Presenting at the 4th International Conference on Ecolinguistics (ICE-4)
Last month, I had the pleasure to present at the 4th International Conference on Ecolinguistics at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense. With 4 days packed with over 60 insightful presentations by prominent scholars within the field, the ICE-4 was a successful and well-organised event where ‘ecolinguists’ from around the world had the chance to meet. In my particular case, it was wonderful to finally put faces to many names that I have been in touch with for the past year about the book series Bloomsbury Advances in Ecolinguistics, which I am currently co-editing alongside Professor Arran Stibbe.
What is ecolinguistics?
The term arguably has its origins in the presentation that American- Norwegian linguist Einar Haugen gave in 1970 called “The Ecology of Language.” Haugen broadly defines language ecology as “the study of interactions of any given language and its environment” (in Haugen 1972, p. 325). Studies within this field usually deal with topics relating to language endangerment, biodiversity and language diversity, bilingualism, language revival and language death.
However, it was perhaps M.A.K. Halliday’s influential talk “New Ways of Meaning: The Challenge to Applied Linguistics” at the 1990 AILA conference in Greece which triggered the interest in exploring the connections between language systems and the impact on the environment; more precisely, in how language can assist in mitigating ecological destruction and promoting environmentally attuned practices.
Ecolinguistics is increasingly becoming a relevant field of study. The 3 daily parallel sessions and the 10 keynote speakers’ presentations at the ICE-4 were evidence of this: with topics ranging from assessing vegan campaigns and eco-critical literacy in higher education to reflecting on the methodological challenges of ‘doing’ ecolinguistics. A common thread amongst the presentations was the emphasis to work at a local level first as a way of attaining the much-needed change in human thought and action.
Impact assessment and ecolinguistics
The ICE-4 was a great opportunity to present part of the research I have been conducting with Jessica Iubini- Hampton (University of Liverpool) about “The Stories We Live By and The Stories We Won’t Stand By: Measuring the impact of a free online course in ecolinguistics.” This work-in-progress is one of the first efforts in conducting impact assessment within the field of ecolinguistics from a digital humanities perspective. This presentation also feeds into a broader report which I am currently developing that seeks to collect qualitative evidence of the impact of ecolinguistics beyond academia.
In our presentation, we argue that “while current approaches of impact assessment beyond academia can be measured more readily in the sciences, it is harder to assess whether, how, and to what extent humanities research produces change in society.” Since this project is developed within the UK educational context, we follow the definition of impact set out in the Research Excellence Framework 2021 – the system for research quality assessment in the UK: “Impact is defined as an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia (…)”
(p. 90). Nonetheless, this definition includes any impacts on students, or teaching.
Our data stems from a variety of sources including semi-structured email interviews, course completion forms, website comments and an online survey. This allowed us to create a multilevel coding system which illustrates impact at personal and work-related levels. An additional level was created for any other relevant impacts which could not be classified in any of the sublevels.
At a personal-related level, the findings show a high number of impacts within the categories of awareness of how language shapes society followed by doing practical everyday choices, such as recycling, mode of travel choices and diet. At a work-related level, the findings predominantly suggest an increased impact on research and academic work. These include providing a framework for developing research and interesting resources which can be used in different environments.
We will be presenting this project at the International Conference on Ecocriticism and Environmental Studies organised by the London Centre for Interdisciplinary Research (University of London). Last year, I had the opportunity to present my research on how current and previous Catholic popes frame environmental issues and whether the similarities and differences in the popes' discursive practice can linguistically contribute as examples of positive discourse. It was great to be able to meet other scholars doing research at the intersection of language, ecology and literary studies.
In the meantime, stay tuned for another conference review. If you have a project you would like to discuss that fits within my research fields and my translation specialisms, do not hesitate to get in touch.
Interested in the topic?
Click here to access the slides.
Recommended books on ecolinguistics:
Ecolinguistics: Language, ecology and the stories we live by written by Arran Stibbe
The Routledge Handbook of Ecolinguistics edited by Hermine Penz and Alwin Fill
The Ecolinguistics Reader: Language, ecology and environment edited by Alwin Fill and Peter Mühlhäusler
Other blogs relating to ecolinguistics:
Sociolinguini Blog: Everything Socio and Eco linguistics
Mariana Roccia is a certified translator and language teacher working between English and Spanish. Her specialisms are law, business, and academia. She holds an MA in Linguistics and an MA in Environmental Humanities. In addition to working as a translator, she is also involved in language research and regularly presents her findings in the field to the industry. She co-convenes the International Ecolinguistics Association, a network of over 1,200 researchers around the world, and is the Co-Editor of the book series Bloomsbury Advances in Ecolinguistics. She is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL), Member of the British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL) and Committee Member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting’s Western Regional Group. Keep in touch with Mariana on LinkedIn, Facebook and Academia.edu.