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Wendy Ayres-Bennett works on the history of the French language and the history of linguistic thought, particularly in seventeenth-century France. Her major research interests include questions of standardisation and codification, linguistic ideology and policy, variation and change, from the sixteenth century to the present day.
She is currently PI on a major research project funded by the AHRC under the Open World Research Initiative: Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies (MEITS). MEITS is an exciting multidisciplinary project, which aims to promote modern languages in the UK. It includes 6 research strands exploring multilingualism from different disciplinary perspectives, ranging from literary and cinematic representations through to exploration of the cognitive benefits of multilingualism. Working in partnership with non-HEI partners, the project will have a strong public engagement and policy dimension.
Wendy Ayres-Bennett is also lead researcher on a project (funded by the AHRC 2006-2010) on the genre of observations on the French language. The Corpus des remarques sur la langue française (XVIIe siècle), was published by Classiques Garnier Numérique in 2011 and constitutes an important part of the Grand Corpus des grammaires françaises, des remarques et des traités sur la langue (XIVe-XVIIe siècles). This is complemented by a monograph on the history and evolution of the genre, co-authored with Magali Seijido, Remarques et observations sur la langue française, histoire et évolution d'un genre (Paris, Éditions Classiques Garnier, 2011) which was awarded the Prix Georges Dumézil by the French Academy in 2013. The second phase of the project now includes texts from the eighteenth century.
Other major publications include Vaugelas and the Development of the French Language (London, MHRA, 1987), A History of the French Language through Texts (London, Routledge, 1996), Les Remarques de l'Académie Française sur le Quinte-Curce de Vaugelas (Paris, PENS, 1996), for which she was jointly awarded the Prix d'Académie by the French Academy, Problems and Perspectives: Studies in the Modern French Language (London, Longman, 2001) and Sociolinguistic Variation in seventeenth-century France (Cambridge, CUP, 2004). Most recently she has published two co-edited volumes, Bon Usage et variation sociolinguistique: Perspectives diachroniques et traditions nationales (Lyon : ENS Éditions, 2013) and L’Histoire du français : État des lieux et perspectives (Paris: Éditions Classiques Garnier, 2014).
Professor Ayres-Bennett has had six periods as a Visiting Professor in France, at the Universities of Limoges, Montpellier, Poitiers and Paris 7, and at the Écoles Normales Supérieures in Paris and Lyon. In April 2012 she was the Pajus Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. She has been President of the Society for French Studies and of the Société Internationale de Diachronie du Français and is currently President of the Philological Society. She is an Officier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques.
MEITS (Mulitlingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies)