The influence of the dominance of different processes on the microstructural development of a quartzite was investigated using the numerical model 'ELLE'. Dynamic recrystallization of a polycrystalline aggregate was simulated by the concurrent operation of viscous deformation, lattice rotation, subgrain formation, rotational recrystallization, nucleation of new grains from strongly strained grains and recovery. The different observed microstructural characteristics depend on the relative rates at which grain boundary migration, subgrain formation, recrystallization by rotation and nucleation affect the microstructure. Observed sizes of recrystallized grains are significantly influenced by these different relative rates of processes. These rates are determined by parameters that mainly depend on temperature, fluid absence or presence, shear stress and strain rate. Therefore, the specific conditions at which deformation took place have to be taken into account if recrystallized grain sizes are used for palaeopiezometry. Comparison and combination of our results with experimental data and observations in natural examples provide the possibility of interpreting microstructures quantitatively in terms of temperature and shear strain rate.