Language standardization ‘from above’

Gijsbert Rutten, Rik Vosters

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Language standardization ‘from above’ occurs in situations in which language authorities seek to disseminate a standardized variety across a speech and writing community. Hence, the crucial aspect of language standardization ‘from above’ is implementation, in Haugen’s terminology. In the history of many European languages, standardization ‘from above’ is a Late Modern phenomenon, closely tied to the rise of standard language ideology in the eighteenth century. In this chapter, we first define language standardization ‘from above’, situating it in the sociohistorical context of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Arguing that the sociolinguistic situation at the time can be described as diaglossic, we claim that language standardization ‘from above’ is a top-down effort to reorganize the sociolinguistic condition in terms of standard and non-standard. We then discuss various instruments of implementation, encompassing both private and official language planning activities such as usage guides, language academies, professorships in ‘national’ languages, language laws and educational reforms. Finally, we zoom in on the effects of implementation, distinguishing between discursive and linguistic effects (i.e. changing patterns of language use under the influence of standardization ‘from above’). Our examples are mainly taken from the Dutch situation, while also incorporating examples from English, German, French and Spanish.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Language Standardization
EditorsWendy Ayres-Bennett, John Bellamy
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781108559249
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameCambridge Handbooks in Language and Linguistics


  • historical sociolinguistics
  • language planning
  • Late Modernity
  • standard language ideology
  • implementation


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