Diacronia 3, February 12, 2016, art. A36 (p. 1–21)

Cultural models of linguistic standardization

Dirk Geeraerts


Department of Linguistics, Catholic University of Leuven, Blijde-Inkomststraat 21, PO Box 03308, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium


Received February 9, 2015
Accepted September 18, 2015
Published February 12, 2016

Key words

cultural models
cognitive linguistics


In line with well-known trends in cultural theory (see Burke et al., 2000), Cognitive Linguistics has stressed the idea that we think about social reality in terms of models – ‘cultural models’ or ‘folk theories’: from Holland & Quinn (1987) over Lakoff (1996) and Palmer (1996) to Dirven et al. (2001a, 2001b), Cognitive linguists have demonstrated how the technical apparatus of Cognitive Linguistics can be used to analyze how our conception of social reality is shaped by underlying patterns of thought. But if language is a social and cultural reality, what are the models that shape our conception of language? Specifically, what are the models that shape our thinking about language as a social phenomenon? What are the paradigms that we use to think about language, not primarily in terms of linguistic structure (as in Reddy 1979), but in terms of linguistic variation: models about the way in which language varieties are distributed over a language community and about the way in which such distribution should be evaluated?

In this paper, I will argue that two basic models may be identified: a rationalist and a romantic one. I will chart the ways in which they interact, describe how they are transformed in the course of time, and explore how the models can be used in the analysis of actual linguistic variation.


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    Text:Geeraerts, D. (2016). Cultural models of linguistic standardization, Diacronia 3 (February 12), A36 (1–21),
     author = {Dirk Geeraerts},
     title = {Cultural models of linguistic standardization},
     journal = {Diacronia},
     ISSN = {2393-1140},
     year = {2016},
     month = {February},
     number = {3},
     eid = {A36},
     doi = {},
     pages = "(1–21)",
     url = {}


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