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Study information

Dialectology in France

Module titleDialectology in France
Module codeMLF3046
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Zoe Boughton (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

As an advanced learner of French, you will have noticed differences in people’s speech according to their regional origin or social background. In this module we examine the extent to which such accent features persist, using detailed phonetic transcriptions. We also consider the background context of French regional languages and dialects, and ongoing standardisation processes. The discipline of Dialectology is explored in a broad sense, incorporating traditional dialect geography and urban dialectology. Prerequisites: a good command of French (e.g. MLF2001), and either previous study of French linguistics, or willingness to do some background reading in the summer vacation. (Contact for details.)

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aims of this module are to familiarise you with the methods and practices of dialectology, especially regarding linguistic variation and change in the phonology of contemporary spoken French; to develop further your familiarity with linguistic and dialectological concepts and terminology; and to enhance further your understanding of regional and social linguistic variation, both generally, and with specific reference to French.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate a good understanding of dialectological methodology and theory
  • 2. Show an enhanced awareness of phonological variation, especially in French; this will include introductory training in auditory analysis of authentic speech recordings and detailed phonetic transcription
  • 3. Demonstrate a greater appreciation of aspects of language standardisation, in general and with specific reference to French

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Demonstrate familiarity with the style and structure of research literature in the field of dialectology in French and English
  • 5. Understand and use, in written and oral contexts, a good range of linguistic and dialectological terms
  • 6. After initial input from the course tutor(s), apply and evaluate critical approaches to the material under analysis independently

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 7. Demonstrate reading skills, analysis and evaluation (including the ability to understand some key methodological issues in the social/human sciences [e.g. sampling, data collection], and to interpret graphical and tabular presentation of survey results, including dialect maps)
  • 8. Demonstrate presentation skills, written
  • 9. Demonstrate a fairly advanced ability to monitor their own and others' spoken and written language

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

This module offers an opportunity to examine in detail accent variation in some of the regional and social dialects of mainland France, as well as current trends in the pronunciation of French. We will explore the conflicting tensions within France between linguistic variability and uniformity: language in use is intrinsically variable, yet there exists a strong tendency towards standardisation or levelling', as in the UK. To what extent is standard French truly standard'? Such matters will be studied within the framework of dialectology, encompassing dialect geography [the mapping of regional variation] and urban dialect surveys. Following some intensive revision of the phonetics of French at the start of the module, we will then focus on the phonological characteristics of a selection of regional varieties in France, before going on to investigate uniformity within contemporary spoken French. An additional question to be explored is that of perceptions of accents and dialects: do native speakers' ideas about linguistic variation correspond with reality? Dialectological surveys [like other surveys] involve numerical results, often presented in graphs and tables of figures. However, no mathematical background is assumed for this module, apart from a familiarity with the notion of percentages.

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 Teaching51-hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching101-hour seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Conclusion
Guided Independent Study134Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan and exercises in the phonetic transcription of regional accent features750 words1-9Individual 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
Examination1002 hours1-9Individual and collective, written feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
ExaminationExamination 1-9Referral/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 Trudgill, Sociolinguistics [Penguin, any edition]. Recommended especially for those who are not also taking MLF3034 ‘Sociolinguistics of French’, though you do not need to buy it.

It is essential to revise the articulatory phonetics of French before the start of this module. Therefore:

  1. Re-learn IPA symbols and phonetic terminology
  2. Study chapters 5 and 6 of Exploring the French Language by Lodge et al. (ebook available in the University library
  3. Do some basic transcription practice and check your work using a dictionary

Prescribed texts:

  • J K Chambers and P Trudgill, Dialectology [second edition, CUP, 1998]
  • A course pack of relevant articles and extracts from books, some in French, some in English, to be provided at the start of the module. 

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

A bibliography will be distributed at the start of the module, indicating books and articles that are recommended for reference; a selection follows. Lecture handouts also give details of further reading to support each topic.

  • F Carton et al., Les accents des Français [Hachette, 1983]
  • H Walter, Enquête phonologique et variétés régionales du français [PUF, 1982]
  • J Chaurand, Introduction à la dialectologie française [Bordas, 1972]
  • P Guiraud, Patois et dialectes français [PUF, 1968]
  • J Gilliéron and E Edmont, Atlas linguistique de la France [Champion, 1903-10]
  • M-A Hintze et al. (eds), French accents: Phonological and sociolinguistic perspectives [AFLS/CILT, 2001]
  • P Trudgill, On Dialect: Social and Geographical Perspectives [Blackwell, 1983]
  • P Trudgill, Dialects in contact [Blackwell, 1986]
  • J K Chambers et al. (eds), The Handbook of Language Variation and Change [Blackwell, 2002]
  • D Preston (ed.), Handbook of Perceptual Dialectology [volume 1, John Benjamins, 1999]

Key words search

Dialectology, French, phonetics

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

One of MLF1103 ‘The French Language, Present and Past’, MLF2012 ‘Evolution of the French Language’, MLF2029 ‘Varieties of French’, MLF3034 ‘Sociolinguistics of French’. [Students without this must contact the Convenor for special permission: this will require them to do ‘catch-up’ work in a vacation preceding the module]

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date