Ecolinguistics as a transdisciplinary movement and a way of life

Stibbe, Arran ORCID: 0000-0002-3854-9854 (2021) Ecolinguistics as a transdisciplinary movement and a way of life. In: Crossing Borders, Making Connections: Interdisciplinarity in Linguistics. De Gruyter Mouton, Boston. ISBN 9781501514371

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At first, ecolinguistics appears to be an interdisciplinary combination of linguistics (the study of language) and ecology (the study of the life-sustaining interactions of humans with other species and the physical environment). However, every area of social life from religion and politics to economics has an influence on how humans treat each other and the ecosystems that life depends on, and all of these areas are influenced by language. Ecolinguists find themselves analysing economics textbooks, political speeches, biology textbooks, religious texts, literature and films, exploring whether the use of language in these areas encourages environmentally destructive consumerism and disregard of other species, or whether they inspire people to reconnect and protect the natural world. The study of ecolinguistics therefore crosses many different disciplinary boundaries, straying into economics, political science, literary studies, film studies or religious studies. When ecolinguists venture into other disciplines they treat them critically – sometimes disciplines provide useful tools for analysis, but sometimes the conventions of the disciplines themselves are ecological destructive, e.g., the way that the discourse of neoclassical economics overlooks the impact of economic activity on the environment. Ecolinguistics therefore touches on a great range of disciplines, so could be thought of as multi-disciplinary, but it does not just draw from disciplines – it critically engages with them with the aim of disrupting and changing disciplinary conventions. Since ecolinguistics explores life-sustaining interactions it inevitably includes deep ethical issues about the effect of human activity on the ability of the earth to support life into the future. This gives ecolinguistics a goal which goes beyond narrow disciplinary concerns, and beyond academia: the goal of protecting the ecosystems that all life depends on. To do this, ecolinguists use linguistic analysis to critically examine the stories that our unequal and unsustainable industrial civilisation is built on and search for new stories to live by. In doing so, they begin to see the world in new ways and glimpse different ways to find wellbeing and meaning in their own lives. What may start as an interdisciplinary study of language and ecology becomes multidisciplinary, then transdisciplinary, and then expands out from academia altogether to influence the personal life of the researcher and their actions in the world. This chapter provides an account of the inter/multi/transdisciplinary nature of ecolinguistics through a personal narrative of the experience of the author.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creative Arts
Research Priority Areas: Culture, Continuity, and Transformation
Depositing User: Anne Pengelly
Date Deposited: 03 Nov 2020 14:21
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:54

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