Language and Social Structure in Urban France

Edited by Mari C. Jones and David Hornsby

Legenda (General Series)


4 December 2013  •  254pp

ISBN: 978-1-907975-41-7 (hardback)  •  RRP £80, $110, €95


The coming together of linguistics and sociology in the 1960’s, most notably via the work of William Labov, marked a revolution in the study of language. Labovian quantitative methods have been employed successfully in many Anglo-Saxon countries, but have had surprisingly little resonance in France, a country which poses many challenges to orthodox sociolinguistic thinking. Why does a nation with unexceptional scores on income distribution and social mobility show an exceptionally high degree of levelling of regional or local speech forms? Why does French appear to abound in ‘hyperstyle’ variables, which show greater variation on the stylistic than on the social dimension although, in theory, such variables should not occur?

This volume brings together leading sociolinguists and sociologists from both sides of the Channel to ask: what makes France ‘exceptional’? In addressing this question, sociolinguists reassess the accepted interdisciplinary consensus, asking whether concepts and definitions have been transposed in a way which meaningfully preserves their original sense and, crucially, takes account of recent developments in sociology. Sociologists, for their part, focus on the implications of language variation for social theory. The debate presented here therefore transcends the case study of a particularly enigmatic country and raises important theoretical questions for both disciplines.

Mari C. Jones is Reader in French Linguistics and Language Change at the University of Cambridge and Fellow in Modern and Medieval Languages at Peterhouse. David Hornsby is Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Kent.


  • ‘From a variationist’s perspective, this is an insightful volume, methodical in its approach to the subject matter, and careful to consider existing research from across the social sciences. Its overarching aims are very well addressed, and the proposals outlined by the contributors will undoubtedly form an important part of future research on Metropolitan French. The volume’s undoubted strength and significant contribution comes from the break in the ‘reciprocal ignorance pact’ (Fishman 1991) that characterises the relationship between sociology and sociolinguistics. As Pooley rightly suggests (p. 209), it is this break in tradition that must now spearhead new avenues of research.’ — Jonathan R. Kasstan, Journal of French Language Studies 26.2, July 2016, 209-11


Mari C. Jones, David Hornsby
Instruments de travail and the Travails of Instruments: Reflections on the Cross-national Measurement of Social Class
Eric Harrison
Social Stratification in France: Measures and Trends
Paul Lambert
The Sociological Discourse on Inequality and Social Class in France
Roland Pfefferkorn
Class and Culture in Contemporary France
Philippe Coulangeon
On Levelling and Counter-Levelling in French: A Phonological Perspective
Jacques Durand, Julien Eychenne, Chantal Lyche
The Social Differentiation of Grammar in France
Aidan Coveney
Hyperstyle Variation in French: Yet Another exception culturelle?
Nigel Armstrong
Exception française? Levelling, Exclusion, and Urban Social Structure in France
David Hornsby, Mari C. Jones
Banlieues as a Social Problem: Changing Discourse on Space, Class and Race in France, 1985–1995
Sylvie Tissot
Locating Variation in French: Geolinguistic Patterns, Levelling and the ‘French Exception’
Zoë Boughton
Sociolinguistic Change in the City: Gentrification and its Linguistic Correlates in Marseille
Cyril Trimaille, Médéric Gasquet-Cyrus
Space, Language and Minorization: The Urban Character of Gallo (Rennes)
Thierry Bulot
Collecting a New Corpus in the Paris Area: Intertwining Methodological and Sociolinguistic Reflections
Françoise Gadet
Studying Language and Society in France: Contemporary Developments at the Intersection of Sociology and Sociolinguistics
Robert Gibb, Paul Lambert
Studying Variation in Urban France: The State of Play and Prospects for the Future
Tim Pooley

Bibliography entry:

Jones, Mari C., and David Hornsby (eds), Language and Social Structure in Urban France (Legenda, 2013)

First footnote reference: 35 Language and Social Structure in Urban France, ed. by Mari C. Jones and David Hornsby (Legenda, 2013), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Jones and Hornsby, p. 47.

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Bibliography entry:

Jones, Mari C., and David Hornsby (eds). 2013. Language and Social Structure in Urban France (Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Jones and Hornsby 2013: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Jones and Hornsby 2013: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

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