Ecolinguistics emerged in the 1990’s as a new paradigm of linguistic research which took into account not only the social context in which language is embedded, but also the ecological context in which societies are embedded. Michael Halliday's 1990 paper New ways of Meaning: the challenge to applied linguistics is often credited as a seminal work which provided the stimulus for linguists to consider the ecological context and consequences of language. Among other things, the challenge that Halliday put forward was to make linguistics relevant to the issues and concerns of the 21st century, particularly the widespread destruction of ecosystems. The main example Halliday gave was that of ‘economic growth’, where he described how the orientation of the English language with regard to unmarked terms such as large, grow, tall, and good gives growth a positive aspect, despite the negative ecological consequences. Since Halliday's initial comments, the field of ecolinguistics has developed considerably, a recent development being the application of ecolinguistics to Education for Sustainability by the Language & Ecology Research Forum. The discipline of ecolinguistics is traditionally divided into two main branches, eco-critical discourse analysis and linguistic ecology (see Fill 1996), although this distinction has been criticized as reductionist (see Steffensen 2007). Ecolinguistics could be regarded as a branch of ecosemiotics (Selvamony 2007).
Eco-critical discourse analysis
Eco-critical discourse analysis includes, but is not limited to, the application of critical discourse analysis to texts about the environment and environmentalism, in order to reveal underlying ideologies (eg, Harré et al. 1999, Stibbe 2006, 2005a, 2005b). In its fullest formation, it includes analysis of any discourse which has potential consequences for the future of ecosystems, such as neoliberal economic discourse and discursive constructions of consumerism, gender, politics, agriculture and nature (eg, Goatly 2000, Stibbe 2004). Eco-critical discourse analysis does not just focus on exposing potentially damaging ideologies, but also searches for discursive representations which can contribute to a more ecologically sustainable society.
Pioneered by Einar Haugen, this branch of linguistics uses the metaphor of an ecosystem to describe relationships and interaction among the diverse forms of language found in the world, and the groups of people who speak them. A healthy language ecology consisting of a wide diversity of forms of language is claimed to be essential for healthy ecosystems, since local ecological knowledge is built into local language varieties (see Mühlhäusler 1995). The term was actually coined in an article by C.F. Voegelin, F.M. Voegelin and Noel Schutz on the "Language Situation" in Arizona. See Voegelin, Voegelin and Schutz, 1967 (this was, of course, acknowledged by Haugen).
Language & Ecology Research Forum (http://www.ecoling.net)
--contains a wide range of resources including the online journal Language & Ecology, and an international network of ecolinguists
The Ecolinguistics Website (http://www-gewi.kfunigraz.ac.at/ed/project/ecoling)
The Language, Ecology and Society Website (http://www.languageecologysociety.org)
- Bang, Jørgen Christian and Jørgen Døør (2007) Language, Ecology and Society. A Dialectical Approach. Edited by Sune Vork Steffensen and Joshua Nash. London: Continuum.
- Bastardas-Boada, Albert (1996) Ecologia de les llengües. Medi, contactes i dinàmica sociolingüística [Ecology of languages. Context, contacts and sociolinguistic dynamics]. Barcelona: Proa.
- Bastardas-Boada, Albert (2002) "Biological and linguistic diversity: Transdisciplinary explorations for a socioecology of languages"Diverscité langues, vol. VII.
- Bastardas-Boada, Albert (2002) “The Ecological perspective: Benefits and risks for Sociolinguistics and Language Policy and Planning”, in: Fill, Alwin, Hermine Penz, & W. Trampe (eds.), Colourful Green Ideas. Berna: Peter Lang, pp. 77–88.
- Bastardas-Boada, Albert (2007) "Linguistic sustainability for a multilingual humanity" Glossa. An Interdisciplinary Journal vol. 2, num. 2.
- Calvet, Jean-Louis (1999) Pour une écologie des langues du monde. Plon
- Fill, Alwin (1996): "Ökologie der Linguistik - Linguistik der Ökologie." In: Alwin Fill (ed.): Sprachökologie und Ökolinguistik. Tübingen: Stauffenburg Linguistik. Pp. 3–16.
- Fill, Alwin and Peter Mühlhäusler (2001) The ecolinguistics reader. London: Continuum.
- Goatly, Andrew (2000) Critical reading and writing: an introductory coursebook. London: Routledge
- Halliday, Michael (1990) New ways of meaning: the challenge to applied linguistics. Reprinted in Fill and Mühlhäusler (2001) pp175–202
- Harré, Rom and Jens Brockmeier and Peter Mühlhäusler (1999) Greenspeak: a Study of Environmental Discourse. London: Sage.
- Mühlhäusler, Peter (1995) Linguistic Ecology; Language Change and Linguistic Imperialism in the Pacific Rim. London: Routledge.
- Selvamony, Nirmal; Alex, Rayson K. (eds.) (2007). Essays in Ecocritics. New Delhi: OSLE.
- Steffensen, Sune Vork (2007): "Language, Ecology and Society: An introduction to Dialectical Linguistics." In: Bang and Døør 2007. Pp. 3–31.
- Stibbe, Arran (2006) Deep Ecology and Language: The Curtailed Journey of the Atlantic Salmon. Society and Animals, 14:1:61-77
- Stibbe, Arran (2005a) Environmental education across cultures: beyond the discourse of shallow environmentalism Language & Intercultural Communication 4:4:242-260 Available http://www.multilingual-matters.net/laic/004/0242/laic0040242.pdf
- Stibbe, Arran (2005b) Counter-discourses and harmonious relationships between humans and other animals. Anthrozoös 18:1:3-17
- Stibbe, Arran (2004) ‘Masculinity, health and ecological destruction’ Journal of Language & Ecology availablehttp://www.ecoling.net/journal.html
- C.F. Voegelin, F. M. Voegelin and Noel W. Schutz, Jr. The language situation in Arizona as part of the Southwest culture area” in Studies in Southwestern Ethnolinguistics: Meaning and history in the languages of the American Southwest, ed. by Dell Hymes and William E. Bittle, 403–51, 1967. The Hague: Mouton.