This volume presents the development of standard languages within the Germanic language family. Written by the editors, the first chapter, ‘Standard languages: Taxonomies and histories’, introduces the reader to the book, explaining its need as well as the model on which the articles are based. The editors state that a weakness of previous attempts is that contributing authors wrote from varying perspectives, making it difficult to compare the languages discussed. To correct this, the contributors of this volume were requested to employ Einar Haugen’s four-step model of language standardization: norm selection, norm codification, norm implementation, and norm elaboration. Using the same model makes crosslinguistic comparison of the various aspects of the standardization process much easier. The editors also claim that the Germanic language family provides a good point of departure for such a survey because it ‘provide[s] a wide range of highly diverse standardization scenarios’, including variation in the size of the speech communities; ‘mature’ (English), ‘partial’ (Luxembourgish), and ‘incipient’ (Pitcairn Norfolk) standard languages; matrilectal speech communities (Icelandic) vs. speech communities with large numbers of L2 speakers (English); and so forth (2–3).
The chapters on the various languages include Afrikaans, Caribbean creoles, Danish, Dutch, English, Faroese, Frisian, German, Icelandic, Low German, Luxembourgish, Norwegian, Pacific pidgins and creoles, Scots, Swedish, and Yiddish. One of the strengths of this text is the breadth of its coverage—it does not limit itself to languages with a long history of standardization, such as English and German; virtually all modern Germanic languages (and those with some connection to them in the case of pidgins and creoles) are treated. Most of the authors organize their chapters based on Haugen’s model, greatly facilitating any comparison among the language developments. All authors begin with a (socio)historical background of the particular language situation, and a few include additional sections for events and/or people specific to their language (for instance, issues of language purism in many of the Scandinavian languages). A few of the chapters need additional summary as their contents are not necessarily evident from their titles. In the chapter on Pacific pidgins and creoles, Peter Mühlhäusler discusses the following pidgins and creoles: Broken (Torres Strait Creole), Pitcairn/Norfolk, Hawai’ian Pidgin/Creole, Solomon Island Pijin, Papuan Pidgin English, Kanaka English, Kriol, Chinese Pidgin English, Tok Pisin, Bislama, and Melanesian Pidgin. In the chapter on Caribbean creoles, Hubert Devonish briefly mentions Guyanese Creole and the Dutch-lexicon creoles (Negerhollands, Skepi Dutch Creole, and Berbice Dutch Creole) while he focuses on Standard Caribbean English and English-lexicon creoles, Jamaican Creole and Belizean Creole in particular. The chapter by Nils Langer on Low German focuses on the status of Low German in the Middle Ages, on its rise in prominence during the Hanseatic League, and the factors that influenced its not developing into a standard language.
The editors conclude the volume with the chapter ‘Research directions in the study of language standardization’, suggesting possible directions of further research in ‘comparative standardology’. Among the editors’ suggestions is that scholars ‘concentrate on the systematic (diachronic as well as synchronic) analysis of the more narrowly linguistic aspects of the standardization process (including linguistic convergence and variant reduction, syntactic elaboration and expansion, changes in derivational morphology, etc.)’ (465).
Those interested in the Germanic languages will definitely find this volume enlightening. Though there are a few very minor editing issues, this is overall a good overview of the standardization processes of the Germanic languages.