by Hildo Honorio do Couto
In general referring to Haugen (1972), Ecolinguistics is generally defined as the study of the interactions (inter-relations) between language and its environment. Both the prefix 'eco-' and this definition of the discipline point towards biological Ecology. In Ecology, 'environment' is part of an ecosystem, i.e., it is the place where a species or a group of species live together and its members interact among themselves. The 'ecosystem', on its turn, consists of a population of organisms together with the inter-relations (interactions) with the habitat (ecological niche, biotope or territory), depending on the point of view, as well of the interactions of individual organisms between/among themselves. Since the expression 'environment' has been the object of misunderstanding as, for instance, its direct association only with environmentalism, I believe that a more adequate definition could be that Ecolinguistics is the study of the interactions between language and its social, mental and natural context (environment). Another possibility of saying the same thing could be: Ecolinguistics is the study of the linguistic inter-relations that obtain at the social, mental and natural level. These last two definitions avoid a reification of language, as will be clear below, I think.
We know that 'ecosystem' is the central concept of Ecology. To the point that the latter could be just as well be called "Ecosystemics" (parallel to "phonemics" and “proxemics”, for instance), without any conceptual loss. On the other hand, Ecology could also be defined as "the study of ecosystems", because everything in it emerges out of the ecosystem. This is the case with its characteristics and/or features such as (a) interaction, (b) diversity, (c) openness, (d) holism, (e) adaptation, (f) ecological succession/evolution, and (g) long term view. Let us take a look at each one of them in order to understand the importance of the ecological viewpoint in the study of linguistic phenomena.
It is important to stress the point that language is part of an ecosystem, its 'exoecology', but it contains ecosystems inside itself, its 'endoecology', to use Makkai's (1993) terminology. To linguistic exoecology would belong the relationships between/among languages, between language and its users as well as between language and territory (or natural world). The endoecological relationships are basically what has been called the 'language system'. In this case we would have, among others, the 'syntactic ecosystem', the 'morphological ecosystem', the 'phonological ecosystem' and, maybe, a 'phonetic ecosystem', as is done in Neurocognitive Linguistcs, formerly known as 'Stratificational Grammar' (see Lamb 1966, 2000; Couto 1982). Sometimes we hear even expressions such as 'ecology of grammar' (Steffenson 2008), 'ecology of text' and so on. Taking into consideration the fact that the lexicon is structured (in semantic fields, for example), probably we could also talk about 'ecology of the lexicon'.
Let us begin with the concept of INTERACTION. It is not the population of organisms nor their habitat that is relevant in an ecosystem. These are the subject of Biology and of Genetics. The object of study of the ecologist is the inter-relations that take place inside the ecosystem, both (a) the organism-habit interactions and (b) the organism-organism interactions. The former (a) are equivalent to 'signification' (reference, denotation) and the latter (b) homologizes to 'communication' (communicative interaction). Interaction is the basis of everything in Ecology and, consequently, in the ecosystem. It is also the basis for the ecolinguistic definition of language which is given elsewhere in this paper. Practically everything that is said of language and languages is based on it. In summary, in accordance with modern science, such as Relativity Theory and Quantum Mechanics, the whole world is an immense web of inter-relations. There are affinities even with some more recent trends in the sciences, as is the case with Systems Theory, Prigogine's Dissipative Structures and, maybe, eve fractals (see the iteration especially in phrase and text construction!). After all, the concept of interaction is present in the definition of the remaining characteristics and/or features of the ecosystem, as we will see soon.
The ecosystemic approach shows us that language is basically interaction. The interactions that make language up are inside the 'linguistic ecosystem'. There are several bundles of interactions, which are 'ecosystems' in their own right, i.e., endoecological ecosystem. Since it is ECOsystem, it is 'system'. To put it simply, it is a structure, albeit an open one, a dissipative structure. It is a system in the sense of Chaos Theory and of Quantum Mechanics. This is accepted even by the late Saussurean structuralist Eugenio Coseriu (Coseriu 1979).
