Language Compass on Mobility and Nutrition

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This research project examines key German-language terms used to describe our habits regarding transport, travel, food and nutrition. The project team is investigating how language shapes our perception of these issues and leads us to think and act in line with the principles of sufficiency* – or hinders us from doing so. The aim is to promote reflection on values and attitudes that foster sustainable consumer behaviour.

More and more, faster and faster?

Many of today’s lifestyles reflect a non-sufficient attitude – or an “ethos of immodesty”, as others have described it. Terms like “growth market”, “bargain hunting”, or “productivity enhancement” are expressions of this this attitude in language. Especially advertising language encourages an all-encompassing culture of demand. But in addition to ads, the media and everyday language also influence the way we go about consumption.

Research in this project focuses on language in the following areas:

  • Everyday transport and traffic
  • Tourist travel
  • Food waste
  • Meat consumption

The “Language Compass on Mobility and Nutrition” is based on new methods of discourse linguistics. This field in linguistics understands language as a means of perceiving, acting in, and shaping the world.


Sufficiency means actively reducing our demand for resources, especially non-renewable natural resources, by adopting a non-consumerist concept of well-being and quality of life. Ultimately, sufficiency aims at balancing resource use at a level where we consume just enough – not too little, and not too much.

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 More information
Project website (in German)
 Funding Stiftung Mercator Schweiz
 Duration  1 July 2018 - December 2021
 Contact Dr. Hugo Caviola