous, nonsensical, or bawdy verse of five anapestic lines usually with the rhyme scheme aabba. [After Limerick]
   Notes: Etymologies can sometimes be a bit disappointing, as, for example, when one is told that limerick is named after a city or county in Ireland without being told why it is so named. Unfortunately, we run into a difficulty here that is not uncommonly faced by etymologists, namely, that no one is precisely sure why this piece of humorous verse was so named. One theory is that it was named for a group of poets who wrote in Limerick in the 18th century; another, that it came from a custom at parties of making up a nonsense verse and following it with a chorus of “Will you come up to Limerick.” In any case, the first limericks appeared in books published in 1820 and 1821, and the form was popularized by Edward Lear in a collection published in 1846. The word itself, however, is not recorded until 1896. Let us sum up by saying:

There once was a verse form named limerick./
No one can account for the name of it./
Some think from a game/
Or from poets it came./
If you know please come up to Limerick.

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linear text

From LBH
Text such as a conventional printed document that is intended to be read in sequence. Contrast • hypertext. (See pp. 224–25.)

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linking verb

See • auxiliary verb • copula • helping verb • verb to be.

From LBH
A verb that relates a subject to its complement:

Julie is a Democrat.
He looks harmless.
The boy became a man.

Common linking verbs are:

the forms of be  
the verbs relating to the senses, such as:
   look and smell  
the verbs:
   become, appear, and seem.

(See p. 261.)

From EnPlus 
A linking verb is a verb which links or establishes a relationship between the subject and a term in the predicate which describes or renames the subject. It does not show action, but, rather, it links. The common linking verbs are:

be, appear, become, feel, seem, smell, taste, sound.

Please note that be may also be an auxiliary verb. All the others except for seem can be transitive or intransitive action verbs.
     One way of testing for a linking verb is to replace the verb with the appropriate form of seem. If the sentence is still saying pretty much the same thing, the verb is a linking verb.

He tasted the ice cream. (action) -- action verb
The ice cream tasted good. -- linking verb
Tasted is used to help good describe the subject.

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See • discussion list.

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From UseE
Litotes is a kind of understatement, where the speaker or writer uses a negative of a word ironically, to mean the opposite.

She's not the friendliest person I know.
(= she's an unfriendly person)

n. pl. litotes
A figure of speech consisting of an understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite, as in:

This is no small problem.

[Greek litot ēs from litos plain; See lei- in Indo-European Roots.]

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loan word

From UseE
A loan word is a word taken from a different language.

'Avant garde' is a loan from French
'marmalade' is from Portuguese

One of the first loan words from Hindi or Sanskrit is 'juggernaut '.  The following is from AHTD:

juggernaut n. 1. Something, such as a belief or an institution, that elicits blind and destructive devotion or to which people are ruthlessly sacrificed. 2. An overwhelming, advancing force that crushes or seems to crush everything in its path: “ It doesn't assume that people need necessarily remain passive when confronted by what appears to be the juggernaut of history ” Christopher Lehmann-Haupt  3. Juggernaut Used as a title for the Hindu deity Krishna. [Hindi jagannāth title of Krishna from Sanskrit jaganāthaḥ / lord of the world jagat moving, the world (from jigāti he goes) ; See g w ³- in Indo-European Roots. nāthaḥ / lord Senses 1 and 2, from the fact that worshipers have thrown themselves under the wheels of a huge car or wagon on which the idol of Krishna was drawn in an annual procession at Puri in east-central India]

According to U Tun Tint of MLC (Myanmar Language Commission), the word means {sak-kra-wa.té: nat-ming:} (Bur-Myan spelling to be checked). He was probably thinking that the word 'juggernaut' came from the Pali-Latin cakkavāḷa (PTS dictionary 259) or Pali-Romabama {sak~ka.wa-La} which means 'a circle, a sphere, esp. a mythical range of mountains supposed to encircle the world'. However, the word 'juggernaut' could have originated from Pali-Latin jaggati (PTS dictionary 277) or Pali-Romabama {zag~ga.ti.} which means 'to watch over, i.e. to tend; to nourish, rear, bring up'.

