Ecolinguistics: The state of the art and future horizons

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    In this article we do two things: in the first half, we trace the emergence and development of ecological linguistics, or ecolinguistics, from the early 1970s. Having contrasted the ecological endeavour with the form-based traditions of 20th century linguistics, we discern four particular ways in which the ecology of language has been conceptualised: as a symbolic ecology (Section 2), a natural ecology (Section 3), a sociocultural ecology (Section 4), and a cognitive ecology (Section 5). These four approaches are described and discussed in detail. In the second half of the state of the art, we outline future horizons for the discipline. The foundation for this outline is our plea for a unified ecological language science (Section 6). This unified program pursues a naturalised agenda in the language sciences by exploring the ecological embeddedness of language and linguistic interaction (Section 7). In particular, this section presents the extended ecology hypothesis as one possible way of understanding ecolinguistics as a naturalised science of language. Having presented this view, we argue that it can place the four different traditions mentioned within a unified ecolinguistic framework (Section 8). This framework includes a naturalised foundation for those concerns that characterise the ecolinguistic enterprise, e.g. the exploitation of natural resources, empowerment of marginalized social groups, and the peaceful coexistence of languages and cultures in multicultural communities. In the conclusion (Section 9), we call for further interaction between ecological schools and traditions.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalLanguage Sciences
    Pages (from-to)6-25
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    • Ecolinguistics
    • Ecological linguistics
    • Extended ecology hypothesis
    • Language ecology
    • Ontology of language
    • Theory of language


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