DIVERSITY is also very important for the vitality of an ecosystem. The more variety of species there is in its interior the more vital it is; the less species, the more fragile. For instance, an ecosystem like the Amazonian biome is highly resistant. So much so that the disappearance of one species is replaced with one of the thousands of other species that exist in its domain. An ecosystem with only three or two species (predator and prey, for instance) will fatally disappear as soon as one or the other of them disappear. This is the case not only with nature, but also with culture, including language. For example, if India had only one language like Hindi, it would be culturally much poorer than it is with its over 16 official languages, besides many minority ones.
In regard to OPENNESS, sometimes also called "porosity" or "permeability", it has a lot to do with the idea of dissipative structures. Every ecosystem leaks. It gives and receives energy and information to/from adjacent ecosystems. There is a constant flow of energy among them due mainly to the fact that there are no clearly delimited natural limits (no fence) between/among them, but a continuum. The ecosystem is delimited by the observer, who establishes an imaginary line separating the ecosystem s/he will investigate from the environing ones. In spite of that, it is structured because it is an 'ecoSYSTEM'. The interactions that can be seen inside it follow some principles, they are not entirely random.
HOLISM has to do with the fact that, once delimited by the observer, the ecosystem is regarded as a whole, even when attention is focussed on one specific species or even on only one specimen. S/he studies the inter-relations of this specimen (or this species) with the whole ecosystem s/he delimited. In other wsords, since even the world as a whole is an immense web of inter-relations, the ecologist investigates what goes on inside the ecosystem s/he delimited as a whole, not only one or another part of it. In the case of language, there are inter-relations between syntax and intonation as well as morphology, phonology and even with the lexicon, even if generative grammar denies the fact. In some sense, syntax is related even to the ecology of communicative interaction.
The idea of ADAPTATION is very important for the survival of the species and of each specimen of organism that make it up. Darwin emphasized 'competition' and the 'suvival of the fittest'. However, more recently scientists have come to the conclusion that the species that have more chances of survival are those that adapt themselves the most to new circumstances. One good example is the cockroach. It exists since pre-historic times, and is one of the few that would survive an atomic catastrophe. This is due to the fact that it is highly adaptable. The opposite of this happened to dinosaurs: because they were hardly adaptable they disappeared. In the dynamics of language, adaptation can be seen in the communicative interaction, in which the speaker tries to express him/helself as s/he thinks the hearer will understand, while the hearer tries to interpret what s/he hears in the sense s/he thinks was intended by the speaker. To learn a language is to adapt to the way of communicatin of a new speech community. Transplanted languages adapt to the new environment and so on.
EVOLUTION, called 'ecological succession' in ecology, is another characteristic of vital importance for the survival of the ecosystem. In fact, it has a lot to do with adaptation. To adapt is to evolve. To evolve is to adapt. The emergence, aging and death of an organism or species is evolution, which has no teleology. It happens randomly, as is the case with Chaos Theory. The same happens to language. As Coseriu (1979) put it, language exists because it changes, it works only because it changes. Even in the acquisition of the parents' language (L1) by children there is change, since, as Mufwene (2001) put it, the child always replicates the parents' language imperfectly, that is to say, by introducing changes in it. A language that remained unchanged as precriptive grammarians would like it would die in a few generations because it would not adapt, therefore it would no more fulfill the communicative needs of the new context. That is to say, evolution seems to be the reverse of the coin (heads) whose other side (tails) is adaptation.
LONG TERM VIEW is also important in ecological thinking. As has already been said, nature is not in a hurry. Therefore, it does not make sense to talk about 'protecting nature', 'defence of an ecosystem' and so on. Nature will follow its course with or without us. What we do to her (or in her) now, even what seems apparently harmless, may have serious consequences in the future. For instance, nobody knows whether she will react negatively (from our point of view) to the voracious extraction of oil from its bowels. Today we cannot perceive any consequence of this extraction. However, who could assure with certainty that there will be none in one century, or even in fifty years? Many present-day devastators of the natural landscape for kettle raising as well as for corn planting may say in the future: "Oh, if I had known that in those times!". But, then it will be to late. In this case, for our own survival it is wise to think far ahead.
Maybe this is the characteristics of ecological thinking that is the less directly applicable in language studies. However, it has a lot to do with language policy and language planning, to begin with. Let us see the case of India and China. The administrators of the former would like to have Hindi as the official language of the whole country but the speakers of the other languages do not agree. For this reason, English has been adopted for the time being. Since above all speakers of Dravidic languages still reject Hindi in this role, English continues to be the official language parallel to Hindi (and other languages, in some regions). In the former there are several languages like Cantonese, Hakka and others but Chinese authorities try to impose the idea that they are simple 'dialects' of Mandarin, the only 'language of China'. Due to the Chinese well-known persistence, this idea is put forward even if there are no native speakers of Mandarin in several places of the country. In the long run this centralizind policy may have some of the desired (by the authorities) results.
As will be seen with Mark Garner below, Ecolinguistics should not adopt concepts from Ecology only as metaphors. On the contrary, they must be used as an epistemological basis, as the bricks with which an ecolinguistics truly ecological can be built. As we have seen above, the most important, central, ecological concept of ecology is 'ecosystem'. Everything in ecology is embedded in it. For this reason, we must begin our endeavor by looking for the 'linguistic ecosystem', also called 'community' in common parlance. This linguistic ecosystem consists of a people (P), living in some place that is its territory (T), and interacting verbally among themselves as is usual in this community. This 'traditional way of interacting communally' is language (L).
Long term view is intimately associated to an idea which environment managers and humans in general must always keep in mind, namely, SUSTAINABILITY. It emerged in the context of the Stockholm Conference (1972), was reinforced in other conferences that took place after it. The outcome was the Brundtland Report - Our Common Future (1987). The basic idea is that the development to satisfy the needs of the present generations cannot be impede tha the future generations satisfy their own needs. In other words, since 'development' is inevitable, let it be at least sustainable, or sustained.
Ecolinguistics should not borrow concepts from Ecology as mere metaphors. On the contrary, we should use them as an epistemological basis, as the bricks with which we build a truly ecological linguistics, i.e., Ecolinguistics. As is well known, the central and most important concept of Ecology is 'ecosystem'. Everything ecological lies it its interior. For this reason, it is advisable to start by looking for its nearest eclogical equivalent. Still better, we should start by lookin for the 'linguistic ecosystem' which, in the end, is what common sense calls 'community', sometimes 'language/linguistic community' and/or 'speech community'. It consists of a population or a people (P), living in some place which is its territory (T), and speaking its own language (L).
Linguistic ecosystem (or 'language ecosystem') can be regarded from two points of view. First of all, we can depart from the 'acts of communicative interaction' which take place inside the 'ecology of communicative interaction'. Any group of people (P) living together in a certain place or territory (T) and communicating among themselves through the usual way of communicating, their language (L), is a 'speech community' (SP). SP is always small, what facilitates daily interaction, by the medium of words or not. However, the linguistic ecosystem may also be considered from the perspective of 'language community' (LC). This is the domain of what commonsense calls 'language'. In this case, the domain of the Portuguese LC comprizes Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissao, São Tomé and Príncipe and East Timor. That is to say, SP presupposes constant verbal interactions, on a daily basis, whereas LC is an abstraction because it is the domain of the system. It does not presuppose concrete interactions. They are on the side of potentialities. There is a chain of implications or embeddings that go from the 'acts of communicative interacions', which are part of the 'ecology of communicative interaction', which, on its turn, takes place inside a 'speech community'. SP is intimately related to 'language community'. The latter is a kind of summary of the former.
An LC may consist of a single SP, as is the case with small Amerindian commnities made up of a few dozens of people or even less than that. It may also consist of thousands of SPs, as is the case with Portuguese LC. In its domain, the investigator may delimit any stretch of land (T), inhabited by a small group of people (P) which interacts verbally as is usual to interact locally.
Here is a table of equivalences between concepts of Biological Ecology and Linguistic Ecology, or Ecological Linguistics (Ecolinguistics, for short):
Biological Ecology Ecological Linguistics
- ecosystem - ling. ecosystem, lang. community
- population - people (P)
- habitat (biotope, niche) - territory (T)
- inter-relations (interactions) - linguage (L)
a) organism-world interactions - signification
b) organism-organism interactions - communication (communicative interaction)
For this and other reasons, in Brasília we follow a few ecolinguists, such as Peter Finke, his disciple Wilhelm Trampe, besides Hans Stroher, the Odense School (Jørgen Døør, Jørgen C. Bang, Sune Steffenson etc.) who see in the ecosystem a basis for Ecolinguistics. Elsewhere we have the Catalan Albert Bastardas i Boada, the Hungarian-American Adam Makkai, the British Mark Garner and others. In other words, the variety of Ecolinguistics we do came to be called Ecosystemic Linguistics.
As far as I know, Strohner (footnote) was the first to spell it out. Following what Peter Finke had previously suggested (then followed by Trampe), Strohner used the expression 'ecosystemic linguistics' (ökosystemische Sprachwissenschaft) already in the title of his essay. Initially, he presents the 'computer metaphor', the "brain metaphor' and the 'ecosystem metaphor'. According to him, ecosystem metaphor is more in line with the present state of our knowledge. He says further that "the ecosystemic approach allows a foundation for Ecolinguistics from the theoretical and the methodological point of view. Only on this basis it is possible to give this discipline a rational praxis". For this reason, he follows "an ecosystemic theory and methodology" (p. 49). In the section "Methodology" of his essay, he uses the expression 'ecosystemic linguistics' (ökosystemische Linguistik) four times. As we can see, the idea of an Ecosystemic Linguistics was already in embryo in the very site of the birth of Ecolinguistics.
It is true that other authors that talk about 'ecosystem' in language studies are referring to ecosystems as language systems or groups, language families that share a specific territory, as is the case with Denison (2001) and Bastardas i Boada (2000). The former talk about "European language ecology", using "ecology" instead of 'ecosystem'. In this connection, it would be interesting to call to mind the well-known concept of Sprachbund, as the Balcanic, for instance. The latter study the difficulties Catalan has for living together with Spanish. There is a population and a political pressure of the latter on the former. Even the "father" of Ecolinguistics, Einar Haugen (1972), departs implicitly from the ecosystem when he says that the main areas of research of the future discipline are questions such as bi-/multilingualism, language contact and others, that is to say, languages sharing a certain territory with which they would make up an ecosystem.
What is the object of Ecosystemic Linguistics? It is the branch of Ecolinguistics that studies in language everything that can be naturally explained from the concept of ecosystem and its characteristics or features. In spite of the fact that this assertion is somehow tautologic, it contains several illuminating implications for Ecolinguistics. One of the most important one is the fact that for Ecosystemic Linguistics language is mainly 'communicative interaction' by means of words. As we have seen, language is the equivalent of ecological inter-relatons (interactions), better, it is these interactions. Even if we want to use the "ecological metaphor", what is not the better procedure, we must depart "from the ecological point of view" as Finke (2001: 87) said, not from a mere "logical point of view" in the sense of Willard Quine. According to Adam Makkai (1993: 71), "language is not a set of 'objects' but a network of relationships". Lamb's (2000) Neurocognitive linguistics defends the same principle.
There are two advantages in view language as a web of inter-relationships or interactions. The first one is the fact that even departing from language as 'communicative interaction', the system is implied. In fact, in order for a message sent by a speaker to a hearer to be understood by the latter it must have been formulated in a language s/he knows. The second one is that in this case language is not reified, it is not seen as a thing located somewhere and which is an instrument (a thing) to do this or that (to communicate). When we talk about environment of language we are referring to the locus of the inter-relations (interactions) that language is. These interactions take place in the natural, the mental and the social environment of language. When I talked about the characteristics/features of the ecosystem I have already advanced some applications of these inter-relations in laguage studies.
The fact is that Ecosystemic Linguistics complements some tendencies that we can see in Ecolinguistics. It is true that the majority of ecolinguistic investigations are in the realm of environmental questions, of the analysis of the pollutors' and devastators' discourse that try to appear to the public as environment-friendly, among others. A perfunctory look at the collective Ecolinguistics books reveal that circa 62% of them are in the domain of what has been called Critical Ecolinguistics, Environmental Linguistics or Ecocritical Discourse Analysis. Only 38% of them deal with linguistic phenomena departing from concepts of Ecology, i.e., the ecosystem. In the excellent web page www.ecoling.net, moderated by the competent ecolinguist Arran Stibbe, approximately 94% of the contributions are discourse analysis, so that only 6% use the ecological "metaphor". As a matter of fact, this could just as well be done by traditional Discourse Analysis, independently of Ecolinguistics.
Two of the authors on whose ideas I am building the theory of Ecosystemic Linguistics said that Ecolinguistics should not be restricted to environmental discourse analysis and related subjects. Peter Finke (1996: 35, footnoe 9) said: "the opinion of some participants of the Klagenfurt symposium, according to which Ecolinguistics would be opposed to Systemic Linguistics, is not accepted by me nor by Strohner". He goes on to say that "an Ecolinguistics that is not built on the concept of ecosystem has no clear idea of Ecology". Strohner (1996: 58) says that "it would be an unnecessary drawback of Ecolinguistics if it deals with its subject only from the point of view of the destruction of our environment".
I would like to emphasise the name of an author from outside any group who defended something very similar to what I am proposing, namely, Mark Garner. I have seen two of his publications on the subject. The first on is Garner (2004); the other is the article "Language ecology as linguistic theory", published in an Indonsian journal (2005). According to him the full theoretical potential of Haugen's original proposal has not adequately been put to work. One of the reasons for this would be the use of ecological concepts only as metaphors. However, modern "ecological philosophy no longer sees ecology merely as a feature of the natural environment that can serve as a metaphor for other phenomena, but as a distinct way of thinking, with far-reaching implications for many disciplines, including the language sciences" (Garner 2005, p. 1). In his opinion, he most relevant features of this philosphy for language studies are, among others, holism, dinamicity, interactive, and situated.
The concept of 'ecosystem' have been used in several areas of knowledge. Nowadays we hear about 'ecosystemic ecology' and, for the present purposes, 'ecosystemic theory', 'ecosystemic thinking', besides 'systems theory', 'systemic thinking' and so on. In the realm of health expressions such as 'ecosystemic theory of communication' is relatively common, generally reporting to Gregory Bateson. In other words, Ecosystemic Linguistics came in a widespread international movement that sees reality as an immense web of inter-relationships (interactions), as is the case with biological 'ecosystem'.
In order to practice Ecosystemic Linguistics adequately we must consider every linguistic phenomenon as part of a 'linguistc ecosystem', i.e., as part of an unending web of interactions. The task of the ecolinguist is to delimit a certain sector of this web in order to examine it even microscopically, if needed. This sector that becomes the focus of interest in the moment of investigation is the result of an epistemological delimitation (coup épistemologique in French), resulting from a specific way of looking at the object of study. In the case of language studies, we can see that any phenomena is primarily in the fundamental ecosystem of language. This consists of a group of individuals, or a people (P), together with the inter-relations that take place between any individual and the place or territory (T) where they live as well as between any two indivuals. These inter-relations are their language. It is inside this linguistic ecosystem that we can ask the fundamental questions about language, namely, 'what is language?', 'is language a social, a mental or a natural phemenonon?", 'what is the position of language in the human species?" and so on. If we consider Ecolinguistics as the study of the relationships between language and environment, we must make explicit what is this environment. To begin with, there is the fundamental environment of language, whose locus is the the fundamental ecosystem of language. In this case it corresponds to P and T together, taken as universal categories. P is not a specific people living in a spefecific territory, but an abstraction. For example, when we talk about the relatonships between language and world, 'world' corresponds to P and T. Or, when we say that for there to be a language the pre-requisite is the existence of a 'people' living somewhere that speaks it. This is not the same as to say that the Kamayurá people (P) lives inside the Xingur River Reservation (T), and speaks the language (L) of the same name. In figure 1 below, we can see a graphic representation of the fundamental ecosystem of language, where the index 0 is destined to show that it should not be confused with the 'natural ecosystem of language' (see below). We have already seen that the 'fundamental ecosystem of language', or 'community' in common sense, of language may be regarded from the perspective of 'speech community' and of 'language community'. The discontinuous line indicates that there is no direct relation between L and T. This relation is always through P.
