domingo, 8 de novembro de 2015

Ecological Discourse Analysis


Hildo Honório do Couto
University of Brasília, Brazil

1. Introductio
The new discipline of ecological discourse analysis (EDA), originally called critical ecosystemic linguistics (CEL)  is the part of ecosystemic linguistics that deals with discourses and texts. As to ecosystemic linguistics (EL), it is the branch of ecolinguistics that emerged in the University of Brasília and the Federal University of Goiás, Goiânia, Brazil. Let me begin by defining ecolinguistics, although this has already been done in other texts of this blog. It has been defined as the study of the relationships between language and environment. Once this definition has given place to misunderstandings, EL defines it as the verbal interactions that take place inside the linguistic ecosystem. This term will be discussed below in relative detail.
Ecosystemic linguistics is so called because it departs from the ecosystem, the central concept of ecology. Inside the ecosystem, the central concept is interaction – between organisms of the population and their environment as well as between any two organisms. For this reason, an alternative name for EL is linguistic ecology, where ‘linguistic’ is the adjective and ‘ecology’ is the substantive. Most ecolinguists around the world do “ecological linguistics”. They borrow concepts from ecology, if at all, and use them as metaphors in language studies. EL follows Garner’s (2004) suggestion of using ecological concepts not as mere metaphors, but as real ecological concepts. Ecosystemic linguists are “écologistes de la langue”, as Claude Hagège said of the XIXth century linguist Charles Nodier.    
As a part of ecosystemic linguistics, ecological discourse analysis was first called critical ecosystemic linguistics (CEL), as was pointed out above. This name was also suggested by critical ecolinguistics and critical discourse analysis. However, the term that caught on is 'ecological discourse analysis'. This is the name I will use henceforth in this essay.

2. Critical Ecosystemic Linguistics or Ecological Discourse Analysis

As a matter of fact, there are several essays in the domain of the most diverse social sciences -- sociology, philosophy, psychology etc. -- that have dealt with environmental questions. What is more, the majority of ecolinguists have restricted their investigations to this domain, i. e., questions involving environmentalism. Further, even the layperson can say what s/he thinks about these quetions. This is evident in collective and individual publications as well as in ecolinguistics meetings.
EDA's proposal is something entirely different. It is not "analysis of ecological discourse" -- not even of anti- or pseudoecological discourse. It is squarely "ecological analysis of discourse". Of any type of discourse, not only of environmental ones. What is ecological is the analysis, not necessarily the discourse. As a part of ecosystemic linguistics, it is an ecological discipline that studies language phenomena, not a linguistic discipline that studies ecological phenomena. It reminds us of ecolanguage (ecolinguagem), as can be seen in Matos et al. (2014). It pushes forward some ideas of positive discourse analysis (Martin 2004, 2006; Vian Jr. 2010), although this is heavily influenced by Faiclough's critical discourse analysis.

Traditional discourse analysis, both Pêcheux's and Anglo-Saxon's tendencies, draw heavily on ideology and power relations. This is very important. However, the ideology in this case is Marxist, frequently filtered by Louis Althusser's philosophy. The British line of discourse analysis is based on a less radical form of Marxism, as is the case with Gramsci's and the Frankfurt School's ideas. So far so good. The problem is that Marxist ideology contains at least three characteristics that are unacceptable in an ecological view of the world (EVW). The first one is conflict, between "dominant" and "dominated" class. EDA, on the contrary, prefers to look for the ecological view of the world and Oriental philosophies, like Hinduism, Budhism and Taoism (Couto 2012). In order to begin to understand the difference between the two views, let us see the case of polar concepts like good-evil, larg-small, white-black, high-low etc.  Occidental view of the world sees them as antagonic, as one against the other, it is one or the other. According to the ecological and Oriental views, good only exists if related to evil and vice-versa; large only in relation to small; white only in comparison with black and so on. In other words, these philosophies see them as forming a whole, inside which they are articulated along the same axis. They are seen from the side of harmony, together with everything that has to do with it, not from the viewpoint of the antagonism of ideologies, above all Marxist ideology.
The second characteristic of Marxism unacceptable by EDA is anthropocentrism, which in Marx is disguised under the cover of humanism. If humans are the "kings of creation", everything else exist to serve them, therefore, they may use and abuse everything in the world at their own convenience. This ideology is leading us to a dead end, since we are destroying all the bases of life on earth, a suicidal attitude. EDA follows the principles of deep ecology (Naess 1973, 1989, 2002; Couto 2012: 49-67), and defends sel-realization of all beings. Humans do not have more right to life than the other living beings.

