Five themes for ecostylistics

Andrew GOATLY*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Fundamentally, meaning is organized along two dimensions, similarity and contiguity, corresponding to two areas of the brain primarily responsible for language processing, Wernicke’s area and Broca’s area, respectively. Modern culture has tended to overemphasize the similarity dimension through money/commodification in capitalism, and mathematics in science, with disastrous ecological consequences. Ecostylistics can celebrate and analyze themes and linguistic patterns of poetry and novels which challenge this overemphasis. Five such themes are suggested in this article. To counter overemphasis on similarity (1) individuation. To celebrate Broca’s area’s contiguity dimension (2) dynamic process, and (3) interrelatedness and communication with the natural world. However, concentration on local contiguities of time, manifest in the contemporary English-speaking novel, distracts from the global contiguities of (4) long-term ecological change. (5) The two dimensions are also manifest in metaphor, which challenges conventional similarity-based classification, and narrative, which expands the contiguity dimension beyond the clause. These themes are illustrated by poetic examples from Wordsworth and Edward Thomas, and detailed analysis of the following texts: Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “As Kingfishers Catch Fire” and “Nature is a Heraclitean Fire”; Edward Thomas’s “The Word”, Alice Oswald’s “Sonnet” and “Birdsong for Two Voices”, and, returning to a text whose analysis by Michael Halliday was seminal for Stylistics, William Golding’s The Inheritors. Transitivity analysis within the framework of Systemic Functional Grammar is used throughout, and connections are made with quantum physics, Daoism, and other process philosophies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-485
Number of pages43
JournalJournal of World Languages
Issue number3
Early online date30 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 the author(s), published by De Gruyter, Berlin/Boston.


  • Systemic Functional Grammar
  • cognitive semantics
  • contiguity
  • process philosophy
  • quantum theory
  • similarity


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