The Changing Nature Project

The main research question of the project is how nature is construed as an object of public deliberation.  Understanding the linguistic and communicative dimensions of this process is crucial for understanding human relations to nature and for our ability to interact with nature through policy measures and public debate.

Since the 1990s, expert knowledge on nature has become increasingly important in public debates on environmental change and related issues, including energy policy and climate change. This is reflected by terminological change and the revaluation of relevant argumentative resources, specifically in the valuation that is assigned to nature.

How are these changes reflected in the language we use to talk about nature, the arguments we use to decide on how to handle environmental issues, and what types of expert knowledge are considered legitimate and relevant? The project addresses these issues through analyses of the linguistic representation of expert knowledge of ‘nature’, and of the argumentative resources that are applied to give value to nature in public debates on environmental issues in four text corpora. The corpora are derived from parliamentary debates, popular science outlets and newspapers, and cover the time period 1998-2017.

The project combines theoretical and methodological resources from corpus linguistic and sociology: a corpus-based study of terminology and specialized neology in political and popular science discourses; an argumentative analysis of the valuation of nature in Parliamentary discourse; and an international contrast case, viz. that of parliamentary debates in France, in order to gauge the specificities of the Norwegian vs. the French contexts.