The third feature of Marxism considered unacceptable by ecological discourse analysis is the dictatorship of the proletariat. Practically all countries that allegedly adopted the Marxist regime remained with the dictatorship and left the proletariat aside. In fact, all remaining "Marxist" countries, like the jurassic regimes of North Korea and Cuba, are hereditary dictatorships. However, once ideologies are inevitable, EDA adopts the ideology of lifeecological ideology or ecoideology. This defends life and struggles against any form o suffering by a living being.
It is true that suffering and pain are a kind of protection living beings have against death. Were it not for them, living beings would not mind when their body was mutilated. For this reason, everyone of them is always looking for its own self-realization or well-being, as can be seen in deep ecology. Death exists to give continuity to life, in order for nature to recycle matter of one being into another. Notwithstanding all this, whenever pain, suffering and death are avoidable they must be avoided. This is what EDA suggests.   

According to ecosystemic linguistics' categories, it is important to distinguish physical (natural), mental and social suffering because we are not only animal beings (natural); we have a mental life (mental) and live in society (social). Physical suffering occurs when there is wound, mutilation or other type of physical aggression. Every physical suffering is a move towards death, which is the maximum physical suffering. Thus, looking for one's own self-realization is an attempt at avoiding or at suppressing it. However, there are degrees of suffering. A pinch, for instance, may be much less serious than a mental torture, harassment or a stream of invectives (mental suffering). Being slandered or ridiculed by somebody publicly (social suffering) is also much offensive than a pinch.    

If a student of EDA decides to analyze a discourse about a woman who is frequently beaten by her drunken husband (sometimes she may be even murdered by him), he defends her not for being a woman, as feminist ideology generally does, nor because it is the case of an act of machismo. He defends her because she is a living (human) being who is suffering. In other words, she is defended in the name of a much more important cause. Feminism and ecofeminism deal with questions like these from the point of view of conflict (ideologies, Marxism), that is, from the side of confrontation, whereas EDA does it departing from the side of conciliation and harmony, as suggested by Martin's positive discourse analysis.

Departing from the positive side of the question, EDA is seeing the woman as a man's equal, not his antagonist. The same holds in cases of racism, homophobia, ethnocentrism and so on. In the case of some traditional practices, as the treatment women have in some Muslim coutries (clitoris excison, for instance), infanticide among some Amerindian groups and others, there is the dilemma of staying on the side of life preservation or of deeply rooted traditional customs. EDA position is clear: it is decidedly on the side of life. After all, traditional mores may change along time, but death is irreversible. However, it must be kept in mind that EDA gives only general guidelines from which each individual case may be judged. As a matter of fact, each case is a case, and must be evaluated in the context in which it emerged, but having these guidelines as backdrop. For instance, what to do in the case of  the sacrifice of a child -- which will cause him/her the maximum suffering -- against the suffering of the whole group if its tradition is violated?

