Professor Devitt offers a new view of the linguistic process of standardization, the movement of specific language features towards uniformity. Drawing on theoretical arguments and empirical data, she examines the way in which linguistic conformity develops out of variation, and the textual and social factors that influence this process. After defining and clarifying the general theoretical issues involved, the author takes as a specific case study the standardization of written English in Scotland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and shows that standardization is a gradual process, that it occurs at significantly different rates and times in different genres, that it encompasses periods of great variation, and that it occurs concurrently with sociopolitical shifts. The interrelationship of linguistic features, genres, and social pressures shape the nature and direction of standardization.
"This is a thorough and rigorous study, marked by a painstaking exposition of data...[Devitt's] solid investigation deserves the attention of language historians and sociolinguists alike." Language