The representation of nature on the BBC world service

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

28 Citations (Scopus)


This article takes a critical discourse approach to an investigation of the representation of nature in BBC World Service radio. Presuming a weak form of the Whorfian hypothesis, whose current evaluation in linguistics is discussed at some length, it uses systemic functional grammar and tools for computing collocations to interrogate the COBUILD Direct/Bank of English BBC World Service subcorpus. Firstly, having established a rough hierarchy of power among participants in the clause, it investigates the relative power of ten classes of natural 'objects', discovering that weather, and disease are the most powerful and plants and minerals the least. It finds nature frequently marginalized as 'environment' rather than involved as a participant. It then proceeds to look at the typical collocates of the natural objects selected, demonstrating the importance of economics, politics, and warfare to the representation of nature, which is largely seen as passive and exploitable. It argues that, due to the anthropocentric nature of news values, nature is typically recognized as powerful when the processes are open to human perception and are perceived as a threat to humans. A brief comparison is made with Wordsworth's The Prelude which is shown to involve different representations, where nature is more communicative, reflecting a different genre and an oppositional ideology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalText and Talk
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2002


  • BBC
  • Bank of English
  • Critical discourse analysis
  • Nature
  • Systemic functional grammar
  • Whorf
  • Wordsworth.


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