Let me sum up some of the general characteristics of discourse analysis (DA) -- of French origin -- and of critical discourse analysis (CDA) -- of British origin. First of all, (C)DA look at their object of study from the ideological-political point of view, at most including something of psychoanalysis, as is the case with French DA. EDA places life on earth on the foreground because it is part of ecology, which is part of biology, the science of life. Once ideologies are inevitable, EDA subordinates political (and other) ideologies to the ideology of life or ecological ideology (ecoideology). (C)DA belongs to the tradition of Occidental philosophy, which emphasizes competition, as is the case with the Marxist ideology of conflict, what may lead to hatred, violence and war. (C)DA have many affinities with Oriental philosophies (Hinduism, Budhism, Taoism). These emphisize cooperation, what may lead to harmony and love.  (C)DA depart from the logical point of view, as represented by the philosopher Willard Quine. It does not refute nor criticize the Occidental view of the world, which is reductionist.  (C)DA, on the contrary, departs from the ecological point of view,  defended by the German philosopher of language and ecolinguist Peter Finke (1996). This point of view is all-embracing, holistic, therefore, against the Occidental view. AD tends to simply analyze and criticize the object under investigation, with rare exceptions in the case of CDA. EDA analyzes, criticizes and prescribes/recommends behaviors that favors life and avoid suffering.  (C)DA is humanist, therefore anthropocentric like Marxism, whose philosophy it follows. This can be seen in Ramos (2009). EDA is biocentric and ecocentric, as is the case with ecology.  (C)DA critize structuralism, above all generative grammar. EDA criticizes structuralism, generative grammar and  (C)DA.  (C)DA investigate produced discourses, which are products, something done, a thing. This entails a reification of language. EDA, being a part of ecosystemic linguistics, puts emphasis on the process of discourse production, das Fliessen selbst, as Fill (1993) put it.

The ecology of communicative interaction is the nucleus of ecosystemic linguistics, and of EDA, by the way.  (C)DA sees only the social side of language, the social ecosystem of language, at most reaching the mental ecosystem, as is the case with the timid incursions in the domain of psychoanalysis by French AD. As to EDA, once it is part of ecosystemic linguistics, it recognizes three ecosystems of language, namely, the natural, the mental and the social ecosystem of language (Couto 2007: 434-442). It tends to include even a spiritual dimension.

3. Some Further Categories of EDA/CEL
In regard to the ecological concepts that may (and must) be used in the analysis of texts-discourses, let me begin with diversity. To accept diversity entails an attitude of tolerance towards the other, above all when s/he is different from us. Not accepting it entails intolerance, what may lead to aggression and violence, mainly against the minorities of all types. Acceptance of diversity presupposes an attitude of cooperation and harmony; the second concept is already present in biological ecology, under the name of harmonic interactions, both intraspecific and interspecific. In the first case, there are the interactions among human beings; in the second, there are the interactions between them and beings of other specices. In ecosystemic linguistics this harmony is known as communion.
In the opposite side is the stance of subordination of the weak to the more powerful and the consequent imposition of the will of the later on the former. This is a question of power, which may lead to fundamentalism, which is frequently associated to violence. For this reason, the deep ecology that inspired EDA recommends a Gandhian attitude (Gandhi is one of the sources of inspiration of DP), that is, firm but non violent. As we have seen, EDA respects diversity of all kinds, i.e., natural, mental and social.
Intimately associated with diversity there is the question of interactions (inter-relations, relations). Nothing is isolated inside the ecosystem, everything is related to everything, directly or indirectly. For this reason, the ecosystem is a network of inter-relations that obtains between and among organisms and environment. Interaction and diversity are intimately related. The more diverstity there are, the more interactions will obtain. But, interaction is also intimately associated with the harmony of the whole, hence, with the concept of holism. The interactions are multilateral, multipolar and pluricentric. As Edgar Morin pointed out, there is no center in the interior of an ecosystem. Totalitariansms of all kinds, on the contrary, are monocentric and centripetal, what frequently leads to conflicts since diversity is not welcome.     

In the dynamics of inter-relations, there is always an adaptation of organisms to their environment, and vice-versa, as well as of the organisms among themselves. In the phylogenetic begenning of life on earth adaptation of the environment to organisms was less evident. However, it is increasing each day due to technology. This movement may lead to a dead end. The world and culture (which includes language) are dynamic. They are constantly changing, and adapting to the new situations that nature (and culture) presents. Not to adapt is to resist, what may also lead to disharmony, to conflict and violence, both against humans and other living beings, as can be seen in predatory actions. According to Darwinism there are competition and survival of the fittest. However, the most recent investigations have shown that more adaptable beings have more chances of survival, not necessarily the strongest, as was the case with dinosaurs. Adaptation is a way of living in harmony with the environment as well as with the other beings. Harmony is a central concept of Taoism and, of course, of deep ecology.
Adaptation is one side of the coin whose other side is evolution. It is well known that evolution takes place cyclically. Everything in nature moves in cycles. This is the case witht alternations such as night/day, the seasons of the year, the biological rhythm of our organism and so on. Even in culture and language changes are cyclical. In the world of fashion, for example, how many times we see disigners, those who dictates what is fashionable, say that "now what existed in the1960s and 1980s is chic"? It is enough to create a new term to designate the phenomenon, as, for instance, retro. In Couto (2012: 179-199) there are some examples of cyclical evolution in literature and in language. This leads us to the domain of recycling, which could be a precarious solution for capitalist consumerism. Unfortunately, only a minority of people are aware of the fact that consumerism and disposability are prujudicial to the maintenance of life on the surface of the earth, above all in the long term. To do this it is necessary to practice a sustainable economy, that is, one that takes ecology into consideration.
Ecological ideology defends the three "r", i.e., reduction, reuse and recycling. Discarding everything instead of reducing, reusing and recycling implies the use and abuse of natural resources -- and not only of living nature --, besides polluting it. Our intervention in nature is increasing each day and becomes increasingly predatory. This brings suffering to other living beings, as in the case of exagerated meat consumption, which requires the sacrifice of hundreds, thousands, millions of animals. The extensive raising of cattle destined to slaughterhouses -- and for milk production -- requires large portions of grass-lands for them to graze with one only grass species, as, for instance, bracchiaria plantaginea. This entails the reduction in the diversity of flora and fauna and the appearance of insects. In order to reduce them, one avails oneself of pesticides. As is well known, pesticides kill the microorganisms living in the ecosystem at stake, that is to say, their annihilation leads to the disappearance of the birds and other species that feed on insects.
Back to the holistic vision, to the ecosystem as a whole, we note that it inter-relates with the environing ecosystems, giving and taking matter, energy and information to/from them. In other words, this whole shows up the characteristic of openness, sometimes also called porosity. Together with diversity this characteristic implies tolerance with beings of other species, other ethnic groups, besides running against ethnocentrism, racism and the all remaining "-isms" some of which are mentioned above. It shows us that nothing is isolated. On the contrary, everything is influenced from the outside, besides influencing it. It leads us to be receptive and respect the opinion of the other, even when we disagree whith her/him. To accept it not in order to adopt it, but in order to respect it. After all, the concepts of "right" and "wrong" are socially created, what implies that they are relative. Besides not existing in nature, they vary from community to community and from social segment to social segment. If we are to use the concept of "wrong", it should be applied to what causes suffering as it is understood in the present context. What does not cause suffering cannot be legitimately considered wrong.
There are several other ecological concepts that can be used in EDA. Among them there are the already mentioned harmonic versus disharmonic relationships, both intra and inter-specific. Among the inter-specific harmonic relationships we could mention inquilinism, and mutualism. In regard to the inter-specific disharmonic relationships, there are above all predatism (predator versus prey) and parasitism. Here one could argue that the predator causes suffering in its prey. This is true. However, it is also true that this is part of the trophic chain of living nature. It is a way of maintaining its balance, its sustainability. Among the intra-specific disharmonic relationships we could mention competition, which also exists inter-specifically. What we call communion in ecosystemic linguistics -- a pre-requisite to communication -- belongs to the intraspecific harmonic relationships. That is to say, in general ecology, as well as in its philosophical, sociological and anthropological versions, we have all the necessary and sufficient concepts for the critical study of texts/discourses refering to the most diverse subjects. Keeeping in mind the fact that biology is the science of life, we do not need to fear biologism. Using general ecology as a basis for cultural -- and linguistic -- studies is assuming the point of view of life, rightly studied by biology of which general ecology -- and ecolinguistics, above all ecosystemic linguistics -- is a part.
We should fight even against the depredation of inanimate nature. If we do not take care of the waters, for instance, they may be polluted to the point of poisoning not only humans but also all living beings. They can even disappear, in which case humans would also disappear. We would not even have oxygen to breathe. We ought not use certain products that cause the greenhouse effect because we run the risk of being toasted or of dying of skin cancer. It is not simply a question of having an apocalyptic or catastrophic view, a doomsday view. It is a question of being realistic. What we have seen up to now points in this direction. Why not care, why not being prudent?

