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. 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 will examine these argumentative processes by applying the notion of justification principles (Boltanski & Thévenot 2006) as an overarching analytical intake to the study of the valuation of nature in public debates. Justification principles are collective discursive resources that can be used in situated action to justify a specific action, and the project analyses the emergence and evolution of justification principles based in expert knowledge about nature over the period 1998-2017, with an analytical focus on the communication of expert knowledge and the linguistic aspects of these processes. In order to address these research topics, the project applies an interdisciplinary research design, based in the disciplines of sociology and corpus linguistics.