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I am currently learning French on Duolingo, and during one of the exercises, I came across the following sentence:

Je parle de leurs éléphants. (Taken from Duolingo)

The problem is that the recording does not have proper liaisons, and without the liaisons, I could not tell whether they were talking about a single elephant or multiple elephants. I would like to know that are there any other clues in this statement that reveal to a listener that the speaker had multiple elephants in mind. I would greatly appreciate your response.

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    Sans les liaisons, tu ne peux pas savoir. – Alexis Wilke May 2 '18 at 17:29
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Are there any other clues the speaker had multiple elephants in mind?

Certainly not. Proper liaison is the only clue.

The oral version of a sentence without liaison (Je parle de leurs téléphones) is 100% ambiguous.

Four strategies to resolve the ambiguity in cases like this:

  • Context. From what you know, do they jointly own an elephant or do they have a herd?

  • Agreement. Listen for an adjective that differs in the plural (éléphant royal / éléphants royaux) or a verb that does the same (éléphant qui boit / éléphants qui boivent).

  • Ask. « Parles-tu d'un seul éléphant ou de plusieurs ? »

  • Echo. When you talk about the same subject, choose an unambiguous wording (Donc, pour les éléphants ...) so they can straighten it out if you're wrong.

Though I love Duolingo, none of these options is possible with their isolated sentence system.

Edit: I should add that as far as I know, this liaison is not optional, as a determiner + noun. Perhaps Duolingo's text-to-speech system is at fault. Or maybe that rule is not always followed in practice.

  • If I do not get a better response within a day or two, I would accept your answer as the correct answer. – Irfan May 2 '18 at 17:49

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