4. Brief analysis of an abstract text

Analysing environmental, anti-environmental and pseudo-enrivonmental texts/discourses is not too difficult. This may be done from the most diverse perspectives, as pointed out above. As a matter of fact, DA and CDA analyse them the way any theoretical model would do, involving ideological questions. EDA, on its turn, may be used in the analysis of any type of text from the ecological point of view, including abstract ones. This is what I intend to do with a syllogism, one of the most abstract types of text/discouse, because it would contain only logical relations. The syllogism I will analyse is the following, which belongs to the Aritotelian  tradition:

All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, socrates is motal.

The "subject" of this syllogism is death. Death is directly related to life, since former only exists in relation to the later, and viceversa. When we talk about life, death is implied because only living beings die, and all living beings die. In this case, we are coming near the ecological view of the world, since life is studied by biology, and ecology is a part of biology.
As stated in Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary, syllogism is an "argument the conclusion of which is supported by two premises, of which one (major premise) contains the term (major term) that is the predicate of the conclusion, and the other term (minor premise) contains the term (minor term) that is the subject of the conclusion; common to both premises is a term (middle term) that is excluded from the conclusion". The handbooks of introduction to logics tell us that syllogism does not describe anything, its value would lie only in the internal logical relations. However, when we look at it from a historical point of view, we see that Socrates refers to a man that existed in ancient Greece, whereas men refers to the totality of being like him (men and women). As to mortal, it refers to a feature or quality of all living beings, not only men and women. These facts were already pointed out by Russell (1982: 56-57), reporting to Parmenides. Therefore, the three pillars of the argument contained in the syllogism refer to the natural world, immediately or mediately. Without this reference there would be no logical conection whatsoever. As the thinkers of the Port-Royal school have emphasized, there are logical connections only between entities of the real world (natural, mental, social). Without these entities the syllogism would be meaningless.     

