Skip to main content

Study information

The French Language, Present and Past

Module titleThe French Language, Present and Past
Module codeMLF1103
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Professor Aidan Coveney (Convenor)

Dr Zoe Boughton (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Module description

As a student of French, you will naturally be interested in learning how it works and has changed over time. In the phonetics part of the module, we study French speech sounds, notably their production and their representation in the Phonetic Alphabet. In the historical part of the module, we learn how French emerged as the national language of France, and how Old French differed from the modern language. The module will enhance your understanding of the French language, especially with respect to pronunciation, grammar and its history. A prerequisite is normally A-level French or equivalent, but the module can also be taken by students taking MLF1052: French Language for Beginners.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of this module is to introduce you to the phonetics of contemporary French, to the history of French and to Old French in particular and to lay the foundations for further linguistic study of French, in its contemporary and historical forms. It is a prerequisite for the modules Evolution of the French Language and Varieties of French [both Level 2], and Sociolinguistics of French and Dialectology in France [Level 4].

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate an understanding of the articulatory phonetics of French and the main points of contrast with English.
  • 2. Demonstrate an ability to interpret and produce IPA transcription of French
  • 3. Show a basic reading knowledge of Old French and an understanding of its distinctive grammatical features and how these help illuminate modern French usage.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Demonstrate the ability to carry out personal and collaborative research using resources ranging from conventional Old French dictionaries and grammars to Internet [World-Wide Web]-based materials.
  • 5. Recognise and understand basic terminology relating to articulatory phonetics, Old French Grammar and the external history of French.
  • 6. With initial guidance, find your way around the relevant subject areas of the University Library and access and use learning resources specified by the course tutor(s)

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Improved capacity to monitor your own and others' speech and articulation
  • 8. Show a greater sensitivity to forms of language that are not governed by explicitly formulated 'rules' and a concomitant flexibility in the reading and interpretation of texts.

Syllabus plan

The first part focuses on the sounds of contemporary Standard French: how they are produced and work together as a system and how they differ from English pronunciation. It includes practice in transcribing spoken French using the International Phonetic Alphabet, and the study of liaison and connected speech. The second part introduces historical linguistics, the study of language change over time. Many aspects of the modern language [for instance, its spelling system] are the result of the changes that French has undergone in the course of over 1,000 years of development. As well as close study of extracts from the medieval period, the module will involve discussion of such issues as the relationship between language change and historical changes, and the interaction between French and other languages. Lectures will introduce you both to the external history of the French language and to the main features of the structure of Old French. Seminars will involve discussion and group translation of selected passages, and you will have the opportunity to improve your translation skills using Internet-based resources.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching15Lectures and seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Conclusion
Guided Independent Study134Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short versions of exam-related questions500 words maximum1-8Individual and collective, written and oral feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Examination1001.5 hours1-8Individual, written and

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
ExaminationExamination1-8Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • P. Rickard: A History of the French Language, (Routledge)
  • Either: M. Léon & P. Léon: La Prononciation du français (Armand Colin)
  • Or: BALL, Rodney. Phonetics for students of Modern Languages. At:

Recommended Reading (selected):

  • R. A. Lodge: French: from Dialect to Standard (Routledge)
  • R. A. Lodge et al: Exploring the French Language (Arnold)
  • G. Raynaud de Lage: Introduction à l'ancien français (SEDES)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

An extended reading list will be made available at the start of the module.

Key words search

Linguistics, French

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

Either A-Level French/equivalent OR Term 1 of MLF1052: French Language for Beginners

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date