Description of Modern French - FREN5990

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2021 to 2022
Spring Term 5 15 (7.5) David Hornsby checkmark-circle


Written and spoken French are now, arguably, so far apart as to constitute distinct varieties. Unlike most French modules, this module will take the latter as its starting point. The phonology (sound system) will first be explored, and basic transcription skills acquired, with consideration of recent and ongoing changes in the general system known as français standard. The module will then move on to consider the gap between written and spoken French grammar, notably in such areas as the tense/mood system, morphosyntax or pronouns, grammatical gender and agreement, and verb classification. The treatment of neologisms, and particularly the status of franglais in contemporary French, will also be considered. Although the module will provide students with some basic tools of linguistic description, no background in Linguistics is required or assumed.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20

Method of assessment

Essay (2,000 words) – 40%
Group presentation (20 minutes) – 20%
Examination (2 hours) – 40%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

Battye, A; Hintze, M-A. and Rowlett, P. (2000) The French Language Today. London: Routledge.
Fagyal, Z; Kibbee, D, and Jenkins, F. (2006) French: A Linguistic Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lodge, R.A.; Armstrong, N., Ellis, Y. & Shelton, J. (1997) Exploring the French Language. London: Edward Arnold.
Price, G. (2005) An Introduction to French Pronunciation. Oxford: Blackwell.
Tranel, B. (1987) The Sounds of French. Cambridge University Press.
Walter, H. (1988) Le Français dans tous les sens. Paris: Laffont. (or French Inside Out. (1994) London: Routledge)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

Read International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) script, and produce a broad phonemic transcription of spoken French;
Confidently use and understand the basic vocabulary of general linguistics as applied to French (phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, register etc.);
Critically evaluate the views of linguists and non-linguists regarding change in the modern language;
Comment authoritatively on variation within the French language (with regards to differences in prestige, style, register, spoken v. written usage etc.).


  1. Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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