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Review of  A Sociolinguistic History of Parisian French

Reviewer: Emmanuelle Labeau
Book Title: A Sociolinguistic History of Parisian French
Book Author: R. Anthony Lodge
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Subject Language(s): French
Issue Number: 16.670

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Date: Mon, 7 Mar 2005 08:10:54 +0000
From: Emmanuelle Labeau
Subject: A Sociolinguistic History of Parisian French

AUTHOR: Lodge, R. Anthony
TITLE: A Sociolinguistic History of Parisian French
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
YEAR: 2004

Emmanuelle Labeau, Aston University, Birmingham (UK)

[This review was originally submitted in July 2004, but not received. We
apologize to the reviewer, author and publisher for the delay in posting
it. -- Eds.]

Anthony Lodge undertakes here a project that is both innovative (a
diachronic description of French sociolinguistic diversity) and ambitious
(the period spans from medieval times to the twentieth century).

Before embarking on the study itself, the author devotes his first part to
some "preliminaries". The first chapter deals with the difficulty of
identifying "the French of Paris" because of its confusion with standard
French in traditional approaches. To obtain a more accurate and subtle
description, Lodge suggests to apply the concepts and techniques of modern
sociolinguistics to past states of the language as past states of French
must have known variability as it does now; he pays special attention to
the phenomena of dialect contact and dialect mixing and explores
Trudgill's concepts of dialect-levelling, koinéisation and "reallocation".
However the researcher encounters a shortage of data for early periods. On
the assumption that speakers change the language, Lodge builds his book on
the three-stage process of European urbanisation identified by Hohenberg
and Lees (1985): the pre-industrial, the proto-industrial and the
industrial phases.

In the second part devoted to the pre-industrial city, the author first
describes the "demographic take-off" of Paris in the twelfth century that
went far above contemporary urbanisation due to dramatic immigration from
the densely populated hinterland. This led to an unprecedented development
of Paris' functional complexity and the social and demographic changes
allow to assume significant influences on the language. Lodge then
proceeds to attempt a description of "the beginnings of Parisian French".
On the basis of modern dialectology, he argues that French standard
language originates in a spoken koiné developed in the 12th and 13th
centuries as a result of demographic growth. He rejects the idea that
colloquial Parisian speech be a corruption of the standard that was
elaborated later. To test this hypothesis, Lodge studies "the medieval
written evidence", a corpus of administrative texts. Some variability in
the Parisian writing system may correlate to some variation in speech.
However, if anecdotal evidence shows an awareness of local speech-norms
from the late twelfth century, there is no evidence of social
differentiation in the speech of Parisians. At the time, the most
significant divide separated Latin, the language of the university, and
the vernaculars.

The third part deals with the proto-industrial city, over a period
spanning from the 15th to the 18th century. The first chapter starts with
an overview of demographic and social evolution before focusing on the
sociolinguistic process of "reallocation", the recycling of variants left
over from the konéisation as social-class dialect, stylistic... variants
as it is shown by limited direct evidence and also by contemporary
literary representation. "Variation in the Renaissance city" shows that in
the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, there was a growing awareness of
social differentiation between the honnête homme and the paysan de ville
and some salient variants were stigmatised. However, fragments from
personal correspondence reveal that the separation was not clear-
cut. "variation under the Ancien Régime" shows that during the 17th and
18th a growing gap developed between high and low varieties. In "Salience
and reallocation", Lodge studies extracts of texts imitating low-class
Parisian speech as representative of the most salient variants.

The last part focuses on the industrial city and starts with a description
of the industrial growth between 1750 and 1950 (the date at which the
study stops) and its influence on language development. Then are discussed
the concepts of standardisation induced by the new political situation in
the 19th century, and of dialect-levelling due to the contact of
increasingly different varieties as in-migration expands from Paris
hinterland to further afield. The part closes on a reflection on lexical
variation throughout the periods covered in the book and focuses on non
standard varieties such as 'jargon' or 'argot'.

Lodge's study is remarkable in many ways. First it offers a very
unconventional history of Parisian French far from the traditional
standard-oriented work: it uses the tools of modern sociolinguistics to
shed light on the principles of language variation in diachrony. Then the
study is firmly rooted in the demographic and socio-economic background
that has directed the book's structure. It also shows an impressive
mastery not only of the traditional reference works on the history of
French and modern sociolinguistics, but also of indirect sources such as
popular literature, correspondence, songs...

One may question some structural points. Although the book claims to cover
the period up to the 1950s, little is said on the 20th century. Also there
are some discrepancies between chapters: while some are "easy-reading",
presenting sociolinguistic developments, others are more "hardcore"
philological discussion and will only appeal to a more specialised
readership. It must be said however that each part provides a very
readable introductory chapter and chapters end on a clear summary of the
matters covered.

Lodge's book proves fascinating in many ways and will appeal not only to
language specialists but also historians and indeed Paris lovers willing
to understand better the Ville-Lumière's making!


Hohenberg, P.M. and Lees, L.H. (1985) 'The Making of Urban Europe 1000-
1950'. Cambridge, Ass. :Harvard University Press.

Trudgill, P. (1986) 'Dialects in Contact'. Oxford: Blackwell.


Emmanuelle Labeau is a lecturer in French at Aston University, where she
teaches electives on the history of the French language and Contemporary
French. Her main research interests are the development of tense and
aspect in French; she works both on language description and language

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 0521821797
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 302
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