I am Associate Professor of French and an Affiliated Member of the Linguistics Department at the University of California, Berkeley. I specialize in French/Romance Linguistics and Translation Studies. My first book, Syntactic Borrowing in Contemporary French: A Linguistic Analysis of News Translation, was published by Legenda in 2011. I am currently working on a book that explores the origins and evolution of the language of the French press (1631-1789) and I am also producing a digital and critical paper edition of Urbain Domergue's Journal de la langue françoise (1784-1795) for Garnier.




My research revolves around linguistic variation and change in French and Italian. Some of the main themes addressed by my work include the relationship between language and the media, language contact, translation as a linguistic variable and speech reporting. So far, I have addressed various questions in these domains using a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches, in particular corpus linguistics and corpus-based translation studies. Until 2012, most of my projects concerned either the Renaissance or the digital age (i.e. post 1994). However, my current project on the origins and evolution of journalistic French means that I am now working mostly on the seventeenth- and eighteenth centuries while keeping a strong comparative focus with the contemporary. This project has also meant that I am now working not just on syntax but on every linguistic level from orthography and phonology to style.

Current and Future Projects

The Language of the Early French Press

Since 2012 I have been working on a project that explores the language of the early French press. It starts in 1631 with the founding of the first major French-language periodical, the Gazette and continues until the French Revolution when the press underwent considerable changes. This is the first large scale linguistic investigation of the language of the historical press in French. The aims are twofold: first, to offer a better understanding of the language of the press in this period (its origins, its evolution, how it compares to the language of the press today) and second, to show how the data from this historical text type can be used to improve our understanding of the history of the French language.  

The research for this project was funded by a grant from the Hellman Family Foundation (2012-2013) as well as grants from the Diplomacy and Culture Colloquium (UC Berkeley) and from the Early Modern Patterns research group (University of California, Humanities Research Institute).

Future Project: Urbain Domergue's Journal de la langue françoise

I am also working on a project to produce a digital and critical paper edition of the first periodical devoted to the French language itself, Urbain Domergue's Journal de la langue françoise which published (intermittently) between 1784 and 1795. 

Previous Research Projects

Language Contact

I wrote my Ph.D. thesis at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Wendy Ayres-Bennett. My other advisor was Adam Ledgeway, and my examiners were Ian Roberts and Janice Carruthers. A modified version of the dissertation was published by Legenda (Oxford) in May 2011: Syntactic Borrowing in Contemporary French: A Linguistic Analysis of News Translation. Here's the blurb:

It is widely held that the large-scale translation of international news from English will lead to changes in French syntax. For the first time this assumption is put to the test using extensive fieldwork carried out in an international news agency and a corpus of translated news agency dispatches. The linguistic analysis of three syntactic structures in the translations is complemented by an investigation of the effects of a range of factors including, most notably, the speed at which the translation is carried out. The analysis sheds new light on the ways in which news translation could lead to syntactic borrowing in French, and by extension, in other languages. 

Comments from reviewers:

"Throughout, the author demonstrates a strong awareness of methodology, a solid grounding in the relevant literature, and a laudable attention to detail... Deserves to become a point of reference for future studies within the field." — Maj-Britt Mosegaard Hansen, Modern Language Review 107.4 (October 2012), 1248-49

"En somme, cet ouvrage est très convaincant par sa rigueur (méthodologie, présence de graphiques), son aspect novateur et sa clarté. Il peut servir de référence aux chercheurs et doctorants de diverses disciplines telles que l’évolution du français contemporain, le contact des langues (en particulier la transmission de l’emprunt syntaxique) ou la traduction." — Michèle Vincent, French Studies 66.4 (October 2012), 594-95

"Works like this, at the crossroads of linguistics and translation studies, are all too rare. The potential of the work reported here to inspire further investigation is considerable." — Nigel Armstrong, Modern and Contemporary France 20.2 (February 2012), 267-68

 This investigation of syntactic borrowing in contemporary French led to a further comparative project on syntactic borrowing from English in contemporary Italian. The results of this comparative project are published in an article on 'News Translation as a Source of Syntactic Borrowing in Italian' (The Italianist 33(iii): 443-63, 2013).

Translation Studies

A lot of my work has taken place at the boundary of linguistics and translation studies and I have addressed questions related to both fields. My article '(In)Visibility: Dislocation in French and the Voice of the Translator' (McLaughlin 2008) explores the workings of one of the so-called 'translation universals' at the level of syntax. The universal concerns the under-representation of features of the target language that are not present in the source language. In my book on Syntactic Borrowing in Contemporary French, on the other hand, I analyze the syntax of translated news dispatches in order to address a question that is primarily linguistic, namely: will contact between English and French lead to syntactic borrowing?

I spent most of 2011 pursuing my interests at the border of my two main fields by exploring further the contribution that translation studies can make to linguistics. Although translation scholars have drawn heavily on tools and concepts developed in linguistics, their colleagues in linguistics have yet to incorporate the work that has been done on translation since the early 1990s. In an attempt to introduce linguists to the work done in translation studies, I designed a project to explore the role of translation in linguistic change. I address this question from a universal linguistic perspective, drawing together the research that has been done on various individual languages for the first time. I used this work to develop the first theoretical model of translation-induced linguistic change that would account for the variables that determine whether translation will operate as a factor in lingusitic change, and the variables that determine what kind of linguistic change will take place. I gave a New Faculty Lecture about this project on the Berkeley campus in November 2011 and you can access a version of the lecture published by the University Library here. A related article focussing only on French will be published in the proceedings of the first SIDF conference in the near future.

In 2014 I published an état présent of Translation Studies and French in the journal French Studies. Download a copy here

Speech Reporting

Speech reporting emerged as an important variable affecting syntax in my very first research project: this was my undergraduate dissertation which I worked on while studying with GARS. It was published in the Journal of French Language Studies in 2011. You can download a copy of this article here. Since then, I have included the presence of speech reporting - or voice - as a variable in almost all of my work on syntactic variation. The notion of textual polyphony has begun to take a more central role in my work on the press. In 2012, I published an article on 'Oralisation et le discours rapporté dans les dépêches des agences de presse' in the journal Le Discours et la langue. A copy of this article can be downloaded from the journal's website. This article draws attention to the absence of research on news dispatches as a text type despite the strong interest in newspaper usage in the field of reserach into speech reporting in French. At the 2012 Ci-dit conference, I gave another paper on speech reporting in news dispatches, this time focusing on the question of gender. This paper will be published in the forthcoming conference proceedings.


I have worked on a range of syntactic constructions, and I am particularly interested in word order, dislocation, passive constructions, the preposed adjective, present particples / gerundives and tense choice. I have published two articles on dislocation (McLaughlin 2008 and 2011) and the other structures are also treated in my book Syntactic Borrowing in Contemporary French.

In my work on syntax, I do not follow one theoretical approach, but I make use of syntactic analyses from various frameworks. I have been particularly influenced by the work done by GARS (Groupe aixois de recherche en syntaxe). I used their Approche pronominale in my work on dislocation in French, and despite its focus on the syntax of the oral code, it provided useful tools for a research project that dealt with a number of different codes (see McLaughlin 2008 and 2011). I also believe that we can still draw on many aspects of the traditional philological approach to Romance linguistics. I find it particularly useful to embed the syntactic analysis in the cultural-historic context of the text and its production. This was very enlightening for the investigation of borrowing from Italian into French in the sixteenth century that was part of my Ph.D. Understanding how texts are produced and reproduced is also a crucial part of my assessment of the importance of news translation for language contact. In the light of the strong interest in generative syntax among linguists working on Italian, I also make occasional use of this framework in analysing Romance syntax.


To get in touch, email me (, see my page on the French Department website at UC Berkeley, or follow me on twitter (mairimcl).