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Review of  The French Language Today

Reviewer: Joseph Reisdoerfer
Book Title: The French Language Today
Book Author: Adrian Battye Marie-Anne Hintze Paul Rowlett
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Subject Language(s): French
Issue Number: 13.1020

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Battye, Adrian, Marie-Anne Hintze and Paul Rowlett (2000) The French
Language Today: A Linguistic Introduction, 2nd ed. Routledge, xiii+345pp,
paperback ISBN 0-415-19838-0, $25.99, hardback ISBN 0-415-19837-2,
$85.00 (first ed., 1992).

Joseph Reisdoerfer, Universit�t des Saarlandes.

It is with great pleasure and interest that we have read the remarkable
introduction to French language and linguistics by Marie-Anne Hintze,
Paul Rowlett and the late Adrian Battye. As they state in their
prefaces, the authors have tried to write a book on the linguistics of
French responding to the needs of undergraduate students already
proficient in the language but still requiring solid information on
linguistics and the scientific study of language.

The book indeed gives a complete overview on the major topics of French
Chapter 1 (pp. 1-50) describes the ''francophonie'' and sketches an
interesting survey of the emergence of a standard language.
Chapter 2 (pp. 51-118) is a detailed introduction to French phonetics,
phonology and the orthographical system.
Chapters 3 and 4 (pp. 119-159; 160-256) deal with French morphology and
With chapter 5 (pp. 257-310) the authors return to sociolinguistics and
present the varieties of French: langues r�gionales, patois, fran�ais
r�gional, cr�oles, niveaux de langues (fran�ais soign�, fran�ais
familier, fran�ais non standard).
In an appendix, we find two maps, the first on dialects and regional
languages, the second on French in the world.
The book concludes with a glossary (pp. 313-325) defining technical
linguistic terms, a bibliography (pp. 326-338) and an index (pp.

The most striking feature of the book is clarity: the language is
limpid, technical terms in bold characters are explained in the
glossary, the book as a whole and the different chapters, always ending
with some bibliographical indications for further reading, are well
structured. Doubtless this book is an excellent introduction to French
linguistics (note 1).

It has of course the drawbacks of the didactic genre. Sometimes
simplification leads to questionable formulations. On page 10 e. g.,
the authors write that Romance languages stem from Latin: ''Similarities
between these languages are due to their common ancestry: Latin ...''.
They missed here the opportunity to introduce the notion of spoken
Latin, of Vulgar Latin.

Diachronic explanations are generally avoided, a disputable option which
certainly does not clarify the description of the H muet/ H aspir�
problem (pp. 107-108) for example.

The pages on stylistic variations -- fran�ais soign�, fran�ais familier,
fran�ais non standard pp. 290-310 -- an important and difficult subject
for non-native speakers of French, are too sketchy and should be
completed using e.g. Bodo Muller's description framework (note 2).

Unfortunately the authors did not include a special chapter on the
lexicon, - neologisms, borrowings from English, quantitative lexicology
(note 3)... - with a short presentation of the most important French
dictionaries -- paper, electronic and online editions -- Petit Robert,
Grand Robert, Tr�sor de la langue fran�aise (note 4) - and it should be
added in the next edition (note 5).

Finally the further reading pages should be completed by adding such
standard works as J�zsef Herman excellent monograph on Vulgar Latin (note 6)
(chapter 1, p. 50), Knud Toggeby's Grammaire fran�aise (note 7), and La
grammaire m�thodique du fran�ais by Riegel, Rioul and Pellat (note 8)
widely used at French universities (note 9) (chapter 4 p. 255).

At the end of my critical remarks, here are some quibbles. In the second
chapter devoted to phonetics and phonology the authors ought to have
mentioned the resurgence of the mute e in modern French (note 10). On
the first map in the appendix (p. 311) the authors forgot to indicate
the patois lorrain spoken in the East of France.

I conclude this review by quoting the beginning lines of Gadet's review:
''A sa sortie en 1992 d�j�, French Language Today m'avait remplie
d'admiration, et je l'ai toujours tenu pour l'une des indications de ce
que, d�passant la dichotomie entre introductions au ras des p�querettes
et trait�s savants, les Anglo-saxons excellaient dans les introductions
de haute tenue. Aussi est-ce avec satisfaction que 1'on voit ce travail
se prolonger dans une mise � jour, par-del� la disparition pr�coce
d'Adrian Battye''.

I fully agree with this judgement except that I hope that this excellent
book will be translated in French.

(1) Not surprisingly the reviewers praise the book: Douglas A. Kibbee,
''Rec. Battye / Hintze, The French Language Today 1991,'' The Modern
Language Journal 77 (1993): 381b (review of the first edition):''...
the volume as it stands is still the best basic introduction to French
linguistics available''; Fran�oise Gadet, ''Rec. Battye / Hintze / Rowlett
the French Language Today 2000,'' French Language Studies 11 (2001): 142
(review of the 2nd edition): ''Un ouvrage � recommander absolument.''
Rodney Sampson, ''Rec. Battye / Hintze / Rowlett The French Language
Today 2000,'' French Studies 55, no. 4 (2001): 585-86: ''In spite of these
reservations, however, this new edition is to be welcomed as a worthy
successor to the original co-authored by the late Adrian Battye, and it
will surely be received by its intended student readership.''

(2) Bodo M�ller and Annie Elsass, Le fran�ais d'aujourd'hui,
Biblioth�que fran�aise et Romane. S�rie A, Manuels et Etudes
Linguistiques ; 47 (Paris: Klincksieck, 1985), 225-62.

(3) On quantitative lexicology cf. Jacques Chaurand, ed., Nouvelle
histoire de la langue fran�aise ([Paris]: �ditions du Seuil, 1999),


(5) Cf. Sampson, ''Rec. Battye / Hintze / Rowlett The French Language
Today 2000.''

(6) J�zsef Herman, Vulgar Latin, trans. Roger Wright (University Park,
Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000).

(7) Knud Togeby et al., Grammaire Fran�aise, Revue Romane. Num�ro
sp�cial (Copenhague: Akademisk Forlag, 1982).

(8) Martin Riegel, Jean-Christophe Pellat, and Ren� Rioul, Grammaire
m�thodique du fran�ais, 1re �d. Linguistique Nouvelle (Paris: Presses
universitaires de France, 1994).

(9) On grammars used at French universities, cf. Ch. Touratier, ''Les
grammaires universitaires du fran�ais de ces dix derni�res ann�es,'' Le
fran�ais moderne 66, no. 1 (1998): 73-102.

(10) Cf. Chaurand, ed., Nouvelle histoire de la langue fran�aise, 6oo.:
''Le e caduc est un son tr�s fr�quent en fran�ais, en cours de mutation
car les locuteurs r�pugnent moins qu'avant aux groupes charg�s. C'est
aussi lui qui intervient en cas de perturbation dans la cha�ne
(h�sitation ...); et, depuis peu, en finale chez les jeunes, surtout
apr�s consonne (bonjoure), et m�me parfois apr�s voyelle ... .''
Joseph Reisdoerfer studied Classics and French in Germany (Heidelberg)
and France (Reims, Nancy) and holds a Docteur de 3e cycle in French
literature and a doctorat nouveau r�gime in French linguistics. He is
pursuing research on Vulgar Latin and teaches old French at the
Universit�t des Saarlandes.

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0415198380
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 360
Prices: U.S. $ 38.95