skip to content

Cambridge Language Sciences

Interdisciplinary Research Centre


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

2005-2022 Professor of French Philology and Linguistics

2022- Emerita Professor of French Philology and Linguistics and Emerita Fellow of Murray Edwards College


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.

My current research interests include language policy, standardization, codification and ideologies. Between 2016 and 2021, I was Principal Investigator on the multi-disciplinary research project, Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies, funded by the AHRC ( The project worked closely with policymakers and practitioners to promote the value of languages for key issues of our time and the benefits of language learning for individuals and societies. A follow-on AHRC funded research project Promoting Language Policy explored the economic value to the UK of speaking other languages and created a repository of UK language policy documents (




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.

Ayres-Bennett, W. & Sanson, H. (2020) Women in the History of Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ayres-Bennett, W. & Bellamy, J. (2021) The Cambridge Handbook of Language Standardization. Cambridge: Cambridge Unversity Press.

Ayres-Bennett, W. & Fisher, L. (2022) Multilingualism and Identity: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ayres-Bennett, W. (2022) Corpus augmenté des remarques et observations sur la langue française (XVIIe siècle). Paris: Classiques Garnier Numérique.

Ayres-Bennett, W. (2022) Corpus des remarques et observations sur la langue française (XVIIIe siècle). Paris: Classiques Garnier Numérique.

Other Professional Activities

Vice-President of the Philological Society.

Emerita Professor of French Philology and Linguistics
Principal Investigator Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies
Principal Investigator Promoting Language Policy