Portrait of Dr David Hornsby

Dr David Hornsby

Head of Department of English Language and Linguistics
Senior Lecturer in French and Linguistics


In addition to his primary role in English Language and Linguistics, Dr David Hornsby remains a member of the French department, where he worked for nearly twenty years. 

David worked briefly as a UN translator in Geneva and, since coming to the University of Kent, has taught a wide range of subjects from Russian and translation theory to comparative literature. His frequent appearances on local and national broadcast media attest to the enduring fascination of language variation for both linguists and non-linguists. 

Research interests

David's current teaching in English Language and Linguistics and in French is focused around his research interests in language variation and change. The shift from traditional dialect to urban regional French is the theme of his monograph Redefining Regional French, which examined the emergence of mixed dialects, or koinés, in the French mining town of Avion. 

More recently, David's attention has turned to stylistic variation and the phenomenon of variable liaison, which involves the pronunciation in some contexts of normally silent link consonants in French (e.g. trop (p) important), and its complex relationship to social factors. Fieldwork for a recent project has taken him to another mining area, this time in East Kent, where contact between families who came from other UK coalfields in the 1920s has produced a uniquely ‘northern’ English dialect in the south-east. 

David's current research projects are investigating a writing system for Oromo, the emergence of a ‘standard’ Franco-Provençal dialect, and the adoption of London English features in Essex and Kent.  He has overseen dissertations on topics as diverse as the emergence of a ‘standard’ Franco-Provençal dialect, swearing in English and a writing system for Oromo, and is generally happy to supervise research into any aspect of language variation and change.   


David teaches sociolinguistics.



  • Hornsby, D. (2009). Dedialectalization in France: Convergence and Divergence. International Journal of the Sociology of Language [Online] 196/97:157-180. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/IJSL.2009.020.
    This article challenges the received view that geolinguistic variation in France is both imminent and inevitable. It is certainly true that France's ancestral dialects and regional languages are in terminal decline, and that a combination of late industrialization and the dominance of an oversized capital conurbation has engendered regional dialect leveling of a particularly extreme kind. But we will argue that new varieties are emerging, and that these represent independent vernacular norms rather than an ephemeral dialect residue as is generally assumed. While these regional French varieties are often embryonic, they are distinguishing themselves via a number of processes, including notably the creation of interdialect forms, differential adoption of urban variants and/or divergent norms for supralocal variables, the retention of archaisms, and local phonological divergence. Francophone Europe is seeing profound changes to the nature of geolinguistic variation, not the end of diversity.
  • Hornsby, D. (2006). The Myth of Structured Obsolescence. Journal of French Language Studies [Online] 16:125-146. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0959269506002390.
    Using data from an obsolescent dialect situation in northern France, this paper questions the view that dedialectalization is a process of level-by-level attrition which leaves a linguistic residue in Regional French (the ‘Structured Obsolescence Hypothesis’). Comparison of dialect index scores for a number of variables reveals significant variation in rates of attrition within levels, with some phonological and morphological variants showing greater vitality than others, but no consistent relationship between levels as the model would predict. An alternative model is proposed, based on the relative learnability of different variants, and it is further argued that rejection of the Structured Obsolescence Hypothesis calls some other assumptions about Regional French into question, notably the view that it can be considered an intermediate variety between dialect and standard, and that it is necessarily ephemeral in nature.
  • Hornsby, D. and Jones, M. (2006). Blue-Sky Thinking? Léon Bollack and 'La Langue française en l’an 2003'. Language Problems and Languages Planning 30:215-238.
  • Hornsby, D. (1999). The Dynamic Model and Inherent Variability: The Case of Northern France. International Journal of Applied Linguistics [Online] 9:19-36. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1473-4192.1999.tb00158.x.
    This paper explores the claims of the ‘dynamic’model of variation by testing it against data recorded in Avion, northern France. Parallels are drawn between langue d'oïl areas of France and decreolization situations in which proponents of the dynamic model have generally worked. Evidence to support the rejection of inherent variability within the dynamic model is found to rest on invariant performance for very small numbers of tokens, and on the dubious assumption that conversational code-switching does not occur. A lack of homogeneous speaker data in this case makes determination of lect structure all but impossible. In an attempt to isolate uni-code sequences, co-occurrence between variables is studied at the level of the clause, as in Burträsk by Thelander (1976, 1982). Significant differences from the Burträsk data emerge, and the claims of the dynamic model prove ultimately untest-able in the absence of reliably homogeneous data, even in relatively short talk sequences. The researcher is ultimately forced to abandon the model or dismiss the misfit between theory and data as “performance”, which, it is argued, may well be no more than inherent variability under a different name.
  • Hornsby, D. (1998). Patriotism and Linguistic Purism in France: 'Deux dialogues dans le nouveau langage françois' and 'Parlez-vous Franglais?'. Journal of European Studies [Online] 28:331-354. Available at: http://ejournals.ebsco.com/direct.asp?ArticleID=4AB9832332F439299286.
    The French satirical works `Deux dialogues dans le nouveau langage francois italianize,' by Henri Estienne in 1578, and `Parlez-vous franglais?,' by Rene Entiemble in 1964, were both aimed at patriotism and linguistic purism in France. Although writing in two different contexts, both writers expressed their indifference towards perceived semantic shifts brought about by external pressure. Estienne viewed the Italianized language of the court as a threat to French language, whereas the same threat was seen by Etiemble in the form of Anglo-American language.


