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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Professor Wendy Bennett

Wendy Bennett
Emerita Professor, Linguistics
Principal Investigator, Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies (AHRC Open World Research Initiative)
Theoretical and Applied Linguistics
Contact details: 
Telephone number: 
+44 (0)1223 760 800 (Faculty)

17 Mill Lane
United Kingdom



Wendy Ayres-Bennett's 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 has published extensively on the history of the French language and the history of linguistic thought, particularly in seventeenth-century France.

She was Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded research project Promoting Language Policy which had three main aims: to build an online repository of UK language policy documents; to produce with RAND Europe the economic case for supporting languages in the UK; and to organise a second national languages policy workshop. This builds on the policy work that was central to the major research project funded by the AHRC under the Open World Research Initiative: Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies (MEITS) of which she was also Principal Investigator (2016-2021). More information about MEITS can be found at

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 enlarged 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 two volumes: 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, 2022), awarded the Prix Georges Dumézil by the French Academy in 2013, and a critical edition of Vaugelas’s Remarques sur la langue françoise (Paris, Éditions Classiques Garnier, 2018). 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). More recently she has co-edited three major volumes: Manual of Romance Sociolinguistics (Berlin/Boston, Walter de Gruyter, 2018); Women in the History of Linguistics (Oxford: OUP, 2020); and The Cambridge Handbook of Language Standardization (Cambridge: CUP, 2021). 

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, of the Société Internationale de Diachronie du Français, and of the Philological Society. She is an Officier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques.


Research interests: 


  • History of the French language
  • Variation and change in French, from the sixteenth century to the present day
  • History of linguistic thought
  • Linguistic standardisation and codification
  • Language policy and ideology


Recent research projects: 

MEITS (Mulitlingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies)