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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

Professor Leigh Oakes


Professor of French and Linguistics

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 8319
Room Number: Arts One 1.05A


My research focuses broadly on language policy and planning (LPP), especially in France, Québec and Sweden. I am interested in a variety of topics including language attitudes, language ideologies and nationalism/national identity, and have a particular interest in normative approaches to LPP as developed in political philosophy/political theory.

I have supervised a number of PhD students in a range of sociolinguistic topics both within and outside the French-speaking world.

Professional activities:


  • FRE4200 French 1
  • FRE4201 French Foundations (linguistics component) (level 4)
  • FRE5201 The Sounds of French (level 5)
  • FRE6200 Language and Society in the French-Speaking World (level 6)


Research Interests:

Language policy and planning; language and nationalism/national identity (especially in France, Québec and Sweden); language attitudes and ideologies; French sociolinguistics

Current projects

Pluricentric linguistic justice in Quebec: investigating linguistic authority through a reconceptualisation of language attitudes

Of the many debates on language in Quebec, one of the most enduring concerns the question of linguistic authority in French. Should Quebecers adhere to a norm defined externally, in France (exonorm)? Or are there good reasons to promote a local standard reflecting socially acceptable usage as determined by Quebecers themselves (endonorm)? While language attitude research has shed some light on these questions, the picture that emerges remains largely ambiguous, owing perhaps to the merging of individual attitudes with broader language ideologies reproduced in a stereotypical fashion.

This seeks to bring some clarity to this question through a reconceptualisation of language attitudes inspired by language policy research within the field of political philosophy/political theory. Specifically, it builds on the notion of 'pluricentric linguistic justice' developed by Oakes and Peled (2018) to (1) provide an empirical account of attitudes to the question of pluricentric linguistic justice in French in Quebec; (2) test empirically the theoretical assumptions that underpin the notion of pluricentric linguistic justice; and (3) explore the usefulness of the pluricentric linguistic justice paradigm for investigating attitudes to linguistic authority more broadly.

Understanding foreign language motivation in a globalised world: focus on French

Against the backdrop of the 'English is enough' mentality, the project explores the motivational factors underlying university learners’ reasons for learning a language other than English (LOTE) in today’s globalised world. Based on the results of a quantitative study of motivation amongst 527 university learners of French in four European countries (the UK, Ireland, Sweden and Poland), it explores whether motivation is shaped by the dominance of English, both in terms of the status enjoyed by this language in the various countries examined (L1, L1 in addition to another language, L2 and foreign language) and whether it was the learners’ L1. The motivations of learners of French are also compared with those of learners of English in Sweden and Poland, with a view to exploring the applicability to LOTEs of the main motivational constructs theorised in the literature.




(2018, co-authored with Yael Peled). Normative Language Policy: Ethics, Politics, Principles. Cambridge University Press.

(2009, co-authored with Jane Warren). Langue, citoyenneté et identité au Québec. Ste-Foy: Les Presses de l'Université Laval. (Translation of title below)

(2007, co-authored with Jane Warren). Language, Citizenship and Identity in Quebec. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. (Winner of the 2008 Pierre Savard prize (category: book in English or French) awarded by the International Council for Canadian Studies (ICCS).)

(2005, with I. Lockerbie, I. Molinaro and K. Larose). French as the Common Language in Québec: History, Debates and Positions. (New Perspectives in Québec Studies 2). Montréal: Éditions Nota bene.

(2001). Language and National Identity: Comparing France and SwedenAmsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Edited volumes and special issues

(2021, with Camilla Wide and Catrin Norrby). Neue Perspektiven auf Plurizentrizität / New perspectives on pluricentricity / Nouvelles perspectives sur la pluricentricité. (Sociolinguistica 35).

Articles and book chapters

(forthcoming). The historical development of language policy and planning. In M. Gazzola, F. Grin, L. Cardinal and K. Heugh (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Language Policy and Planning. London: Routledge.

(2022, co-authored with M. Howard) Learning French as a foreign language in a globalised world: an empirical critique of the L2 Motivational Self System. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 25(1): 166-182.

(2021, with Y. Peled). Pluricentric linguistic justice in Quebec: an attitudinal study of the politics of norm setting in French. Language Problems and Language Planning 45(3): 331-356.

(2021). Pluricentric linguistic justice: a new ethics-based approach to pluricentricity in French and other languages. Sociolinguistica 35, 49-71.

(2021, co-authored with M. Howard). Motivation for LOTE learning: a cross-country comparison of university learners of French. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development.

(2017) Normative language policy and minority language rights: rethinking the case of regional languages in France. Language Policy 16(4): 365-384.

(2016). Droits et obligations linguistiques au Québec: apports d’une approche éthique. In G. Potriquet, D. Huck and C. Truchot (eds). « Droits linguistiques » et « droits à la langue ». Identification d’un objet d’étude et construction d’une approche. Limoges: Lambert-Lucas, 179-188.

