Anna Tristram


  • Room 03.001 - 7 University Square

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I am open to PhD applications in the fields of: - French sociolinguistics - Variation and change (in any language) - Sociohistorical linguistics - Language attitudes - Language and gender - Prescriptivism and standard languages


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Personal profile

Research Interests

I completed my PhD in French Linguistics at the University of Cambridge in 2011, and was appointed as Lecturer in French Studies at Queen’s University Belfast in January 2013.


My primary research focus is in sociolinguistics. As a variationist, I consider variation and change to be inherent in language, and work with empirical, quantitative data in order to uncover the hidden patterns in linguistic variation, focusing particularly on morphosyntax (grammar). I examine how speakers choose between two different linguistic variants in order to express the same grammatical function, and consider what this can tell us about the way language works on the social and communicative level. When language change is taking place, what are the factors that lead to one variant being preferred over another? Why can stable variants exist alongside each other for centuries in some cases, while in others, change rapidly results in the (permanent) loss of one variant, albeit sometimes with fossilised usages? Does morphosyntactic variation work in the same way as phonological (sound) variation?


As a specialist in French sociolinguistics, I ask how a closer examination of French linguistic variation can contribute to our understanding of language variation more generally, which to date has been largely shaped by studies on English, giving rise to questions about the extent to which findings can be applied to other language situations. Do we find the same patterns of sociolinguistic variation cross-linguistically? I have shown in my research on French that sociolinguistic generalisations developed on the basis of (mainly) anglophone contexts can in fact be applied to the case of metropolitan France, most recently in my monograph with Legenda (2014) and an article in Revue Romane (2015), but more test cases are required. In a recent research project, I investigated the morphosyntactic variants used for future temporal reference in French, using data from the ESLO (Enquêtes Sociolinguistiques à Orléans) corpus of oral French.


My current project explores language change from a different perspective, seeking to understand the role that new digital media play in the relationship between language and society. I am investigating language attitudes on Twitter, focusing on l’écriture inclusive, ‘inclusive writing,’ a form of writing which makes both masculine and feminine endings visible (for example: les étudiant.e.s). The publication in September 2017 of a primary school French language textbook employing l’écriture inclusive provoked a storm of controversy, particularly visible on social media, which has yet to wane. Using data collected from Twitter, I aim to understand what kinds of speakers are engaging in this debate and what they are saying. What are the main arguments used for and against l’écriture inclusive? What are the profiles of French language users on each side of the debate? What does this reveal about attitudes to language reform in the French context? What can this tell us about the way social media function to foment debate about controversial issues in language usage? Social media represent a rich source of data on language attitudes, as yet underexploited for French. My research also seeks to place this debate within the larger context of the feminisation of the French language.


My wider research interests include the sociolinguistics and socio-historical linguistics of French, especially with reference to morpho-syntactic features; prescriptivism and its influence on language use; language and identity; language and gender; and dialect levelling. I would be pleased to hear from potential PhD students interested in any of these areas.


Reviews of Variation and Change in French Morphosyntax (Legenda, 2014):


‘Cet ouvrage constitue un apport majeur dans le champ de la linguistique variationniste et diachronique, tant par les résultats mis au jour que par la qualité de sa démarche méthodologique.’ — Sophie Prévost, French Studies 69.4, October 2015, 578-79


‘While language variation and change have been the focal point for linguists on this side of the Atlantic, Tristram argues that studies on morphosyntactic variation in French studies are lacking due to a focus on phonology and dialectology as well as denial of variation and change in the French language. Tristram’s book is thus a welcome contribution.’ — Samira Hassa, French Review 89.3, 2016, 108


‘Anyone teaching variation in French will want to talk about the findings and reflections reported in this study. A remarkable amount of ground is covered in a small compass. This is a highly welcome addition to the Legenda list, and one must hope that further linguistics titles will be added to it before very long.’ — Nigel Armstrong, Journal of French Language Studies 26.2, 2016, 211-13


I offer undergraduate modules including 'Sociolinguistics of Modern French' (at Level 2), 'La Phonétique du français' (at Level 2), 'Modern French: Issues in Theory and Usage' (at Level 3) and French language (all levels). I have previously convened the Beginner's French, Level 1 and Level 2 French core language programmes. At Master's Level I teach specialist modules in French Linguistics, and contribute to the Research Methods modules on corpus linguistics and quantitative methods. I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA).



Contact details

Office: 301, 7 University Square

Telephone: 02890 973340


Twitter: @AnnaTristram


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