Skip to main content


FRE2044 : Linguistic Variation in French

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Damien Hall
  • Owning School: Modern Languages
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


- In consonance with the overall aims of the degrees offered in the SML, to build on skills gained at Stage 1.
- To provide students with a solid knowledge of how, and according to which social and regional factors, language use varies in France and the rest of the Francophone world.
- To provide students with a solid knowledge of aspects of general sociolinguistic theory possibly relevant to language use in France in particular.
- To provide preparation for the Year Abroad.
- To provide students with the knowledge necessary to carry out detailed studies of language variation in France, either during their Year Abroad, or during Stage 4.
- Through the assessed presentation requirement, to provide students with practice in presenting information to an audience.
- To provide students with the opportunity to carry out genuine research, even at undergraduate level. This could arise either through the essay or through the students applying the knowledge gained in this module, when they are in French-speaking countries in the following year: for example, they could take voice-recorders abroad, carry out interviews, and analyse those interviews for a Dissertation in Stage 4. All the students will be offered this opportunity, but whether or not to take it would be entirely up to individuals.

Outline Of Syllabus

Students will attend two hours of lecture and one hour of seminar each week. Lectures will present the fundamental and theoretical issues. The assessed presentations will take place in seminars. If there are not enough assessed presentations to fill our seminar time, exercises on the topic of the week will be provided.

The progression of topics will be roughly:
1. Setting the issues
2. Axes of variation in French (how can French vary?)
3. Language variation in France and the Francophone world
4. Phonological variation in French
5. (Morpho-)syntactic variation in French
6. Labovian sociolinguistics and French
7. ‘Sociolinguistique’ in France
8. World Frenches

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture221:0022:00PiP
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00PiP
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1167:00167:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures will convey key content issues. In the seminars, students will:
- either present and discuss some of these issues, applying them to real-world data;
- or carry out practical activities (such as textual analysis) to apply the knowledge gained in lectures.

These discussions and activities will provide knowledge and practice which will be of practical use during students’ Year Abroad in Francophone countries, as well as a solid intellectual foundation for relevant Stage 4 and postgraduate study. The assessed presentation will provide students with practice in a skill which is increasingly important for employment. The mark for participation will encourage class discussion, which is essential, as sociolinguistics is based on observation of language.

Students are expected to read preparatory material as well as attending lectures and seminars.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Presentation151M20Presentation & discussion in English, 15 mins. Presenters to choose topic in consultation with lecturer and to stimulate discussion.
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M802,800 words in English
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The essay is heavily weighted so as to give the highest proportion of marks to a component that students can spend time researching, and where they do not have to feel under pressure to perform in a given short time.

The presentation is assessed so as to give students an incentive to produce a good presentation, which will be able to provoke discussion in the class, and could be useful for their future research (e.g. for the essay). To reflect the fact that 20% of the marks for the module will be gained in a single period of about 20 minutes, the lecturer will be prepared to discuss presentations with students (and indeed will require them to consult him before choosing a topic to present on). Presenters in a given week will be required to present on a topic related to that week’s lectures, or in a previous week’s lectures (but not in a future week’s lectures) (topics to be identified by the presenters).

The 10% of the mark given for contribution to discussion is intended to incite discussion at all class meetings. Discussion of students’ observations about actual language use are crucial in sociolinguistics. In any given session, a student will be marked as having contributed if they simply say something in a discussion: it does not have to be ‘correct’ or profound.
- The mark received will then be the proportion of sessions in which a student contributed, out of the sessions in which they could have contributed—so, for example, a student who contributed to the discussion in 15 out of the possible 33 sessions would get (15/33) x 10% = 0.45 x 10% = 4.5% for this component.
- This component is worth 10% because it is not such a small percentage that it can be disregarded, but not such a big percentage that it could make a student’s final mark unrepresentative of their overall performance. By the same token, occasional absences have a negligible impact on the mark for contribution to discussion.
- In past module evaluations, students have told me that they appreciate this component of the assessment, because it stimulates discussion so that everyone can benefit. Commenters do not seem to be put off by it.

Reading Lists