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FREN1016 The Making of Modern French

Module Overview

This module provides knowledge about key periods and events in French language history which have been influential in forming French as a standardised national language.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• awareness of the origins of French; • knowledge of the parts of the world where French is spoken and the issues (linguistic and non-linguistic) that may arise here; • an understanding of the role and status of French in the world; • an understanding of the prevalence of variation in language; • methodology for academic practice applied to the study of language and society in the French-speaking world.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the processes involved in the making of Modern French;
  • sociolinguistic phenomena such as language contact, diglossia, and bilingualism;
  • the position of French as a world language;
  • different varieties of French and the linguistic heterogeneity of France
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • engage with theory on language use and change in relation to French;
  • appreciate critically key notions;
  • reflect on the importance of people (i.e. language users) when it comes to studying language;
  • organise and present information in an academic way.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • demonstrate understanding of elements of theory which can be applied to the study of other languages;
  • work effectively in different modes: carrying out individual research, collaborating with partners, exchanging ideas, presenting findings, and engaging in self- evaluation;
  • present ideas in a structured, coherent manner.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • access critical material in the target language;
  • be more aware when using French of the social meanings that can be attached to speech.


This module deals with: (a) the making of Modern French, and its coexistence with non-standard social and situational variants within metropolitan France; (b) the nature and status of French in multilingual societies outside metropolitan France. It aims to provide the following: - Factual knowledge concerning: (a) the emergence and dissemination of standard French; (b) the status of French and its relationship to other languages in different francophone territories; (c) certain features of different varieties of French; - Improvement of understanding of basic linguistic and sociolinguistic concepts, by means of examples from the French-speaking world. This involves consideration of the following: language change and history, regional variation, language contact, diglossia, bilingualism, the relationship between linguistic and non-linguistic divisions in multilingual societies. An awareness of the pervasiveness of variation in language use, and a realisation that “French” could be regarded as several languages rather than just one.

Special Features

This module constitutes for many the first contact with Linguistics (certainly the first contact for studying French Sociolinguistics). Lectures will serve to introduce ideas, concepts and theories, and seminars will provide the occasion to explore these further and to engage with them critically. Much of the learning and the coursework assessment is centred on the importance of methodology. For the coursework assignment, students are asked to research a given topic (chosen in accordance with the tutor) and to present their topic as a study-notes document (all finished documents will be brought together and made available to the whole group as a study/revision folder). The elaboration of the document (posted on Blackboard Discussion Board) involves peer review of the first draft (students are paired with a reviewer who will write a review of 300 words – this is a requirement for all students) and tutor feedback, focussing as much on content as on presentation and organisation. Students are then asked to take this feedback on board and to write up the usefulness of this together with their own self-evaluation before handing in a final version of the document (final draft) and their reflective account of its making. The study-notes document is importantly not just a homework exercise that only the tutor will see (as is often the case). Rather, it is rendered meaningful through its inclusion in a volume which will be useful for the whole group, providing facts and information, suggestions for further reading and also showing the necessity for good presentation/organisation skills. Also, importantly, the act of peer-reviewing requires the reviewer to act in a constructively critical manner. Students are asked to evaluate their own contributions to seminars (in consultation and with agreement from the tutor). The essay assignment seeks to consolidate their knowledge of a topic which is different to that of their study-notes, and give the opportunity for a more discursive presentation/traditionally ‘academic essay’. The emphasis here is on combining factual information with critical assessment and argumentation as an academic exercise.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • 1 lecture and 1 seminar per week. Learning activities include • Collaborative research on chosen topics to lead to production of a study-notes style document which will be peer-reviewed and tutor-reviewed (using the discussion board on Blackboard). See further details below.

Preparation for scheduled sessions2
Wider reading or practice40
Completion of assessment task40
Follow-up work40
Total study time146

Resources & Reading list

Sanders, Carol (ed.) (1993). French Today. 

Cerquiligni, B. (ed.) (2003). Les langues de France. 

Grillo, R.D. (1989). Dominant Languages: Language and Hierarchy in Britain and France. 

Hagege, C. (1996). Le Français, histoire d'un combat. 

Ball, R. (1997). The French-speaking World, a Practical Introduction to Sociolinguistic Issues. 

Mesthrie, R., Swann, J., Deumert, A., and Leap, W. (2000). Introducing Sociolinguistics. 

Battye, Adrian; Hintze, Marie-Anne; & Rowlett, Paul (2000). The French Language Today. 

Adamson, R. (2007). The defence of French: a language in crisis?. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback • Production of a handout-style assignment with peer and tutor review. Assessment Method Production of notes on a chosen topic (1000 words) with an accompanying account (400 words) of how peer and tutor review, and self-evaluation/further research have served to enhance the finished version. (Students will also be required to produce a peer review of 300 words – this forms part of the critical involvement assessment, see below). Critical involvement: reflection on seminar participation (300 words) and a peer review (300 words). This has a self-assessed grade (in consultation with tutor). Discussion essay of 1,500 words from a selection of titles.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1500 words) 40%
Written assignment  (600 words) 10%
Written assignment  (1400 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment  (2200 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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