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Introducing Ecolinguistic paradigm to climate change communication


The dynamism of language has spread its tentacles to climate science communication, ecological science, evangelical discourses and journalism, so as to level matters and to probe climate science communication in order to tackle its technical, ambiguous and uncertainty nature bordered on linguistic hedging and hegemony. In order to justify the role of language to communicate ecological sustainability and representations, the discourse of Ecolinguistics has been conceived, not in this country but long enough in the corridors of developed and progressive linguists around the world. Although Ecolinguistics is seen as a new and evolving discipline, it has been around for quite some time.

guest column: Peter Makwanya

Peter Makwanya
Peter Makwanya

It is a discipline that has almost the same complexion with environmental communication and ecological discourse analysis. Today’s discussion is centred on unpacking the concept of Ecolinguistics and how it can be viewed and made relevant in this country’s ecological discourse analysis. Ecolinguistics is a very fascinating, appealing and empowering international discipline, of which I am also an executive member, in charge of climate change communication and also representing Southern Africa.

For the benefit of many like-minded individuals, journalists, environmental stewards, academics and researchers, it is my humble opinion to furnish the readership with what Ecolinguistics is all about, at the same time borrowing from submissions made by international and seasoned authorities. The following is a gist of their submissions and I will start by highlighting a simple definition of Ecolinguistics.

Ecolinguistics is the scientific study of the relationship between language and the environment. Some authorities refer to Ecolinguistics as ecological discourse analysis, eco systemic discourse or simply environmental consciousness.

Ecolinguistics is the study of how discourses about the natural environment potentially influence our perceptions of the environment and our interactions with it, meaning the environment. Others view Ecolinguistics as linguistics that deal with the way language and correlated semiotic systems deal with the natural ecosystems, the relationship of humans and their languages with the wider context of nature, the vision of the earth as a unified and complex whole, including humans and their linguistic expressions. Ecolinguistics deals with language and communication diversity.

Others see Ecolinguistics as the study of language and communication that refers to or incorporates the natural environment. Ecolinguistics is a life science engaged in describing, understanding, explaining and transforming languaging. In the same vein, languaging is an interactivity concerned with sharing, creating, sustaining and transforming personal meaning and social significance.

Ecolinguistics is a tool of linguistic awareness to denounce problematic uses of language in society and in relation to nature and the environment but should be a way to highlight positive uses of language in context that contribute to harmonious relations between humans, their social and natural contexts. Therefore, Ecolinguistics seeks to explain what role language plays in shaping our perceptions of and attitudes towards the natural environment (nature).

The key goals of Ecolinguistics are to contribute to a local and global culture, in which cooperation, sharing, democratic dialogues, peace and non-violence and ecological sustainability, are the fundamental features and primary values of eco-linguistics. Ecolinguistics should be related to eco-criticism because they share similar goals and we can learn a lot from Eco critics.

Ecolinguistics and any linguists or social scientists should be and become aware of how their language use plays a part in their human relationships and relationships to the natural world. Ecolinguistics looks at how certain discourses shape people’s views on the environment and the physical world around them and for what reason those discourses are written. Environmental discourse analysis serves to understand the linguistics of environmentalism and environmental discussions within linguistics. Linguistic ecology is the study of the interrelationships between social and natural ecologies.

Ecolinguistics raises awareness for the tremendous impact of language and its use on the concepts of nature and the environment, featuring prominently in society, politics and the economy. Therefore, the language of the environment is an extra linguistic world.

Ecolinguistics also influences so much the concept of environmental consciousness, which empowers and questions the type of language or communication leading to current unsustainable nature civilisation, exposing the language that is totally destructive and has led to ecological destruction.

This is a brief outline of Ecolinguistics for you dear readers, academics, journalists and researchers and it’s the first of a series of outlines that will empower the majority in this regard.

Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on: petrovmoyt@gmail.com

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