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logical agreement

See • agreement.

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logical fallacies

See • fallacies.

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lower case

From UseE
A lower case letter is the small version; a, b, c, d, e, f, g are lower case, but A, B, C, D, E, F, G, are capital or upper case letters.

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From LBH
Reading but not participating in an Internet discussion list, newsgroup, or Web forum. (See p. 660.)

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UKT notes


From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemma_(linguistics) 080802

See also: Headword

In linguistics a lemma (plural lemmas or lemmata) is the canonical form of a lexeme.

Specifically, in lexicography, "lemma" is a synonym for headword, q.v. For example, in the English language, run, runs, ran and running are forms of the same lexeme, with run as the lemma.

In morphology, a lemma is the canonical form of a lexeme. Lexeme, in this context, refers to the set of all the forms that have the same meaning, and lemma refers to the particular form that is chosen by convention to represent the lexeme. Lemmas have special significance in highly inflected languages such as Czech. In this sense, a lemma can also be called a citation form. The process of determining the lemma for a given word is called lemmatisation.

In psycholinguistics, the term lemma has a more restricted use: it is an abstract form of a word that is used in speech production. In the best accepted psycholinguistic models, speech production has several stages, and the lemma occurs after the word has been selected mentally, but before any information has been accessed about the sounds in it (and thus before the word can be pronounced). It therefore contains information concerning only meaning and the relation of this word to others in the sentence.

In a dictionary, the lemma "go" represents the inflected forms "go", "goes", "going", "went", and "gone". The relationship between an inflected form and its lemma is usually denoted by an angle bracket, e.g. "went" < "go". The disadvantage of such simplifications is, of course, the inability to look up a declined or conjugated form of the word, although some dictionaries, like Webster's, will list "went". Multilingual dictionaries vary in how they deal with this issue: the Langenscheidt dictionary of German does not list ging (< gehen); the Cassell does.

The form that is chosen to be the lemma is usually the least marked form, though there are occasional exceptions; e.g. in Finnish, the dictionaries lists verbs not under the verb root, but under the first infinitive marked with -(t)a, -(t)ä.

Lemmas are used often in corpus linguistics for determining word frequency. In such usage the specific definition of "lemma" is flexible depending on the task it is being used for.

Lemmas in different languages
In English, the citation form of a noun is the singular: e.g. mouse rather than mice. For multi-word lexemes which contain possessive adjectives or reflexive pronouns, the citation form uses a form of the indefinite pronoun one: e.g. do one's best, perjure oneself. In languages with grammatical gender, the citation form of regular adjectives and nouns is usually the masculine singular. If the language additionally has cases, the citation form is often the masculine singular nominative.

In many languages, the citation form of a verb is the infinitive: French aller, German gehen. In English it usually the full infinitive (to go), but the bare infinitive for some defective verbs (must). In Latin and Greek, however, the first person singular present tense is normally used, though occasionally the infinitive may also be seen, and in Japanese the non-past (present and future) tense is used. (For contracted verbs in Greek, an uncontracted first person singular present tense is used to reveal the contract vowel, e.g. φιλέω philéō for φιλῶ philō "I love" [implying affection]; αγαπάω agapáō for αγαπῶ agapō "I love" [implying regard]).

In Arabic, which has no infinitives, the third person singular of the past tense is the least-marked form, and is used for entries in modern dictionaries. In older dictionaries, which are still commonly used today, the triliteral of the word, either a verb or a noun, is used. Hebrew often uses the 3rd person masculine qal perfect, e.g. ברא bara' create, כפר kaphar cover. For Korean, -da is attached to the stem.

Some phrases are cited in a sort of lemma, e.g. Carthago delenda est (literally, "Carthage must be destroyed") is a common way of citing Cato, although what he said was more like, Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam ("As to the rest, I hold that Carthage must be destroyed").

When we produce a word, we are essentially turning our thoughts into sounds (a process known as lexicalisation). In many psycholinguistic models this is considered to be at least a two-stage process. The lemma is thus intermediate between the semantic level (where meaning is specified) and the phonological level (where the sounds of the word are specified). It is an abstract form containing syntactic information (about how the word can be used in a sentence), but no information about the pronunciation of the word. In this context, the lexeme is the phonologically specified form that is selected after the lemma.