(2013). Foreign language learning in a 'monoglot culture': Motivational variables amongst students of French and Spanish at an English university. System 41(1): 178-191.

(2013). Beyond diglossia? Language attitudes and identity in Reunion. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 34(1): 30-45.

(2011). Regional languages, the European Charter and Republican values in France today. In C. Norrby and J. Hajek (eds.) Uniformity and Diversity in Language Policy: Global Perspectives. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 68-85.

(2011, co-authored with Jane Warren). Language policy and citizenship in Quebec: French as a force for unity in a diverse society? In C. Norrby and J. Hajek (eds.) Uniformity and Diversity in Language Policy: Global Perspectives. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 7-21.

(2011). Promoting language rights as fundamental individual rights: France as a model? French Politics 9 (1): 50-68.

(2010). Lambs to the slaughter? Young francophones and the role of English in Quebec todayMultilingua 29 (3-4): 265-288.

(2008). Language planning and policy in Quebec. In D. Ayoun (ed.) Studies in French Applied Linguistics. (Language Learning and Language Teaching 21). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 345-385.

(2007). Whose French? Language attitudes and linguistic insecurity in Québec. In M. Howard (ed.) Language Issues in Canada: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 64-85.

(2007, co-authored with A. Linn) Language policies for a global era: the changing face of language politics in Scandinavia. In C. Fandrych and R. Salverda (ed.) Standard, Variation und Sprachwandel in germanischen Sprachen/Standard, Variation and Language Change in Germanic Languages. (Studien zur deutschen Sprache 41). Mannheim: Institut für Deutsche Sprache, 59-90.

(2006). Le défi de l’ethnicité: modèles de nation et politique linguistique au Québec et ailleurs. In P. Georgeault and M. Pagé (eds) Le français, langue de la diversité québécoise.(Débats) Montréal: Québec Amérique, 107-129.

(2005). From internationalisation to globalisation: Language and the nationalist revival in SwedenLanguage Problems and Language Planning 29 (2): 151-176.

(2004) Le français comme 'langue publique commune' au Québec. Globe: Revue internationale d'études québécoises 7(2): 155-176.

(2004). French - a language for everyone in Québec? Nations and Nationalism 10 (4): 539-558.

(2004). Language, Identity and Globalisation in Sweden. In L. R. N. Ashley and W. H. Finke (eds.), Language and Identity: Selected Papers (from the American Society of Geolinguistics International Conference, October 2-5, 2002). New York: Cummings and Hathaway, 7-20

(2002). Multilingualism in Europe: An effective French identity strategy? Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development23 (5): 371-387.

(2002). Phonostylistique des annonceurs de la radio: Etude prosodique de textes radiophoniques. Journal of French Language Studies 12 (3): 279-306.

Other publications

(2021, with Camilla Wide and Catrin Norrby). New perspectives on pluricentricity. Sociolinguistica 35, 1-7.

Oakes, L. and Howard, M. (2019). Foreign language motivation in a globalised world: the case of languages other than English (LOTEs). In P. Maguire (ed.) Foreign Language Learning and Ireland’s Languages Connect Strategy. Reflections following a symposium organised by the National University of Ireland with University College Cork (Education and Society, Occasional Papers No. 1). Dublin: National University of Ireland, 26-34.

(2019) Regional language policy for a 21st-century RepublicPreface to Harrison, M. & A. Joubert (eds.) French Language Policies and the Revitalisation of Regional Languages in the 21st Century. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, v-ix.

(2019, co-authored with M. Howard). Foreign language motivation in a globalised world: the case of languages other than English (LOTEs).

(2015). Parrots, pasta and the politics of language. The Ninth Eccles Centre for American Studies Plenary Lecture given at the British Association for Canadian Studies Annual Conference, 2014. London: British Library.

(2003). Svenskan och svenskhetenSpråkvård 3/03: 30-35.


I welcome applications from candidates wishing to undertake doctoral research in the following areas:

  • Language policy and planning
  • Language and nationalism/national identity
  • Language ideologies
  • Language attitudes
  • French sociolinguistics

Current PhD Students:

Scott Kunkel - Bidialectal French speakers' language attitudes and perception of gradient acoustic differences

Chiara Ardoino - Code-Switching in the French Caribbean Media: Negotiation and Accommodation in a Linguistic Continuum

Past PhD students:

Sujin Lee - The making of multilingual South Korea: Inter-discourse of neo-nationalism and transnationalism

Rachelle Vessey - Language ideologies and discourses of national identity in Canadian newspapers: A cross-linguistic corpus-assisted discourse study

Rusudan Amirejibi-Mullen - Language policy and national identity in Georgia

Ruth Kircher - Language attitudes in Quebec: A contemporary perspective

Jon Orman - Language and nation-building in post-apartheid South Africa

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