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Photo of Professor Aidan Coveney

Professor Aidan Coveney

Associate Professor of French Language and Linguistics


01392 724218

OFFICE HOURS: Tuesday & Thursday 3-4

Research interests

Aidan  Coveney welcomes enquiries about postgraduate supervision (MPhil and PhD degrees) in topics related to: the sociolinguistics (especially variation and change in grammar) and sociopragmatics of French; varieties of French.

Variation and change in French: sociolinguistics, grammar and sociopragmatics

I have interests in several sub-disciplines of linguistics, especially with reference to varieties of French. The principal focus of my research is variation in the grammar of spoken French. I have worked on the development of analytical methods for the study of grammatical variation, and have adapted variationist methodology for the analysis of a number of major points of variation in French grammar, notably interrogation, negation and personal pronouns. Most of this work has included the examination of large quantities of data in corpora, especially in my Picardy Corpus of Spoken French. I have always paid particular attention to the linguistic and pragmatic constraints that influence grammatical variation. I contributed the founding article (on direct interrogatives) for the major web-based Encyclopédie grammaticale du français, which is more informed than previous grammars by research on variation and the spoken language. My work on variation in personal pronouns has also led me to examine methodological and analytical issues in research on what is probably the most salient sociolinguistic phenomenon in French, the use of the address pronouns vous and tu.

Articulatory phonetics of French

I have always been fascinated by the fine detail of articulatory phonetics, and this interest led to my book, The Sounds of Contemporary French: articulation and diversity, in which I sought to define the articulatory identity of French. In addition to sociophonetic and comparative dimensions, the book includes a close analysis of cineradiographic and labiographic data of native French speakers. Part of the book is devoted to an examination of intersegmental coordination.

Varieties of French

My long-standing interest in varieties of French is reflected in the book Variation et francophonie, which I co-edited and to which I contributed. The book includes chapters relating to several French-based contact languages, in addition to varieties of French in North America and Europe. The disciplinary approaches include socio-historical linguistics, Optimality Theory phonology, lexicology and variation theory. I have supervised and examined doctoral theses on several varieties of French.

Current and forthcoming research projects

These are focussed on grammatical variation, both studies of particular phenomena and further exploration of theoretical and methodological issues. 

Research supervision

Postgraduate Supervisions completed since 2006:

  • (2nd Supervisor) MRes on ‘Levelling in Metropolitan French', Sophie Nicholson.
  • MRes on 'Aspects of Negation in Neostandard Italian', Anne-Marie Obretin, AHRC-funded.
  • (2nd Supervisor)  MRes on 'Guernsey Norman French', Helen Simmonds, AHRC-funded.
  • MRes on ‘The Sociolinguistics and Pragmatics of Left Subject Dislocation in Spoken French', Thomas Clissitt.
  • (2nd Supervisor) MRes on 'Francais populaire', Charlotte Fry.
  • (2nd Supervisor) MRes on 'Phonological Variation and Change in Alsatian French', Katharine Pipe.
  • (2nd Supervisor) PhD on 'Channelling Change: Evolution in Guernsey Norman French Phonology', Helen Simmonds.
  • (2nd Supervisor) PhD on 'Language Maintenance and Attrition in the Venetian-Italian Community of Anglophone Canada', Claudia Bortolato.
  • PhD on 'Variation syntaxique dans le francais multiculturel du cinema de banlieue', Laurie Dekhissi.
  • PhD on 'The Agreement of the Past Participle in Spoken French as a Sociolinguistic Variable: Production and Perception', Damien Gaucher.
  • PhD on 'Le desaccord et la critique entre amis: strategies d'adoucissement dans le discours pre-conflictuel', Lucie Riou.
  • (2nd Supervisor) PhD on 'Accent Levelling in the Regional French of Alsace', Katharine Pipe, AHRC-funded.
  • (2nd Supervisor) PhD on 'The Pragmatic Particles ENFIN and ECOUTE in French Film and TV Dialogue', Marianne Connors, AHRC-funded.
  • PhD on 'A Sociolinguistic Profile of Gallo in Eastern Brittany', Adrian Chrimes, AHRC-funded.
  • PhD on 'Variation in the Use of Prepositions in Quebec French', Elizabeth Latimer, AHRC-funded.
  • (2nd Supervisor) PhD on 'Phonological variation, perception and language attitudes in the (Franco-)Belgian borderland', Sarah Foxen, AHRC-funded.

Other information

Conference Papers Given (since 2001)

  • 'Le double marquage du sujet dans un corpus de français parlé'
    June 2001 at University of Copenhagen, International Conference on Le français parlé.
  • 'Subject Doubling in spoken French'
    July 2001 at University College Dublin, Annual Conference of the Society for French Studies.
  • 'Anything you can do, tu can do better: tu and vous as substitutes for indefinite on in French'
    August 2002 at University of St Andrews, Annual Conference of the Association for French Language Studies Conference.
  • 'Pourquoi employer tu ou vous comme indéfini?'
    March 2003 at the Istituto Cervantes, Paris, International Conference on 2nd Person Pronouns.
  • 'The problem of syntactic variation in a variationist context'
    April 2004 at University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Colloquium on Pragmatics and Syntactic Variation, as part of the Sociolinguistics Symposium.
  • 'What varies (in grammar) and why?'
    September 2005 at University of Aberdeen, UK Language Variation and Change 5 Conference.
  • 'Observing and analysing vous and tu'
    September 2007 at the Université du Littoral Côte d'Opale, Boulogne, Annual Conference of the Association for French Language Studies.
  • ‘Le variationnisme'
    July 2008 at the 1er Congrès Mondial de Linguistique Française, Paris.
  • ‘Le vernaculaire, les corpus et la variation grammaticale en français' September 2008 at the Annual Conference of the Association for French Language Studies, University of Oxford.
  • Invited papers at research seminars in Cambridge, Surrey, Bristol and London.

Contribution to discipline

The Association for French Language Studies:

I am a long-standing member of the AFLS, and have been a member of various committees since 1996, including six years as Chair of the Research Committee.

Editorial and Refereeing:

I have served previously as Co-Editor of the Journal of French Language Studies (CUP), and have been a member of the JFLS Advisory Editorial Board since 2006. I have also been a member of the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Sociolinguistics (Blackwell/Wiley) and the French Studies Bulletin (OUP). I have acted as a Referee for several other international journals: Language Variation and Change; Language in Society; Language Sciences; Canadian Journal of Linguistics; Studies in Second Language Acquisition; Bilingualism: Language and Cognition; Transactions of the Philological Society; French Studies; Francophonie. I have served as Referee/Reader of books for various publishers, including John Benjamins, Oxford University Press, Palgrave Macmillan, Routledge.

External Examining of higher degrees:

For the universities of: Newcastle upon Tyne, Kent, Trinity College Dublin, Université de Paris X Nanterre, Orléans, Essex, UWE Bristol, Queens University Belfast, Neuchatel (CH).

Innovations in Research Methodology:

I pioneered the digitisation of European Spoken French corpora, and variationist research into French interrogatives, including the classification of interrogatives in terms of their communicative functions.

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