Fundamental Ecosystem of Language
Another reason for calling this language ecosystem fundamental is the fact that it gives birth to three more specific ones. The first is the natural ecosystem of language, made up of a specific people, living in a specific territory (T) and speaking its specific language, as the case of the Kamayurá people mentioned above. It is a concrete group of individuals, inhabiting the Xingu River Reservation and speaking Kamayurá language. In the same way that the Icelanders (P1) inhabits Iceland (T1), speaking Icelandic (L1). This languistic ecosystem corresponds to what the lay-person thinks of language. Whenever s/he hears the name of a language s/he does not know, his/her first question is: 'Which people speaks this language?'. Upon hearing the answer, s/he wants to know where this people live. Everything in language that has to do with nature belongs here. For instance, its relations with the physical world, endoecological aspects such as phonetics and so one. Inside this ecosystem we find the natural environment of language, namely, P1 e T1, as concrete beings. It is shown in figure 2, where the index 1 distinguishes it from the fundamental ecosystem of language. As in the previous figure, the segmented line indicates that there is no direct relation between language and the world, here represented as T1.
Fundamental Ecosystem of Language
When we focus our attention on each (or any) individual of the population (people) we see that language was formed, is stored and processed in their brain/mind. The linguistic inter-relations or interactions inside these brains (or minds) are precisely in the neural connexions. It is the mental ecosystem of language, shown in figure 3. In this figure L2 represents language as a mental phemenon, as a set of mental interactions (grammar + vocabulary, rules of interaction?), P1 stands for the mind as the brain activity, namely, whereas P2 corresponds to the individual of the the brain of each individual of the population. These brains are the locus of 'mental language'. In this case, the mental environment of language is P2 plus T2. Again, the segmented line indicates that there is no direct relation between language as a 'set of patterns of interaction' and the individual brains. This relation is always mediated by the mind, the mental interactions.
Mental Ecosystem of Language
Finally, if we see language as a social phemenon (here represented by L3), as Haugen did as a sociolinguist that he was, we can see that it is part of the population as a group of individuals organized socially (P3), whose totality makes up society (T3). L3, P3 and T3, together, form the social ecosystem of language, represented infigure 4. In this case the social environment of language is P3 and T3. As in the previous cases, the segmented line indicates that there is no direct relation between language as a social phenomenon and society. It is always mediated by the totality of individuals that constitutes society.
Social Ecosystem of Language
The four figures above suggest that when we talk about 'environment of language' we are referring to at least four different things, corresponding to four different ways of looking at language. They are anwers to four different questions. If the investigator asks a fundamental question as, for instance, wether language is a generic human way of interacting, the answer is yes. After having this fundamental answer, he may want to know whether language is a natural, a mental or a social phenomenon. All three answers will be affirmative. We can study language from any of these points of view. In other words, ecolinguistically language is all this at the same time. It is a biopsychosocial phenomenon.
With all that in mind, and taking into consideration what has been published in collective books, I see that Ecolinguistics presents at least the following subareas and/or lines of research (I mention only a few of them, among many others).
1. Critical Ecolinguistics (see Fill & Mühlhäusler 2001: 175-290)
2. Ecocritical Discourse Analysis (Fill, Penz & Trampe 2002: 239-412; Fill & Mühlhäusler 2001: 241-290)
3. Environmental Linguistics (see Mühlhäusler 2003; Harré, Brockmeier & Mühlhäusler 1998; Ramos 2009)
4. Dialectical Ecolinguistics (Fill, Penz & Trampe 2002: 415-461; Døør & Bang 2007)
5. Ecossistemic Linguistics (Finke 1996; Trampe 1990; Strohner 1996; Bastardas i Boada 2000; Couto 2007 e 2009; Brasília School of Ecolinguistics)
6. Language Ecology / Ecology of Language (Haugen 1972; Fill, Penz, Trampe 2002: 121-236; Couto 2009; Calvet 1999 etc.): according to Haugen's original proposal.
7. Linguistic Ethnoecology (originally proposed in Couto 2007: 219-280; see also Maffi 2001)
8. The Ecology of Language Evolution (see Mufwene 2001; Couto 2007: 296-307; 2009: 61-82)
9. The Ecology of Language Acquisition (Kramsch 2002; Leather & van Dam 2003)
10. Biodiversity and Linguodiversisity (Maffi 2001).
We could also include Applied Linguistics (Fill, Trampe & Penz 2007) as well as related disciplines such as Ecosemiotics (Nöth 1998, Couto 2007: 423-433) and Ecocriticism (Glotfelty & Fromm 1996; Couto 2007: 434-442).
