This project focuses on the question to what degree the functioning of language norms is invidually and culturally determined. This question is key to fully fathom the social and cognitive functioning of norms in society. Norms are on the one hand products of natural, inherently human 'bottom-up' processes: they arise spontaneously through the interplay between in-group imitation and an urge to distinguish oneself from other invididuals or groups. On the other hand cultural processes of “progressive reification, totemization and institutionalization of a language” (Le Page 1988, p. 31) can strenghten or counteract spontaneously emerged, 'natural' norms. If we want to understand this interaction between 'natural' and 'top down' standardisation - essential to assess the usefulness of explicit language standardisation in the 21st century - it is crucial to map differences between individuals on the one hand and language cultures on the other. Language norms after all begin and end with individuals: they arise or change when individuals adjust their behaviour to each other, make rules explicit, or adopt or ignore rules made explicit by others. Individuals are however also part of communities, and these allegedly also have an effect on the degree to which language norms structure language behaviour and perceptions of language (cf. Le Page & Tabouret-Keller 1985). Empirical research into individual and cultural differences in language standardisation is however scarce, especially in quantitative linguistics.
In this project, I therefore focus on a meticulous quantitative comparison of Dutch speaking communities with different traditions of language standardisation, i.e. the Netherlands, Flanders and Suriname, also taking into account (the girth of) individual differences in the functioning of language norms. As language norms materialize in different guises - (1) as patterns in language behaviour, resulting in multiple language variables correlating in similar ways to social and situational parameters, resulting in coherence, (2) as abstract, general ideas about what language variation is and should be, and (3) as entities influencing our attitudes of specific language utterances and their makers, this project builds on both production and perception data, which have been collected (or are currently being collected) in a series of other projects (see e.g. my own PhD project, my postdoctoral project on Surinamese and Belgian Dutch, the PhD project by Frauke Vervaeke and the PhD project of Mishko Bozhinoski), but which will now be combined and compared using state-of-the-art multivariate statistical techniques to answer to the following questions:
(1) To what degree do speakers of Dutch from the Netherlands, Suriname and Flanders vary their spoken language grammatically?
(2) If speakers vary: can individual and cultural differences be detected in the degree to which the measured variance is coherent/systematic (cf. Beaman & Guy 2022; Geeraerts 2010; Guy & Hinskens 2016)?
(3) How do speakers of Dutch think about language standardization on an abstract level?
(4) To what degree can individual and cultural differences be detected in the abstract thinking about language standardization?
(5) How do speakers of Dutch rate specific instances of grammatical variation in terms of acceptability?
(6) To what degree can individual and cultural differences be found in acceptability judgements about grammatical variation?
(7) On the basis of 1-6: Are the different guises of language norms (coherence patterns in language use, abstract ideas about language variation and language norms, and evaluations of specific instances of language utterances) influenced in a similar way by language culture, and do the individual patterns in these three guises correlate? E.g. are individuals who do not display much coherence in their speech production also indifferent or negatively inclined towards explicit language standardization?