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NORMS is a Nordic Center of Excellence, which is directed from CASTL in Tromsø by Peter Svenonius and Øystein Alexander Vangsnes, involving the Universities of Tromsø, Iceland (in Reykjavík), Lund, Helsinki, Aarhus, Oslo, and Trondheim (NTNU) and financed jointly by those seven universities and NOS-HS (Joint Committee for Nordic Research Councils for the Humanities and the Social Sciences). It is a five-year investigation into microcomparative variation in the syntax of the Scandinavian languages and works closely with the Scandinavian Dialect Syntax Project ScanDiaSyn and with the European partners of that network.
News:The NORMS project is coming to an end
The official project period for NORMS ends on 31 December 2010. As witnessed by the events page, the project has facilitated a long list of activities related to the investigation of Nordic Dialect Syntax in the period 2005-2010. Some of this activity will be prolonged within other projects under the ScanDiaSyn umbrella and also within the N'CLAV network.
|There are no more events organized by the project. Activity is continued in the ScanDiaSyn and N'CLAV networks, and information about the Nordic Dialect Corpus and the Nordic Syntax Database can be obtained from this page at the Text Laboratory at the University of Oslo.|
|Previous events:||See the Events page.|
NORMS (Nordic Centre of Excellence in Microcomparative Syntax) is a five-year project to map, document, and analyze the complex patchwork of dialectal variation throughout the Scandinavian language continuum, from Iceland in the west to the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland in the east, and from the Norwegian settlements on Svalbard in the north to Denmark’s German border in the south. Unlike previous studies of Scandinavian dialects, this one focuses on grammar rather than words and pronunciation.
For example, Northern Norwegians will ask a new acquaintance, Ka du hete? (approximately, ‘What your name is?’) rather than using the ‘inverted’ order Hva heter du? (analogous to ‘What is your name?’) which is typical of questions in the rest of Scandinavia. Every dialect has its own peculiarities, and Scandinavia possesses a multitude of dialects throughout its great expanse. Microcomparative refers to the small degrees of variation between one dialect and the next, as opposed to the greater differences among different languages. Syntax is the system of grammar.
To achieve its aims, NORMS assembles a ‘dream team’ of the region’s most successful scholars in syntactic theory; at least one institution in each Scandinavian nation is included, and through the networks that each of these institutions already has in place, virtually all of the scholars of syntax and of dialects in Scandinavia will be involved in this project in one way or another.
Although linguistic theory has made great strides in understanding natural language syntax, and although Scandinavian linguists have gained a high degree of respect in this area, very little theoretical work has been done specifically on dialect syntax. Not only does NORMS propose to make major inroads into this underexplored terrain, it proposes to do so at a crucial moment in time: some of the most conservative and distinct dialects in Scandinavia are falling prey to a general regional levelling—perhaps because of television, or greater education, or increased mobility, the dialectal differences are diminishing. If they are not documented now, before they disappear forever, then we will have lost a wealth of information about the limits of dialectal variation.
4.1. Previous experience
All of the leaders of the groups involved have experience with PhD education; Lund, for example, has a long history of PhD training, having produced among others Halldór Sigurdsson, Cecilia Falk, and Lars-Olof Delsing; more recently those very same former students have in turn undergone training in Lund specifically to prepare them for PhD supervision. In Lund two Scandinavian summer schools in syntax for PhD students have been arranged (both under Christer Platzack’s supervision): NorFA 1989 and Nordplus 1993.
The group in Helsinki has a decade of experience with the Finnish national researcher training school, now called Langnet. Jan-Ola Östman (leader of the Helsinki group) has led two larger programs in Langnet, is a member of that school’s executive board and of the preparatory panel, and has voluminous experience in instruction there. In addition he has been extensively engaged in matters of doctoral education at HU and elsewhere.
CASTL in Tromsø has newly set up a Forskerskole for PhD education, having admitted an average of three new PhD students per year in formal theoretical linguistics for several years. Furthermore, the group in Tromsø has arranged at least one international PhD course per year for many years, including teachers such as Morris Halle, Nigel Fabb, Paul Smolensky, David Lightfoot, and many others.
The Reykjavík group has only recently begun active PhD training, but has had great success with their Master’s program, whose graduates have been accepted into some of the best linguistics programs in the US (Harvard, UMass, Cornell, UCLA). The group is now beginning to train their own PhD students and Professor Höskuldur Thráinsson has considerable experience in that area since he taught at Harvard (1991-1995) and was the advisor or thesis committee member for a number of students there.
As mentioned in § 1.1. Dr. Vangsnes and Professor Johannessen organized a week-long PhD course in November/December 2004 entitled Methods and tools for the study of grammatical variation. The course was made possible by a grant from the Norwegian body Nasjonalt forskerutdanningsutvalg for humanistiske fag , and in addition NorFA gave travel stipends to Nordic and Baltic participants. Seminars and workshops focusing on methodology will be an integrated part of ScanDiaSyn and NORMS alike, surely a recurrent topic at the grand meetings.
4.2. Plans for researcher training activities
The idea of team-based research (see §1) is one which is rooted partly in serious thinking about the quality of a PhD education. In this model, research teams are put together which include researchers at different levels of advancement: A senior researcher in a leadership position, junior faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and PhD students. An effort is made to ensure a ‘vertically’ organized group, without too much concentration at any one level. This ensures that everyone gets hand-on experience with real research, while minimizing the opportunity for the kinds of conflicts that can arise when academic peers focus on the same problem. It also provides some of the advantages of tutelage, advising, and the mentor project which has been experimented with in some Scandinavian countries to encourage female faculty to achieve promotion in the academic ranks.
In this way, PhD students are a vital part of the model for NORMS, and will be included in activities at all levels. They are highly likely to be selected for travel to workshops and dialect description meetings, and will be included in planning and execution of the projects described here. Activities sponsored by NORMS such as thematic and dialect-specific workshops provide a natural forum for the partner institutions to organize and implement specific research training activities.
The current NORMS budgetary design does not specifically finance doctoral stipends, though its partner institutions do. It does, however, finance post-doctoral positions, a matter of great concern to many of the doctoral students already in the system. As time goes on, we anticipate that the partner institutions will replenish the supply of doctoral students and that NORMS will continue to provide post-doctoral positions and travel support rather than doctoral stipends.