This list is certainly incomplete in view of the diversity of research interests that can be seen in the above collective works as well as in conferences. We have seen that Ecolinguistics sees its object as non-linearly ordered, non-closed and not simply composed of independent parts. In other words, it looks for a holistic view of language phenomena. In this case, somebody in a skeptical and critical mood could ask if if intends to be a 'theory of everything' linguistics. As a matter o fact, Ecolinguistics is a new point of view from which it is possible to study the phenomena in question. The expression 'point of view' must be emphisized. It is a new way of seeing the world. So that, in order to be good ecolinguists it is necessary to change our way of looking at the world at large. In this vein, to practice science from a Cartesian-Newtonian perspective is to act as somebody who only sees the world through a window. This person manages to see few things, but in detail, microscopically. To practice science from the ecological point of view, as Peter Finke suggested, is like to place oneself on top of the house, from where one can see many things, holistically, although it is impossible to see and describe details of any of them. In this case, we are in syc with the new world-view introduced by Relativity Theory and Quantum Mechanics as early as the second decade of 20th century. It would mean being in sync with more recent theories, such as Systems Theory, Chaos Theory as well as the tiny details offered by the mathematics of fractals. As Löwy (1978) said, unfortunately from an ideological perspective, there are privileged points of view, as is the case with the top of the house and of the mountain. Whoever places himself/herself there has an all-inclusive view of his/her object of study. If he/she needs to see some detail of one specific sector of this global landscape, he/she can zoom in using one of the several subareas of linguistics (phonology, syntax etc.) and even of other sciences if needed. In this case, it is possible to study fine details of the object in question. After having the desired results, the investigator can zoom out, and go back to the top of the house. There he/she can evaluate these details in the framework of the holistic view. That is to say, he/she can study a tree (or even parts of it), but not forgetting that it is part of a forest.
This procedure has some serious methodological implications. After my presentation at the Graz Conference (Graz, 2010), Josh Nash asked me which metodology we could use when doing field work. In other words, what would an 'ecolinguistic methodology' look like? Without much thinking, I answered that it would be given by the object of investigation. After having answered him, I became afraid of having said a nonsense. Later on, after reflecting more deeply on my answer, I concluded that there is no other way out. If our discipline is holistic, and looks for help from specialized knowledge and technicians, it must necessarily be trans-, inter- and multidisciplinary. As well known, each specialized model of analysis has its specific methodology.
In this case, if we want to talk about 'ecolinguistic methodology', it is multi-methodological. In other words, the ecolinguistic investigator uses the methodology of the specific discipline that meets his necessities of the moment. When he/she goes back to his/her holistic perspective, he/she does not need this regional methodology any more. The procedure of analysis is wholly ecological, ecosystemic. We could call this procedure a kind of 'hypermethodology", or 'supermethodology'. It is like the engineer who disigns cars. The specialist in particular disciplines is like the mechanic. There are moments in which we need the latter in order to repair a flat tire. However, as soon it is repaired, the engineer assumes his true holistc stance, from where he has an idea of the whole functioning of the vehicle.
I would like to add that Ecolinguistics does not transpose ecological concepts into language studies in a mechanical and naive way, as is sometimes said. At least Ecosystemic Linguistics does not use these concepts as metaphors, as most other ecolinguists do. As a matter of fact, we do ecology directly. In other words, in our view there are at least two types of Ecology, namely, Biological Ecology and Linguistic Ecology, or Ecological Linguistcs, better known as Ecolinguistics. All our scientific, methodological and heuristic tools are taken from the central concept of ecology, which is the 'ecosystem'. Therefore, the name Ecosystemic Linguistics came out naturally.
Finally, we from the Brasília School of Ecolinguistics follow a special line of research in the realm of Ecolinguistics called Ecosystemic Linguistics. In other words, we do not restrict ourselves to analyse critically environmental or antienvironmental discourses. We do it too. However, we are of the opinion that that could just as well be done by regular Discourse Analysis. So much so that many European ecolinguists cite Norman Fairclough very frequently. In our opinion, what makes Ecolinguistics different from other linguistic disciplines is the fact that the former can study any linguistic phenomena by seeing them as an 'ecosystem' (linguistic ecosystem) or being part of one. We think that Ecolinguistics should study language not only in its exoecology (as defended by Haugen 1972) but also in its endoecology. This is why our special branch of Ecolinguistics came to be called Ecosystemic Linguistics.
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