This two-staged model is the most widely supported theory of speech production in psycholinguistics (lemma-ref01), although it has been recently challenged. (lemma-ref02) For example, there is some evidence to indicate that the grammatical gender of a noun is retrieved from the word's phonological form (the lexeme) rather than from the lemma. (lemma-ref03). This is easily explained by Caramazza's Independent Network model, which does not assume a distinct level between the semantic and the phonological stages (so there is no lemma representation); in this model, syntactic information about the word in this model is activated in the semantic or phonological level (so gender would be activated in the latter). (lemma-ref04).

Wiki references
lemma-ref01 Harley, T. (2005) The Psychology of Language. Hove; New York: Psychology Press: 359 lemma-ref01b
lemma-ref02 e.g. Caramazza, A. (1997) How many levels of processing are there in lexical access? Cognitive Neuropsychology, 14, 177-208. lemma-ref02b
lemma-ref03 e.g. Starreveld, P. A. and La Heij, W. (2004) Phonological facilitation of grammatical gender retrieval. Language and Cognitive Processes, 19 (6), 677-711. lemma-ref03b
lemma-ref04 Caramazza (1997) lemma-ref04b

Go back lemma-note-b

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liaison (linguistics)

From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liaison_(French) 080729

This article is about the linguistic phenomenon of consonant liaison in French. For a more general, cross-linguistic discussion, see Sandhi.

In French, most written word-final consonants are silent in most contexts. Liaison is the pronunciation of such a consonant immediately before a following vowel sound. For example, the letter s in the word les ("the") is generally silent, but it is pronounced /z/ in the combination les amis ("the friends"). In certain syntactic contexts, liaison is impossible; in others, it is obligatory; and in yet others, it is possible but not obligatory.

UKT: Word-final consonants in French may be compared to the killed akshara or {a.thût} and are mostly silent in Burmese. Thus the coda consonant in Romabama should not be pronounced.
• {htan: ping} --> {hta·ping} (note {a·} used as IPA [ə] schwa)
Whether this example is "tone sandhi" or "liaison", I am unable to say. (UKT-080730)


Liaison is an external sandhi phenomenon: a phonological process occurring at word boundaries. It is a form of paragoge, the addition of a sound to the end of a word.

Like elision (as in *je aimej'aime), it can be characterized functionally as a euphonic strategy for avoiding hiatus. If we look at it like this, we are adopting a synchronic approach. This approach does not explain cases where the first word already ends in a consonant, such as tels‿amis, and is therefore already perfectly euphonic.

It is also possible to analyse liaison diachronically. With this approach, the liaison consonant has always been there since the days of Latin, and has merely been elided in other contexts over time. So, the s pronounced in mes amis can be seen as simply preserving the s that was always pronounced in meos amicos. Seen in this way, it is mes frères that is exceptional, having lost the s that was pronounced in meos fratres.


The (usually) silent final consonants of certain words can be pronounced, in certain syntactic contexts, when the following word begins with a vowel. Since the sound thus obtained is an ancient one, spellings that are based on the etymology of the word may not reflect the real pronunciation.

For example, final consonants are pronounced as follows in the case of liaison (the transcription uses IPA; in IPA, liaison is indicated by placing an undertie [‿] between the consonant and the vowel):

Liaisons with [.t‿] and [.z‿] are also found with words ending graphically in -t and -z (e.g. tout "all", venez "come"). Liaisons in [.k‿] with the few words ending in a silent -c are limited to some compound words like porc-épic ("porcupine").

With most words whose spellings end in -n and whose pronunciations end in nasal vowels ([ɑ̃], [ɛ̃], [œ̃], or [ɔ̃]), the vowel will be denasalized during liaison:

However, this liaison in -n (and its eventual denasalisation) should not be done before adverbs like ou, et (whose final -t also never produces any liaison).

