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We have investigated the effect of argon excimer laser irradiation of silicon nitride films deposited on silicon substrates. When the film thickness is equal to or greater than 40 nm, the irradiation induces amorphous silicon precipitation near the thin surface layer of the film, which has been clarified by means of x-ray photoelectron and Raman spectroscopy. The formation mechanism of amorphous silicon with the irradiation is discussed. The phase of silicon precipitation depends on the thermal properties of the substrate material. © 1998 American Institute of Physics.