Nigel Armstrong


Sociolinguistic variation in the contemporary spoken French of France


Nigel Armstrong researches into sociolinguistic variation in the contemporary spoken French of France. This means the study of how social factors like regional origin, age, sex, social class, affect the way people speak.

The French situation has been rather little studied compared to Britain and the US, and much more research is needed to see whether the social-regional accent pattern in France 'works' in the same way as in other countries.

A further research interest currently being developed is perceptual dialectology applied to French; i.e. the study of listeners' perceptions of social and regional accents, as opposed to what academics think. Current research projects all focus on the investigation of socio-regional linguistic variation in France. A new direction is the study, from a translation perspective, of how language is used in popular culture: films and animated cartoons, for example.

Willing to supervise research projects on these topics, and to hear from prospective postgraduates interested in initiating new projects in these and related areas. Possible MA or PhD research projects include the following; these might include a period spent gathering language data in France, although the Leeds French Department possesses several collections of tape-recorded French:

  • A study comparing degrees of difference in the accents of two French towns. The study would be based on the analysis of 'real' language in tape-recordings, or on questionnaire results.
  • A study comparing how social/regional accents are used in films or animation in English and French.

See list of publications below for an idea of research topics covered.

Selected publications since 2000


Social and stylistic variation in spoken French: a comparative approach, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2001.

Editor, with K. Beeching and C. Bauvois, La langue franaise au fminin. Le sexe et le genre affectent-ils la variation linguistique ?, Paris: L'Harmattan, 2001.

Translation, linguistics, culture, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 2005.

Editor, with F. Federici, Translating voices, translating regions. Rome: Aracne, 2006.

Editor, with K. Beeching and F. Gadet, Sociolinguistic variation in contemporary French.  Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2009.

With T. Pooley: Linguistic and social change in European French. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

With I. Mackenzie: Standardization, ideology and linguistics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Thematic journal issue

Editor, with P. Blanchet, Journal of French Language Studies 16 (3), 2006. Thematic issue on sociolinguistic variation in French entitled 'The dynamics of levelling and diversity in French'.

Journal articles and chapters in books

With Z. Boughton: Absence de repres rgionaux et relchement de la prononciation, LINX [Revue des Linguistes de l'Universit Paris-X Nanterre] 42 (1): 59-71, 2000.

'Variantes fminines, langue standard et mobilit socio-gographique', in La langue franaise au fminin. Le sexe et le genre affectent-ils la variation linguistique ?, N. Armstrong, K. Beeching, C. Bauvois (eds), 37-52, Paris: L'Harmattan, 2001.

Traits de prononciation variables en zone urbaine : comparaison entre le franais et l'anglais, Cahiers de Sociolinguistique 6 : Sociolinguistique Urbaine. Variations linguistiques : images urbaines et sociales. Rennes : Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 99-110, 2001.

'The influence of spelling pronunciation in two areas of ol French: an indication of social convergence?', in French accents: phonological and sociolinguistic perspectives, M.-A. Hintze, A. Judge and T. Pooley (eds), 45-72, London: AFLS/CILT, 2001.

With C. Hogg: The Pollyanna principle in French: a study of variable lexis, Journal of Pragmatics 33 (11): 1757-85, 2001.

Variable deletion of French ne: a cross-stylistic perspective, Language Sciences 24 (2): 153-73, 2002.

With A. Smith: The influence of linguistic and social factors on the recent decline of French ne. Journal of French Language Studies 12 (1): 23-41, 2002.

With M. Jamin: 'Le franais des banlieues: uniformity and discontinuity in the French of the Hexagon', in French in and out of France: language policies, intercultural antagonisms and dialogues, K. Salhi (ed.), 107-136, Bern: Peter Lang, 2002.

Nivellement et standardisation en anglais et en franais, Langage et Socit 102: 5-32, 2002.

'La variation en franais la lumire de la sociolinguistique', in La Tribune Internationale des Langues Vivantes, No. 33. La prononciation du franais dans sa variation, J. Durand, B. Laks and C. Lyche (eds), 24-30, Perros-Guirec: Anagrammes, 2003.

With C. Hogg: The Pollyanna Principle in English and French lexis: some results and issues of methodology, Leeds Working Papers in Linguistics and Phonetics 9: 1-33, 2002 [published 2003].

Voicing 'The Simpsons' from English into French: a story of variable success. Journal of Specialised Translation 2: 97-109, 2004. URL:

With P. Blanchet: The sociolinguistic situation of 'contemporary dialects of French' in France today: an overview of recent contributions on the dialectalisation of standard French, Journal of French Language Studies 16 (3): 251-275, 2006.

'Translating "The Simpsons": how popular is that?', in Translating voices, translating regions, N. Armstrong and F. Federici (eds), 203-215, Rome: Aracne, 2006.

What kind of sociolinguistic variable is French mute-e?, Nottingham French Studies 46/2: 135-150, 2007.

With J. Low: C'est encoeur plus jeuli, le Mareuc: some evidence for the spread of /o/-fronting in French, Transactions of the Philological Society 106 (3): 432-55, 2008.

Les Franais devant la 'norme urbaine non mridionale'. Changement linguistique et identit sociale, in Normes identitaires et urbanisation - Des catgories discursives et des villes, G. Ledegen and T. Bulot (eds), Cahiers de Sociolinguistique 13, Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 15-29, 2008.

With Z. Boughton: 'Perception and production in French dialect levelling', in Sociolinguistic variation in contemporary French, K. Beeching, N. Armstrong and F. Gadet (eds), 9-24, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2009.

 ‘Between you and I, how does French hypercorrection work?’, in T. Pooley and D. Lagorgette (eds), On linguistic change in French: socio-historical approaches. Studies in honour of R. Anthony Lodge. Le changement linguistique en franais: aspects socio-historiques. Etudes en hommage au Professeur R. Anthony Lodge, pp. 23–35. Chambry: Editions de l'Universit de Savoie, 2012.

‘Social and linguistic change in French: does popular culture mean popular language?’, in D. Holmes and D. Looseley (eds), Imagining the popular in contemporary French culture, pp. 194–229. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013.

With T. Pooley: Levelling, resistance and divergence in the pronunciation of English and French, Language Sciences 39: 141–150, 2013. 

‘Hyperstyle variation in French: yet another exception culturelle?’, in D. Hornsby and M. Jones (eds), Language and social structure in urban France, pp. 81–91, Oxford: Legenda, 2013. 

‘Translation and culture’, in F. Sharifian (ed.), The Routledge handbook of language and culture, pp. 181–195, Routledge, 2015.

With I Mackenzie: On prescriptivism and ideology. Representaciones. Revista de Estudios sobre Representacin en Arte, Ciencia y Filosofa, XI (2): 24–57, 2016.

With K. Dawson: ‘When (and why) is a variable not a variable?’, in H. Tyne, M. Bilger, P. Cappeau and E. Guerin (eds), La variation en question(s), pp. 19-39. Brussels: Peter Lang.  2017.

Genre, style and culture in the translation into French of popular fiction. Australian Journal of Crime Fiction, 2017 (1),

With I Mackenzie: ‘Speaker variables in Romance: when demography and ideology collide’, in W. Bennett and J. Carruthers (eds), Manual of Romance Sociolinguistics, pp. 169–192. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2018.

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Research groups and institutes

  • French
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