An ELT Glossary : Catenation / Liaison / Linking

Definition : Catenation and liaison are difficult to define because different writers use them in different ways. For Richards et al (1985), the term catenation would appear to be an umbrella term for all features of connected speech (Sandhi variations), but this is a fairly unusual definition. Generally, the terms are used to describe two different terms of linking:

  • Consonant- Vowel (CV) linking : a syllable final consonant is linked to a syllable initial vowel, so that  it sounds as if it starts the second syllable rather than finishing the previous one: 
        start up  /stɑːt ʌp/        his own /hɪz əʊn        call out /kɔːl aʊt/

  • Vowel - Vowel (VV) linking : a syllable final vowel is linked to a syllable initial vowel using an "intrusive" consonant - /r/, /w/ or /j/ : 
         I saw it /aɪ sɔː r ɪt/             go and see  /gəʊ w ənd siː/    
         my only hope /maɪ j əʊnliː həʊp/

Many writers refer to CV linking as catenation and VV linking as liaison, and this is the way the terms are used in other articles here in the ELT Notebook. However, you will also find both terms used as umbrella terms covering both forms of linking. For example, Celce-Murcia et al  talk about "linking (or liaison)" (1996:158), and then give examples of both CV and VV linking.

See also : Intrusion / Intrusive consonants


Celce-Murcia, M., Brinton, D.M Goodwin, J.M.,(1996) Teaching Pronunciation, CUP
Richards, J. Platt J., & Weber, H. (1985) Longman Dictionary of Applied Linguistics, Longman