Liaison with words ending in -er also frequently (but not systematically) leads to a change in vowel quality:

Some rare words ending with a silent -l like persil will also create a liaison in [.l‿], just like words ending in non silent final [l(ə)] (optionally followed by a mute e).

Finally, the words trop [tʁo] ("too") and beaucoup [bo.ku] ("much") productively allow liaison with the final consonant [.p‿]: un prix trop élevé... [œ̃ pʁi.tʁo.p‿e.l(ə).ve] ("a too high price"), il a beaucoup à apprendre [i.l‿a bo.ku.p‿a a.pʁɑ̃dʁ] ("he has much to learn).


The primary requirement for liaison at a given word boundary is of course the phonological or lexical identity of the words involved: The preceding word must supply a potential liaison consonant and the following word must be vowel-initial (and not exceptionally marked as disallowing liaison; see the discussion of "aspirated h" below). The actual realization of liaison, however, is subject to interacting syntactic, prosodic, and stylistic constraints.

Grammatical descriptions of French identify three kinds of liaison contexts: Those where liaison is obligatory, those where it is impossible, and those where it is optional. Pedagogical grammars naturally emphasize what is obligatory or forbidden, and these two categories tend to be artificially inflated by traditional prescriptive rules. Speakers' natural behavior in spontaneous speech shows that in fact relatively few contexts can be said to systematically give rise to, or fail to give rise to, liaison. Any discussion of liaison must take both descriptive and prescriptive perspectives into account, because this is an area of French grammar where speakers can consciously control their linguistic behavior out of an awareness of how their speech diverges from what is considered "correct".

Obligatory liaison
We can identify a small number of contexts where speakers consistently produce liaison in all speech styles, and where the absence of liaison is immediately perceived as an error of pronunciation. These are the contexts where liaison is truly obligatory:

Note that the first two contexts also require obligatory vowel elision for the relevant determiners and pronouns (le, la, me, se, etc.)

The following contexts are often listed as obligatory liaison contexts, but they are more accurately characterized as contexts where liaison is frequent:

Specific instances of these combinations reveal varying tendencies. For certain lexical items (e.g. petit, très), speakers may have a preference for liaison approaching that of the obligatory liaison contexts.

Liaison with inverted verbs
The consonant [t] is obligatorily realized between the finite verb and a vowel-initial subject pronoun (il(s), elle(s) or on) in inversion constructions. Orthographically, the two words are joined by a hyphen, or by -t- if the verb does not end in -t or -d:

The written linking consonant -t- is necessary for 3rd person singular verbs whose orthographic form ends in a letter other than -t or -d. This situation arises in the following cases:

The appearance of this consonant in modern French can be described as a restoration of the Latin 3rd person singular ending -t, under the influence of other French verbs that have always maintained final -t.

The earliest examples of this analogical t in writing date to the mid-15th century, although this practice (and the corresponding pronunciation) was not fully accepted by grammarians until the 17th century (Holbrook 1923).

Impossible liaison
There are other contexts where speakers produce liaison only erratically (e.g. due to interference from orthography while reading aloud), and perceive liaison to be ungrammatical.

Grammars mention other contexts where liaison is "forbidden", despite (or precisely because of) the fact that speakers sometimes do produce them spontaneously.

Optional liaison
All remaining contexts can be assumed to allow liaison optionally, although exhaustive empirical studies are not yet available. Preferences vary widely for individual examples, for individual speakers, and for different speech styles. The realization of optional liaisons is a signal of formal register, and pedagogical grammars sometimes turn this into a recommendation to produce as many optional liaisons as possible in "careful" speech. The conscious or semi-conscious application of prescriptive rules leads to errors of hypercorrection in formal speech situations (see discussion below).

Conversely, in informal styles, speakers will semi-consciously avoid certain optional liaisons in order not to sound "pedantic" or "stilted". Other liaisons lack this effect. For example Ils ontattendu ("they have waited") is less marked than tu asattendu ("you have waited"), and neither liaison is likely to be realized in highly informal speech (where one might instead hear [i(l)zɔ̃atɑ̃dy] and [taatɑ̃dy], or simply [taːtɑ̃dy].) On the other hand, the liaison in pasencore can be either present or absent in this register.


