Journal of French Language Studies

Accent levelling and accent localisation in northern French: Comparing Nancy and Rennes 1

a1 Department of French, University of Exeter, Exeter, EX4 4QH e-mail:

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This article addresses the contention that the regional accents of northern France have become increasingly uniform (‘levelled’) in recent decades. A qualitative, micro-level analysis is carried out on the speech of two older working-class male informants, one from each of the cities of Nancy and Rennes. To contextualise the data, which are drawn from sociolinguistic interviews, previous accounts of the relevant français régionaux are summarised. Close examination of non-standard features in the present data shows that whereas the Nancy informant displays several localised traits, the Rennes speaker's accent is more typical of general colloquial and lower-class usage. While regionally marked variants are disappearing, the degree of accent levelling varies according to region, and thus according to substrate dialect.

(Received October 2004)
(Revised February 2005)


1 I am grateful to the editors, referees, Nigel Armstrong and Aidan Coveney for their many helpful comments on earlier versions of this article. I also wish to thank Anne Serfaty for checking the orthographic transcriptions, Aidan Coveney for checking the phonetic transcriptions and notation, and Linda Shockey for clarifying a point of detail in the use of IPA diacritics. Needless to say, any remaining errors are my own.