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Unit information: French Dialectology: Geographical Variation and Change in the Espace Francophone in 2018/19

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing and student choice.

Unit name French Dialectology: Geographical Variation and Change in the Espace Francophone
Unit code FREN30043
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Damien Mooney
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of French
Faculty Faculty of Arts


It is perhaps inaccurate to refer to ‘French’ in the singular, as if to imply that the French language is a homogeneous monolithic object. Indeed, modern contemporary French varies and changes over geographical and social space and, while it may seem odd to refer to ‘Frenches’ in the plural, we must acknowledge at the very least that ‘French’ is made up of a wide variety of accents and dialects. The French dialectological tradition originally focused on the regional languages of France, the so-called langues de France, with which French has now been in contact for some time. In many ways, contact with these regional languages has resulted in the development of distinct regional accents and dialects both within and outside of France. In this unit, students will first have the opportunity to consider geographical variation in France before French was widely spoken as the national language and to examine linguistic variation and change taking place in modern Norman and Occitan, two obsolescent languages descended from Latin but distinct from French. The genesis of regional French accents in France, Belgium and Switzerland will then be studied from a language contact perspective; students will analyse the linguistic mechanisms that have given rise to geographical variation in French as well as the social and linguistic processes of dialect contact that currently drive linguistic change in modern European French. This unit will also introduce students to the French spoken in Canada and Africa and, finally, to the theoretical processes involved in the formation and evolution of French-lexified créole languages.


  • To further develop students’ analytical skills and to introduce the study of linguistic variation and change by examining the linguistic structure of French and other closely-related Romance languages;
  • To provide students with an advanced knowledge of variation and change in the sound system and grammar of modern French over a large geographical area;
  • To develop students’ knowledge of sophisticated theoretical models of linguistic variation and change and, in particular, of the linguistic mechanisms and processes which drive language change in modern French.

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will have, on completion of the unit, demonstrated

(a) an in-depth knowledge of geographical variation in pronunciation and grammar in modern French;

(b) acquired the skills to analyse systematic linguistic variation using key theoretical frameworks in sociolinguistics and dialectology;

(c) a clear understanding of the differential outcomes of language and dialect contact in the genesis and evolution of regional French accents;

(d) a good knowledge of linguistic transfer, particularly within the context of language and dialect obsolescence;

(e) the ability to marshal large amounts of information and to construct a detailed argument; -

as appropriate to Level H

(f) further developed their skills in critical thinking and approaching the analysis of data.

Teaching details

1 x Weekly Lecture and 1 x Weekly Senimar

Assessment Details

Two 3000-word essays (50% each) testing ILO’s a-f

Reading and References

Armstrong, N., & T. Pooley. 2010. Social and Linguistic Change in European French (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan)

Bec, P. 1963. La langue occitane (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France)

Chambers, J.K., & P. Trudgill. 1980. Dialectology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Chaudenson, R. 1979. Les Créoles français (Paris: Nathan)

Hornsby, D. 2006. Redefining Regional French: Koinéization and Dialect Levelling in Northern France (Oxford: Legenda)

Jones, M.C. 2015. Variation and Change in Mainland and Insular Norman: A Study of Superstrate Influence (Leiden: Brill)

Mooney, D. 2016. Southern Regional French: A Linguistic Analysis of Language and Dialect Contact (Oxford: Legenda)

Morin, Y.-C. 1996. ‘The origin and development of the pronunciation of French in Québec’, in Nielsen, H.F., & L. Schøsler (eds), The Origins and Development of Emigrant Languages (Odense: Odense University Press), pp. 243–75

Price, G. 2005. An Introduction to French Pronunciation (Oxford: Blackwell)

Walter, H. 2012. Aventures et mésaventures des langues de France (Paris: Champion)