As can be seen, liaison, outlined above, is only obligatory in rare cases. The omission of such a liaison would be considered an error, not simply as taking liberties with the rule. In cases of optional liaison, the omission is common, and liaison appears only in careful speech.

On the other end, producing a liaison where one is impossible is perceived as an error. For example, pronouncing a liaison consonant instead of respecting hiatus before an aspirated h is taken to indicate an uncultivated or unsophisticated speaker. While all speakers know the rule, they may have incomplete knowledge about which words it must apply to. The effect is less noticeable with rare words (such as hiatus itself), which many speakers may not spontaneously identify as aspirated h words.

Errors due to hypercorrection or euphony are also observed: a liaison is pronounced where it doesn't exist (where it is possible by spelling, but forbidden, as with et‿ainsi, or where it is impossible even by spelling, as with moi-z-avec). This phenomenon is called pataquès. In rare cases, these liaisons may be conserved by the language and become obligatory, such as in donnes-en. Otherwise, they are perceived in the same way as omissions of disjunction, suggesting an "uncultivated" speaker or extremely informal speech. Such an error is sometimes called cuir ("leather") when the inserted consonant is [t], velours ("velvet") when it is [z], although dictionaries do not all agree on these terms:


The reading of poetry (whether said or sung) requires that all liaisons be used (except those described above as impossible), even those of -es in the second-person singular as well as the reading of all necessary “null e’s” (see the French article on poetry, for more details). The reading of the liaisons affects the number of syllables pronounced, hence is of chief importance for the correct pronunciation of a verse. French-speakers tend as much as possible to avoid a hiatus or a succession of two consonants between two words, in a more or less artificial way.

Careful pronunciation (but without the obligatory reading of “null e’s”) is necessary in a formal setting. The voice is a tool of persuasion: it reflects, through a pronunciation perceived as correct (according to prevailing norms), intellectual qualities, culture, self-control, and wit. Pushed too far, the over-proliferation of liaisons can render a speech ridiculous. It has been pointed out that French politicians and speakers (Jacques Chirac, for example) pronounce some liaison consonants, independently of the following word, introducing a pause or a schwa afterwards. For example, ils ont entendu (“they heard”) is normally pronounced [ilz‿ɔ̃‿ɑ̃tɑ̃dy] or, in more careful speech, [ilz‿ɔ̃t‿ɑ̃tɑ̃dy]. A speaker using this "politician" pronunciation would say [ilz‿ɔ̃t ǀ ɑ̃tɑ̃dy] (where [ǀ] represents a pause; ils ont'… entendu). One might even hear ils ont décidé (“they decided”) pronounced [ilz‿ɔ̃t ǀ deside] (ils ont’… décidé) or [ilz‿ɔ̃təː(ːːː) deside] (ils onteuh… décidé). In the first example, we have liaison without enchaînement, not the normal configuration in ordinary speech. In the second, the liaison is completely non-standard, since it introduces a liaison consonant before another consonant.


In order to understand the origins of liaison, as well as the divergencies between the written form and the pronunciation, it is necessary to study the language from a diachronic point of view. While the current orthography is recent and artificial, liaison produces the re-appearance of ancient consonants that had been masked by orthographical modifications.

Medieval consonants
For example, the word grand is written grant in medieval manuscripts (grant served for both masculine and feminine gender). The orthography of that age was more phonetic; the word was in all likeliness pronounced [grɑ̃nt], with an audible final /t/, at least until the twelfth century. When that consonant became mute (like the majority of ancient final consonants in French), the word continued to be written grant (the preservation of this written form is explained by other reasons; see note), and then become grand by influence of its Latin etymology grandis, with a new (analogic) feminine form grande. The current spelling with a final mute d allows to better show the alternation between grand and grande (an alternation gran ~ grande or grant ~ grande would look less regular to the eye), as well as the lexical relation to grandeur, grandir, grandiloquent, etc. The root grand is written thus regardless of whether the d is pronounced [d], [t] or mute in order for its derivatives to have a single graphic identity, which facilitates memorization and reading.

