Language Diversity and Language Use: Project "Norms, Rules, and Morality across Languages (NoRM-aL)"

Principal Investigator: Prof Dr. Jörg Zinken

Associated Researchers: Dr. Uwe-Alexander Küttner, Laurenz Kornfeld, Christina Mack, Jowita Rogowska

The project "Language Diversity and Language Use" currently pursues the project "Norms Rules and Morality across Languages (NoRM-aL)", funded by the Leibniz Association until 2023.

Prima facie, rules and norms appear to play a central role in structuring and organizing social life. The project NoRM-aL (Norms, Rules, and Morality across Languages) seeks to investigate how speakers invoke and enforce norms or rules in everyday social interaction. Adopting a cross-linguistic perspective (comparing primarily English, German, Italian and Polish data), the project engages the following questions (among others):

  • What are the linguistic and multimodal resources participants draw on when invoking, negotiating, or enforcing rules?
  • How do they flag others’ conduct as transgressive or departing from normative expectations; and how do they sanction such transgressions? Conversely, how do they promote compliance and how do they facilitate or encourage actions that are in accordance with the rules or their normative expectations?
  • What role do language-specific resources play in ‘normative talk’? Which commonalities and differences can be identified with respect to how participants establish and patrol these normative boundaries across languages and cultures?

To address these questions, the associated researchers are assembling a corpus of video recordings of informal interactions in a number of European languages, in collaboration with external project partners (PECII, Parallel European Corpus of Informal Interactions). To maximize comparability across languages, the recordings are gathered from three uniform everyday settings with an enhanced likelihood of norms and rules becoming interactionally relevant (family breakfasts, board games, car journeys).

The project is situated within the joint methodological framework of Conversation Analysis and Interactional Linguistics.

NoRM-aL is carried out in collaboration with researchers from the University of Basel, the University of Helsinki, the Kazmierz Wielki University Bydgoszcz and the University of California at Los Angeles. As part of this project, three Ph.D. students are given the opportunity to pursue a doctoral degree.

Contact: PD Dr. Jörg Zinken, zinken(at); Dr. Uwe-Alexander Küttner; kuettner(at); Laurenz Kornfeld, kornfeld(at); Christina Mack, mack(at); Jowita Rogowska, rogowska(at)