The syllogism is made up of three declarative sentences. As some linguists and philosophers of language have demonstrated, every declarative utterance is an answer to some question, even when it is only tacit. In the present instance, all men are mortal, Socrates is a man and Socrates is motal certainly emerged as answer to a philosophical question of this type. The tacit questions probably were are all men mortal?, is Socrates a man? and is Socrates mortal? In this case, the components of the syllogism would be indirectly placed inside the nucleus of ecosystemic linguistics, and of its extension ecologcal discourse analysis, namely the ecology of communicative interaction, which basically consists of questions and answers, i.e., interlocution or dialogue. Something similar happens to proverbs. Paramiologists have demonstrated that mini-texts like the taste of the pudding is the eating, may have been produced in some real act of communicative interaction, in some time of the past. In this case, mini-texts like this were answers to questions like what is the taste of this pudding?  
Again as with the proverbs, the first time the text of the syllogism was produced there was a speaker saying to a hearer that All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, socrates is motal, somewhere in ancient Greece. That is to say, in this initial moment the sentence was part of a full ecology of communicative interaction, which included a scenario. Unfortunately, it is practically impossible to recover this ECI. We only infer that it may have existed due to the fact that the "utterance" has been repeated all along history. If it is a repetition, there must have been a first repetition, a moment following the very first one, when it was proffered for the first time. In other words, the historical dimension is also important, as can be seen in Bertrand Russel's text mentioned above.
As to the logical connectors, they may be interpreted in terms of inclusion: Socrates belongs to the class of men. The latter, on its side, belongs to the class of living beings. For the simple fact of belonging to this class, men die, i.e., they are mortal. The relation of inclusion exists in nature independently of a living being to observe it. Couto (2009: 284-285) mentions the case of the of the stone inside a fruit. It is there without being placed there by a living being. Nor is it dependent on an animated being to observe it and "create discursively". Inclusion is one of the most primitive relations, in the sense of primeval. It is the relation par excellence. So much so that the preposition that codifies it, in, exists in practically all languages of the world, and is one of the first to be acquired by children. In summary, even "logical relationships" have to do with the natural world in which the drama of life develops. 
A fundamental difference between EDA and (C)DA is that the former departs from the ecology of communicative interaction as a whole, not only from the product of this interaction, i.e., utterance. EDA's preferred type of text is dialogue, not monologiccal texts as Mikhail Bakhtin put it.     
(C)DA generally departs from the product of the interaction between writer and reader, which appears under the form of text, which, according to the practionners of (C)DA, is the materialization of what the speaker intended to say. For being part of ecosystemic linguistics, EDA is interested not only in this product that, in the end, is a "thing", but in the whole process of its production. (C)DA Finally, I would like to say that there was no need of recurring to any other ideology than the ideology of life, ecoideology. In Couto, Couto & Borges (2015) there are other examples of analyses of concrete phenomena. For a preliminary view of text in ecosystemic linguistics, see Couto (2015).

5. Conclusions and outlook
 One might think that a new model of discourse analysis is not necessary since there are so many already available. They are so many that they fight one against the other. As has already been said of formalism in linguistics, they are a confederation of theories whose only common denominator is the opposition to the Pope. The "pope" in this case is structuralism, especially generativism. I am convinced that EDA/CEL brings new ideas to the fore of discourse analysis, free from political, religious and partisan ideologies. In other words, EDA/CEL embraces ecological ideology. As pointed out in several places above, traditional DA bases itself directly and indirectly on Marxist ideology. However, ideology is one of the worst sides of Marxism. Among its other categories, several ones are perfectly acceptable by the ecological view of the world followed here. Among them totality (which resembles ecological holism) and dialectics (similar to the ecological interactions) may be mentioned.
There are basically two types of valid scientific studies. The first is the one that brings new data to our knowledge, as when physics discovers a new body, as an asteroid, a planet or a galaxy. Unfortunately, in the domain of human sciences we can hardly "discover" new facts. But, it is possible to present a new interpretation of facts already known and interpreted by other theoretical models. If the new interpretation is more interesting than the previous one, the new theoretical model may be considered valid. Otherwise it must be discarded. I am sure that EDA can shed new light on the discourse analysis. It may even happen that it does not catch on, that is, it is possible that it will not to be accepted and/or not to be considered valid by adhrents of the other tendencies. However, one thing is sure: there does not exist any other proposal of a model of discourse analysis whithin the domain of the ecological view of the world, departing from within ecology, not from without.

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[The original Portuguese version of this paper appeared in Antropologia do imaginário, ecolinguística e metáfora. Brasília: Thesaurus, 2014, edited by Elza Kioko Nakayama Nenoki do Couto, Ema Marta Dunck-Cintra & Lorena Araújo de Oliveira Borges, p. 27-41]

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