  • Hornsby, D. (2014). Linguistics: A Complete Introduction. [Online]. London, UK: Hodder & Stoughton. Available at: https://www.hodder.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9781444180329.
  • Hornsby, D. (2006). Redefining Regional French: Koinéization and Dialect Levelling in Northern France. Oxford: Legenda.
    This is the first book-length treatment of français régional, or Regional French (RF). Its importance is twofold. Firstly, it challenges the received view of the concept, which appears to date from the 1920s, according to which Regional French is no more than an ephemeral residue from obsolescent Romance dialects: citing data from northern French, it argues that some RF varieties are healthy and bear a far less direct link to substrate dialects than is generally assumed. Secondly, the book shows how Anglo-American sociolinguistic models can be successfully applied in France, where they have hitherto had little impact, and can yield important new theoretical insights.

Book section

  • Hornsby, D. (2018). A new dialect for a new village: Evidence for koinézation in East Kent. in: Wright, L. ed. Southern English Varieties Then And Now. Berlin & Boston: De Gruyter Mouton, pp. 74-109. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110577549-004.
    The construction of Aylesham as 'new town' for miners in East Kent brought together migrants from every UK coalfield, providing conditions for dialect mixing and koinéization comparable to those described by Trudgill (2004) for colonial settings such as New Zealand. Trudgill's deterministic model of new dialect formation is tested here using data from a pilot study conducted in the village, and found broadly to be valid for internal migrant as well as tabula rasa settings. An important difference, however, lies in evidence of the emergence of a new dialect in the first, rather than the second indigenous Aylesham generation as the model would predict.
  • Hall, D. and Hornsby, D. (2015). Top-Down or Bottom-Up? Understanding Diffusion of Supralocal Norms in France. in: Davies, W. and Ziegler, E. eds. Language Planning and Microlinguistics : From Policy to Interaction and Vice Versa. Houndmills, Basingstoke, UK: Springer, pp. 105-127. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/9781137361240_6.
    For over a century, France has held a central place in dialectological studies. The richness of its traditional dialectal variation — what Gaston Paris once called ‘une immense bigarrure’ (an immense patchwork) — attracted the interest of Romance philologists such as Jules Gilliéron, whose Atlas Linguistique de la France (ALF), compiled with Edmond Edmont (Gilliéron and Edmont, 1902–10), represents a major landmark for the discipline and continues to provide a mine of information for variationists. Recording in minute detail the findings of Edmont’s linguistic fieldwork in 639 villages in francophone Europe, the ALF inspired countless early twentieth-century dialect monographs and glossaries, while the latter half of the last century saw the publication of a series of works entitled Atlas Linguistique et Ethnographique de la France par Régions, designed to complement Gilliéron’s work and using his original fieldwork questionnaire, which attest further to continued interest in France’s regional and local variation.
  • Hornsby, D. (2014). Repenser la variation diatopique? in: Lagargette, D. ed. Repenser l’histoire du français. France: Chambéry, pp. 215-230. Available at: http://www.llseti.univ-smb.fr/web/llseti/389-repenser-l-histoire-du-francais.php.
  • Hornsby, D. and Jones, M. (2013). Introduction. in: Jones, M. C. and Hornsby, D. eds. Language and Social Structure in Urban France. Oxford: Legenda, pp. 1-7.
  • Hornsby, D. and Jones, M. (2013). Exception française? Levelling, Exclusion and Urban Social Structure in France. in: Jones, M. C. and Hornsby, D. eds. Language and Social Structure in Urban France. Oxford: Legenda, pp. 94-109.
