Skip to main content

Unit information: From Old to Middle French in 2016/17

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name From Old to Middle French
Unit code FREN30031
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Marianne Ailes
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of French
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit in giving students a reading knowledge and basic grammatical understanding of Old and Middle French (from the earliest texts to the fifteenth century) addresses some methodological issues of historical linguistics through the linguistic developments of this period. Lectures on major grammatical principles and linguistic change will be complemented by detailed discussion and translation of extracts of texts in the seminars. The different linguistic features of the discourse of specific genres and the challenges they present to the modern reader, are also discussed. Half of the course will focus on French of the 12th and 13th centuries and will offer opportunities to explore the peculiarities of Old French dialects, in the context of an awareness of the difficulties in discussing dialect in a linguistic context where there is no standardised language; the second half will concentrate on the development of Old French into the Middle French period with an awareness of the effects of external factors, such as the invention and spread of printing. The contact hours are supplemented by interactive on-line materials written to accompany this course.


To equip students to read a variety of French texts from the whole of the medieval period, and give them increased awareness of language development. The students will also acquire the skills to use efficiently specialist dictionaries and reference books.

Intended Learning Outcomes

The student will have, on completion of the course:

  • a general knowledge of the grammar of Old and Middle French
  • a good knowledge of a range of vocabulary
  • a sufficient understanding of orthographical variation to use specialist dictionaries
  • a knowledge of some dialectal features
  • an ability to read historical accounts and literary narratives in the original language with the help of reference books.

Teaching Information

One lecture per week and one seminar class per week, supplemented by on-line tutorials written for the unit.

Assessment Information

a) A written assignment of 3000 words being a portfolio of translations and a two hour exam (50% each)

Reading and References

There are some resources available free on-line (e.g. the Anglo-Norman Dictionnary) and the library also holds several copies of major dictionaries. Major books to be consulted include: • Wendy Ayres-Bennett, A History of the French Language through Texts • E. Einhorn, Old French: a Concise Handbook • G. Raynaud de Lage, Introduction à l’ancien français, revised by G. Hasenhohr • G. Zink, Le Moyen Français (XIVe et XVe siècles) • G. Zink, L’Ancien Français The library has several copies of each of the major reference grammars but students may wish to own one of the reference grammar books (e.g. de Lage or Einhorn) and copies of Einhorn are usually available from the University bookshop.