Metaphor and Grammar in the Poetic Representation of Nature

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This article is based on two assumptions which have already been evidenced in the literature of environmental discourse analysis. The first is that the normal congruent active material process clause (Halliday and Matthiessen 2004), if the empathy hierarchy (Langacker 1991) is imposed upon it, tends to represent humans as acting in a unidirectional way upon a passive environment (Goatly 2002, 2007). The second is that much pro-environmental discourse, such as the Worldwatch Institute’s reports, for the most part adopts this grammar and thereby undervalues the power of nature as a force independent of humans but with power over them (Goatly and Hiradhar 2016). This article builds on work already done in Goatly (2000, 2007) and Goatly and Hiradhar (2016) on non-congruent grammar, co-ordination, along with personification and other forms of metaphor, to represent the human-nature relationship in ways which are more in keeping with modern science, and more helpful from an ecological viewpoint. The poetic texts discussed are taken from Wordsworth’s The Prelude , Edward Thomas’ Collected Poems and Alice Oswald’s Woods etc. Besides the use of grammatical co-ordination and metaphor/literalisation to blur the human nature boundary, they illustrate the use of nominalisations, ergative verbs, the activation of tokens and existents, the emphasis on nature as sayer and experiencer, rather than goal, which is a grammar (and use of metaphor) quite different from the patterns in so-called environmental and news discourse.

About the authors

Andrew Goatly

Lingnan University

8 Castle Peak Road, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong


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Copyright (c) 2017 Goatly A.

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