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Cambridge Language Sciences

Interdisciplinary Research Centre
Areas of Interest: 
History of linguistic thought in France
History of the French language
Socio-historical linguistics
Language policy


B.A. Modern and Medieval Languages (French and German), Girton College, Cambridge

D Phil University of Oxford under the supervision of Professor Rebecca Posner

1982-1983 Junior Research Fellow, St Hilda's College, Oxford

1983-1998 Assistant Lecturer, then Lecturer in French Linguistics, University of Cambridge

1998-2005 Reader in French Philology and Linguistics, University of Cambridge

2005- Professor of French Philology and Linguistics


I work on the history of the French language and the history of linguistic thought, particularly in seventeenth-century France. I am especially interested in considering what effect, if any, metalinguistic texts have on language change in France and the extent to which the seventeenth-century so-called prescriptive texts reflect or shape the evolution of the language. I have also published on socio-historical linguistics and have worked extensively on possible sources of non-standard usages in seventeenth-century France.

I am currently the PI of the MEITS project (Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies), a flagship project which seeks to transform the health of the discipline of Modern Languages in the UK, attitudes towards multilingualism, and language policy at home and abroad. With Nicola McLelland (University of Nottingham) I am Co-Investigator on Strand 2 of the project,  Standard languages, norms and variation: comparative perspectives in multilingual contexts.


Key publications: 

Ayres-Bennett, W. (1987) Vaugelas and the Development of the French Language. London, MHRA

Ayres-Bennett, W. (1996) A History of the French Language through Texts. London, Routledge

Ayres-Bennett, W. & Caron, P. (1996) Les Remarques de l’Académie Française sur le Quinte-Curce de Vaugelas 1719-1720. Paris: Presses de l’Ecole normale supérieure.

Ayres-Bennett, W. & Carruthers, J. with Temple, R. (2000) Problems and Perspectives: Studies in the Modern French Language. Harlow: Longman Linguistics Library.

Ayres-Bennett, W. (2004) Sociolinguistic Variation in Seventeenth-Century France. Cambridge, CUP

Ayres-Bennett, W. and Seijido, M. (2011) Remarques et observations sur la langue française: histoire et évolution d'un genre. Paris, Classiques Garnier.

Ayres-Bennett, W. (2011) Corpus des remarques sur la langue française (XVIIe siècle). Paris, Classiques Garnier Numérique.

Ayres-Bennett, W. (2018) Claude Favre de Vaugelas, Remarques sur la langue française. Paris: Editions Classiques Garnier.

Ayres-Bennett, W. & Carruthers, J. (2018) Manual of Romance Sociolinguistics. Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter.

Professor of French Philology and Linguistics
Principal Investigator Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies
Departments and institutes: