History of the French Language - FR539

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
6 15 (7.5) DR D Hornsby


Prerequisite: FREN6480 – French Upper Intermediate B2, or FREN6520 – French Intermediate B1-B2 (Intensive)





This module will view French as a case study in language standardization. How did a despised dialect of late Latin grow in stature to become a nationally and internationally prestigious standard language? We begin by outlining Haugen's model of standardisation, and the processes are that associated with them. Starting with Selection of Norms, we consider the earliest French texts and show how they differ from Latin and from Modern French, and look at evolving medieval attitudes to dialects and Classical Latin. As French gradually replaces Latin, we consider Elaboration of Function and Codification, before moving to Acceptance (or perhaps imposition?) of French as a national language in the wake of the Revolution. The latter part of the course looks at language maintenance and the role of normative institutions in controlling or resisting change.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20

Method of assessment

Critical Writing Exercise (500 words) – 20%
Essay (2,500 words) – 60%
Presentation (15 minutes) – 20%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading:

Ayres-Bennett, W. (1996) A History of the French Language through Texts. London: Routledge
Lodge, R.A. (1993) French: From Dialect to Standard. London: Routledge
Rickard, P. (1989) A History of the French Language. London: Routledge

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

- Demonstrate confidence when identifying the processes that have brought about linguistic standardisation in France, and show how they operate today;
- Demonstrate and apply comprehensive understanding when using the basic vocabulary of general and historical linguistics;
- Critically evaluate the views of linguists and non-linguists regarding variation and change in the modern language (e.g. by challenging traditional notions of 'good' language);
- Confidently identify and roughly date texts in French from the period 850-2000, on the basis of recognisable linguistic indicators.

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