May 18, 2015, by Brigitte Nerlich

Climate linguistics

In a recent news article about the origins and spread of the concept ‘climate denial’, the E&E reporter Jean Chemnick refers to me as a specialist in ‘climate linguistics’. Somebody asked me on twitter whether this field existed and some people searched my academia profile to find out more. I myself also googled around a bit and found that, it seems, I am the only member in this new sub-field of linguistics. I am quite proud of that! However, I should point out that this new field has connections to other fields, such as ecolinguistics, for example, and that it has emerged through joint labour between myself and many colleagues, in particular Nelya Koteyko, Rusi Jaspal, Luke Collins and Iina Hellsten, to name just a few. Our focus has been on studying salient topics and emerging concepts within climate change debates, from the greenhouse effect to climategate to fracking and geoengineering and beyond. We use various types of methods, such as corpus linguistics, discourse analysis, metaphor analysis and theoretical frameworks, such as social representations theory and identity process theory; in terms of material we focus mainly on media coverage, both old and new. Another project on ‘climate linguistics’ is being carried out at the University of Bergen and there will be an interesting conference happening in the autumn. Related research is also going on at the University of Hamburg. Reiner Grundmann here at Nottingham has also used discourse analysis and corpus linguistics to study aspects of climate change. And I bet there are other examples!

If you want to know more about our work in this new field of ‘climate linguistics’, please consult our official website and this unofficial one.

Climate change concepts

On this blog I have also dabbled in more adhoc investigations into various climate change concepts that intrigue me, thus engaging in a sort of amateur version of conceptual history or Begriffsgeschichte. Here are some of the concepts I have talked about on this blog.

Climate change realism

Climate change alarmism

Climate change lukewarmism

Climate change consensus

Climate change adaptation

Climate change mitigation, adaptation and geoengineering

Climate (change) fiction

Other concepts that attracted my attention are:

Scepticism (on the changing meaning of ‘sceptic’, see article by Reiner Grundmann)

Greenhouse sceptics

Certainty and Uncertainty

Extreme weather (1); Extreme weather (2)


Global heating (with Pearce and Hulme)

Hottest year on record

I wish I could write a post on the concept, indeed semantic field, of ‘adjust(ment)’, but I have to leave that to somebody else. Within that semantic field one would find other words, such as ‘homogenise’, ‘harmonise’, ‘reconcile’, ‘resolve’, ‘calibrate’, ‘fiddle’, ‘exaggerate’, ‘manipulate’, ‘distort’, ‘misrepresent’, etc… interesting split in connotations…



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