However, the ancient final [t] of grand did not cease to be pronounced when the following word began with a vowel and belonged to the same tonic cell; It is effectively not at the end of the word anymore, since the ear identifies the stressed group (formed by univerbation), in which the final consonant and the initial vowel appear together, as a new group (or "word") within which the consonant in question has ceased to be final. Bearing in mind that stress in French falls on the last syllable of a word, or a group of words when they are bound grammatically, this situation can be symbolized as follows (the acute represents stress):

This has to do with what the hearer considers to be a word. If grand homme is analyzed as [gʁɑ̃t‿ɔm], the ear in fact understands [gʁɑ̃'tɔm], a continuous group of phonemes whose tonic accent signals that they form a unit. It is possible to make a division as [gʁɑ̃] + [tɔm] instead of [gʁɑ̃t] + [ɔm]. Then this [t] will no longer be felt to be a final consonant but a pre-stress intervocalic consonant, and therefore it will resist the deletion that it would undergo if it were at the end of a stressed syllable. It can however undergo other modifications thereafter.

The written form, though, was adapted to criteria that are not phonetic, but etymological (among others): where grand is written, [gʁɑ̃t] is pronounced in front of certain vowels, without that being really awkward: the maintenance of the visual alternation -d ~ -de is more productive.

The other cases are explained in a similar fashion: sang, for example, was pronounced [sɑ̃ŋk] (and written sanc) in Old French, but the final -g has replaced the -c in order to recall the Latin etymology, sanguis, and derivatives like sanguinaire, sanguin. Currently this liaison is almost never heard except in one part of the singing of the Marseillaise ("qu'un san(g) /k/ impur") or in the expression "suer sang et eau". Outside those, the hiatus is tolerated.

Finally, the case of -s and -x pronounced [z] in liaison is explained differently. One must be aware, firstly, that word-final -x is a medieval shorthand for -us (in Old French people wrote chevax for chevaus, latter written chevaux when the idea behind this -x was forgotten). The sound noted -s and -x was a hard [s], which did not remain in French after the twelfth century (it can be found in words like (tu) chantes or doux), but which was protected from complete elision when the following word began with a vowel (which effectively means, when it was found between two vowels). However, in French, such [s] is voiced and becomes [z] (which explains why, in words like rose and mise, the s is pronounced [z] and not [s]).

If the final -t of grant was kept in the Middle Ages in spite of the disappearance of the corresponding [t], it is because there existed, along with this form, others like grants (rather written granz), wherein the [t] was heard, protected from elision by the following [s]. The ancient orthography rendered this alternation visible before another one replaced it (the one with d). Indeed, it would be false to state that the orthography of Old French did not follow usage, or that it was without rules.

Fluctuating usages
From the sixteenth century onward, it was common for grammarians who wished to describe the French language or discuss its orthography to write documents in a phonetic alphabet. From some of these documents, we can see that the liaisons have not always been pronounced as they are today.

For example, the Prayer by Gilles Vaudelin (a document compiled in 1713 using a phonetic alphabet, and introduced in the Nouvelle maniere d'écrire comme on parle en France ["A New Way of Writing as We Speak in France"]), probably representative of oral language, maybe rural, of the time, shows the absence of the following liaisons (Vaudelin's phonetic alphabet is transcribed using equivalent IPA):

• An earlier version of this article was translated from the French Wikipedia.
• H. Bonnard and C. Régnier. Petite grammaire de l'ancien français. Magnard, 1991.
• P. Encrevé. La Liaison avec et sans enchaînement. Le Seuil, Paris, 1988.
• M. Grevisse. Le bon usage. Twelfth edition by A. Goosse, Duculot, Paris.
• Y.-C. Morin and J. D. Kaye. (1982) "The syntactic bases for French liaison". Journal of Linguistics 18, pp. 291–330.
• Holbrook, R. T. (1923). "Parle on et Parle-T-On: (Pour Fixer Une Date)". The Modern Language Journal 8 (2): 89–91. doi:10.2307/314307. 
• N. Laborderie. Précis de phonétique historique. Nathan Université, 1994, Paris.

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