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Call for Papers

Language, Time and Sustainability: Ecolinguistics For, With, After and Against the Future

Deadline for submissions: 
30 April 2022 (closed)

50 years after Einar Haugen applied the heuristic ecology metaphor to language, ecolinguistics has become a field of linguistics which lies – together with other areas of the environmental sciences – at the centre of the most pressing and threatening issues of our times (poverty and inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, war and conflict, etc.). Broadly speaking and depending on varying conceptions of ecolinguistics, it investigates the role of language in the development and possible solution of ecological and environmental problems (Fill 1998) and examines the influence of language in the context of life-sustaining relationships of humans with each other and with other forms of life (Stibbe 2015). Ecolinguistics should therefore be conceived as an important instrument in developing and achieving sustainable ways of living.

In 2015, the UN adopted the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development, which formulates 17 goals with the aim of ending poverty, protecting the planet and improving the lives and prospects of everyone on earth. These goals have grown out of the awareness that the future of the planet and the well-being of human beings is at stake if we continue with our present unsustainable lifestyles and are meant “to stimulate action in areas which are of critical importance for humanity and the planet” (www.un.org). These goals are, however, extremely comprehensive as they include the three dimensions of sustainable development, i.e. economic, social, and environmental. Interestingly, though, the role of language has largely been neglected in the sustainability debate (Trampe 2021). The question of what role language has played in causing the current ecological crisis and what role it could or should play in making the world a more sustainable and livable place is basic to ecolinguistics and still needs to be explored with respect to sustainability (Stibbe 2010).

Temporalities play an essential role here because social, cultural, biological, geographical and economic dimensions of time require harmonization or at least coordination to achieve sustainability (Adam 1998, 2004). This is where ecolinguistics comes into play as it deals with – among other issues – temporalities (Weinrich 2001) of environmental issues: How does the linguistic construction of pasts, presents and futures have an impact on what is conceived, performed and carried out as sustainable? Temporalities surface in tenses, time frames, expectations and projections into the future, yet also in addressing and involving actors, institutions and the biological world and many more (Harré et al. 1999). A variety of questions related to temporalities (Elias 1992) in connection with ecolinguistics and sustainability still need to be addressed, such as: How does the temporal dimension come into play in relation to various ecological and sustainability issues? How do different temporalities and concepts of time (e.g. natural, physical, cultural, individual, etc.) interact with each other in connection with various themes and topics but also questions of power? How could language work in favor of a better future – or futures – while also including present pasts and past presents (Koselleck 2005)? How are normative temporalities constructed in environmental management, policy or laws, and are these sustainable? What is the role of generations and their interrelations in achieving a sustainable future? What role do temporalities and other issues play in creating more harmonious relationships between humans, other forms of life and their natural environments?

Potential topics, areas and themes to be addressed are:

  • Linguistic and biological diversity from a sustainable point of view
  • Climate change and the language of the pasts, presents and future(s)
  • Ethical and temporal dimensions of concepts of a natural en- or convironment
  • Contested framings, temporalities and political agendas of environmental degradation
  • Sustainability in the context of natural resources and environmental justice
  • Temporalities and intergenerational tensions in the ecological debate
  • The role of ecolinguistics for sustainable environmental education
  • Features of an ecolinguistic perspective on sustainability communication
  • Theoretical ecolinguistics and aspects of a sustainable theory of language
  • Ecolinguistics as a transformation science
  • Applied and sustaining ecolinguistics: Notes from fields and experiences all over the globe


Adam, Barbara (1998). Timescapes of Modernity: The Environment and Invisible Hazards London: Routledge.

Adam, Barbara (2004). Time. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Elias, Norbert (1992). An Essay on Time. Oxford: Blackwell.

Fill, Alwin (1998). “Ecolinguistics –State of the Art 1998.” AAA – Arbeiten aus Anglistik und Amerikanistik 23.1: 3-16.

Harré, Rom, Jens Brockmeier, und Peter Mühlhäusler (1999). Greenspeak: A Study of Environmental Discourse. Thousand Oaks/London/New Delhi: Sage.

Koselleck, Reinhart (2005). Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time. New York: Columbia University Press.

Stibbe, Arran (2010). The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy: Skills for a Changing World. Cambridge: Green Books.

Stibbe, Arran (2015). Ecolinguistics. Language, ecology and the stories we live by. London/ New York: Routledge.

Trampe, Wilhelm (2021). “Zur Relevanz von Sprache innerhalb der Nachhaltigkeitskommunikation.” Paper presented at the 46th Austrian Conference of Linguists, 9-12 Dec. 2021.

United Nations Sustainability Goals. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/

Uryu, Michiko, Sune V. Steffensen and Claire Kramsch (2014). The ecology of intercultural interaction: timescales, temporal ranges and identity dynamics. Language Sciences 41: 41-59.

Weinrich, Harald (2001). Tempus: Besprochene und erzählte Welt. München: C.H. Beck.


Academic Leader

Hermine Penz

Ao.Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr.phil.

Institute for English Studies
Heinrichstraße 36/III

Telefon:+43 316 380 - +43 (0)316 380 - 2498

Student Assistant

Eva Katharina Bauer


Institute for English Studies
Heinrichstraße 36/Room 418

Contact me about any organizational matters concerning the ICE-6!

Lea Pešec


Institute for English Studies
Heinrichstraße 36/Room 418

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