The sandhi phenomenon known as liaison in French bears a strong social connotation, that is to say when its realisation is facultative, it is a marker of a high social class.

Are there facultative phenomenons that bears no social connotation?

  • Interesting; could you give an example?
    – Cerberus
    Sep 14, 2011 at 10:50
  • @Cerberus: It is a well-know fact and there is plenty of literature about it. If you seek references I recommend Daan De Jong. An usual example would be “mais aussi”, informally /mɛosi/ or /mɛzosi/ depending on the social class of the speaker and the formality of the interaction.
    – Evpok
    Sep 14, 2011 at 11:21
  • Okay, thanks for the example and the recommendation, cool! // My French is rusty, but, just out of curiosity: how about the d in pied-à-terre? Is that always pronounced, or never, or based on class, or something else?
    – Cerberus
    Sep 14, 2011 at 11:31
  • @Cerberus: It is facultative, but mind the pronunciation /t/.
    – Evpok
    Sep 14, 2011 at 12:28

2 Answers 2


Yes, I believe there is a very strong connection in many languages, possibly the strongest of all things connected with upper-class speech ("old money", not merely the rich). It is just that facultative phenomena (see what I did there), which I will define as two things between which your choice hardly changes meaning, contain much space for variation, and class markers thrive on variation. Consider the following:



  • U: loo, etc.
  • Non-U: toilet


  • U: plee, wc, < silence >, etc.
  • Non-U: toilet

Pronunciation of foreign words:


  • U: restaur/ɑ̃/ (hope I'm getting the a right, and that it is displayed right)
  • Non-U: restaur/ɑnt/

  • U: engage/ɑnt/ (sic)

  • Non-U/odd: *engage/ɑ̃/

It should also be noted that less articulate speech usually distinguishes upper-class speech from middle-class speech; in RP, I believe, the word formidable more or less becomes fo- < drawl > in quick speech.


Facultative phenomena can simply bear geographical information, I would say that this is mostly where the social connotations come from in the first place.

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