  • Hornsby, D. (2012). Getting it Wrong: Liaison, Pataquès, and Repair in Contemporary French. in: Pooley, T. and Lagorgette, D. eds. On linguistic change in French: socio-historical approaches. Festschrift for R. Anthony Lodge. Chambéry, France: Editions de l’Université de Savoie, pp. 69-84. Available at: http://www.lls.univ-savoie.fr/index.php?action=lire&id=1279.
  • Hornsby, D. (2011). Liaison and the Speech/Writing Interface. in: Hornsby, D. ed. Interfaces in Language 2. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, pp. 117-136. Available at: http://www.c-s-p.org/flyers/Interfaces-in-Language-21-4438-3165-4.htm.
  • Hornsby, D. (2011). Introduction. in: Hornsby, D. ed. Interfaces in Language 2. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, pp. 1-6.
  • Hornsby, D. (2010). 'Ni patois, ni français régional': Dual-Status Variables in Vernacular Northern French. in: Partridge, J. G. ed. Interfaces in Language. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, pp. 271-288. Available at: http://www.c-s-p.org/flyers/Interfaces-in-Language1-4438-2399-6.htm.
  • Hornsby, D. (2007). Dialect Lite? The Rise of the Semi-speaker in an Obsolescent Dialect Community. in: Ayres-Bennett, W. and Jones, M. C. eds. The French Language and Questions of Identity. Oxford: Legenda, pp. 76-88.
  • Hornsby, D. (2007). Introduction. in: Hornsby, D. and Jamin, M. eds. Nottingham French Studies: Sociolinguistic Variation and Change in France. Edinburgh University Press, pp. 1-5.
  • Hornsby, D. (2007). Regional Dialect Levelling in Urban France and Britain. in: Hornsby, D. and Jamin, M. eds. Nottingham French Studies: Sociolinguistic Variation and Change in France. Edinburgh University Press, pp. 64-81.
  • Hornsby, D. and Pooley, T. (2001). La sociolinguistique et les accents français d’Europe. in: Judge, A., Pooley, T. and Hintze, M. -A. eds. French Accents: Phonological and Sociolinguistic Perspectives. London: CILT, pp. 305-343.
  • Hornsby, D. (1998). L’émergence de nouvelles variétés urbaines: les cas de Burträsk (Suède) et d’Avion (Pas-de-Calais). in: Eloy, J. -M. ed. Evaluer la vitalité: Variétés d’oïl et autres langues. Actes du Colloque international “Evaluer la vitalité des variétés régionales du domaine d’oïl” 29-30 nov. 1996 - AMIENS. Centre d’études picardes, pp. 185-194.

Edited book

  • Jones, M.C. and Hornsby, D. eds. (2013). Language and Social Structure in Urban France. Oxford: Legenda.
  • Hornsby, D. ed. (2011). Interfaces in Language 2. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press.
  • Hornsby, D. and Jamin, M. eds. (2007). Nottingham French Studies: Sociolinguistic Variation and Change in France. Edinburgh University Press.


  • Hornsby, D. (2019). Variable liaison, diglossia and the style dimension in spoken French. French Studies [Online] 73. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/fs/knz156.
    This article tests the diglossia hypothesis, according to which informal/spoken and formal/written French have diverged to the point of being separate High and Low varieties in Haugen's (1966) terms, using a corpus of data from 96 speakers examined for variable liaison in scripted and unscripted style. While the data do not lend support for a diglossia model, they do not in themselves refute it, because the the hypothesis as it stands is empirically unfalsifiable. A comparison of the speakers investigated here and 'professionnels de la parole publique', i.e. individuals for whom speaking in public is an occupational requirement, suggests nonetheless that the diglossia model offers a poor fit for liaison data, and an alternative four-level model for this complex variable is proposed.
  • Hornsby, D. (2019). Picard: a mal aimé among regional languages? Journal of French Language Studies.
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