Dialect, language, nation: 50 years on

John E. Joseph, Gijsbert Rutten, Rik Vosters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Einar Haugen’s ‘Dialect, language, nation’ (1966) introduced the well-known four-box matrix with the key concepts selection, codification, elaboration and acceptance. Though Haugen was not the only linguist interested in standardization and related sociolinguistic topics at the time, his 1966 paper has played a crucial role in the development of standardization studies over the past half a century, and keeps inspiring researchers until the present day. Most of Haugen’s works were primarily synchronic in nature, with however consistently taking into account the inherent historicity of language. ‘Dialect, language, nation’, with its focus on the sociolinguistic shift from a dialect to the language of a nation, necessarily had a strong historical accent, and included for example references to Ancient Greece, Revolutionary France and nineteenth-century Finland. What Haugen may not have envisaged in the 1960s is that out of the then relatively young discipline of sociolinguistics another new discipline would emerge from the 1980s onwards, viz. historical sociolinguistics. It is particularly within this field that standardization is analyzed as a historical phenomenon, characteristic of post-medieval Europe, and Haugen’s approach has been followed closely.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161–182
JournalLanguage Policy
Early online date12 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Einar Haugen
  • standardization
  • history of sociolinguistics


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