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Greenspeak: A corpus-based comparative study on the word Green and environmentalism

Issue: Vol 13 No. 3 (2017) Special Issue: Free Linguistics Proceedings 2016

Journal: Linguistics and the Human Sciences

Subject Areas: Writing and Composition Linguistics

DOI: 10.1558/lhs.19202


The word green is a high-frequency colour word in language. In the last few decades, its meaning has been metaphorically extended to environmental studies and further stepped into politics, economics, and other areas. Th e new meanings of green are used in diff erent languages, but there is limited research to show if the concept of ENVIRONMALISM IS GREEN is applied the same in every culture. Th is study aims to compare ecological green used in English and Chinese by investigating the word in two mega-corpora: the 450-million-word Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) and the 477-million-word Chinese Corpus compiled at Peking University (CCL). Sinclair’s (1991) fi ve categories of co-selection in corpus study are used to identify green metaphors and their functions in the language pair, following Goatly’s (1997) classifi cation. Th e fi ndings reveal that green metaphors are common in the two languages; they are used to enlarge the impact of eco-friendliness and promote environmental protection to the public. However, there are also diff erences in use. English green can bear both positive and negative attributes in diff erent contexts while Chinese green is generally positive. Also, the English green is used metaphorically in diff erent genres such as politics and fi nance, while the Chinese green focuses on environmentalism. Th is study contributes to the understanding of colour metaphors in diff erent languages and its pedagogical value lies in the comparison between languages.

Author: Lan Li, Meng Ye

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