Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster: Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration

Linguistic relativity of situated action

Dr. Jörg Zinken

Abstract

Does the language you speak make a difference to the life you lead? In my research, I develop a new approach to this question; an approach that focuses on how diverse linguistic resources enter into the constitution of situated action. Situated action is the proximal environment for the development of cognition, of cultural values and norms of conduct, and of language itself.  Talk in turn is one of the fundamental resources for human action. And yet, we know very little about how talk in diverse languages might enter into situated action as the main arena for the production and reproduction of diverse cultural forms of life.

My work therefore addresses the question: Do speakers or different languages act differently? This question is tackled by focusing on how grammatical practices in different languages constitute fundamental activities in social life, such as sharing stances about past events (“assessing”); recruiting others for the accomplishment of here-and-now actions (“requesting”); and proposing arrangements for the organization of future events (“planning”).  The organization of affiliation and of cooperation, accomplished through these activities, is universally relevant for human communities. However, there seems to exist substantial diversity in how these are accomplished in different communities of speakers – diversity that so far remains unchartered territory.