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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: July 2010

1 - Introduction


Some remarks on the organization of this volume

No single volume can adequately address a topic area as broad as “The Germanic Languages” in all of its aspects. It is necessary to single out a particular dimension on which to focus. Languages can be looked at in their societal context, for example, with attention to such questions as their use and significance in the communities of speakers who employ them, their relationship with the associated cultures (including, for example, literary uses), their demographics and their variation along geographical and demographical dimensions. One can alternatively regard language from a historical perspective, as chronological sequences of divergences and convergences, states and transitions. Each of these points of view has provided the organizational framework for successful volumes on the subject. It is also possible, abstracting away from their social, geographical, cultural and temporal contexts, to examine the languages of the family as assemblages of grammatical units, rule systems and constructions. This is the perspective which I will adopt here. The present volume is aimed primarily at those who are interested in how the Germanic languages are put together – what they have in common in terms of their linguistic organization and how they differ from each other structurally. That choice in turn determines several other features of the organization of the volume. In particular, I will not adopt the standard and often successful approach of covering the territory by means of a series of self-contained descriptions of individual languages.