An Ecolinguistic Exploration of the Seascapes and Landscapes of Wales
: People, Places and Practices

  • Elinor Gwynn

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis is a manifesto for taking more seriously the role of everyday language practices within the world of environmental policy and management. Rather than viewing language as a peripheral, intangible dimension of environmental concerns the research has sought to bring it centre-stage, by highlighting the ways in which people interact and form relationships with their biophysical surroundings through their ordinary ecolinguistic activities. Exploratory and interdisciplinary in nature, the investigation set out to find a way of locating this under-researched topic within key contemporary currents in the fields of geography and environmental valuation. Although the inquiry is grounded primarily in people’s lived experience it has not shied away from embracing theoretical and philosophical perspectives, where these appear to provide sense-making concepts that can help develop an understanding of the subject and its relevance to environmental and sustainability debates. In this respect the notion of practice has profoundly shaped the research. It provides a way of framing people’s stories, and offers an useful lens through which to interrogate and think through the evidence. Other theoretical ideas that have featured strongly within the investigation include the radical, transformative potential of enchantment, the expanded notion of poiesis as a creative process of route-finding in the world, and the understanding of language not only as practice but also as object and as a relational force in the world. All these elements are touched upon in the following thesis, which is essentially an account of a personal journey through the research project. It openly acknowledges the role of the researcher as a curious individual who has a long-standing interest in the topic. It juxtaposes examples of the researcher’s own ecolinguistic activities with accounts shared by a purposeful sample of participants, creating a braided and polyphonic narrative that allows the reader to walk through people’s stories and hear voices that are largely under-represented in the environmental policy arena. They are stories and voices that speak of the diverse ways in which language-as-practice plays a part in forging our relationships with our surrounding world, and why such activity matters to people. The affective and agentive properties of language, as well as its affordances, permeate the participants’ accounts - as does the role of dialogue and conversation in weaving and shaping people’s worldviews. Such qualities seem to call out for further attention and offer potential for taking the work forward in both academic and policy contexts. The thesis attempts to present the thinking, the learning and the discussion in a way that reflects the tentative, shared nature of the endeavour. A way that conveys a desire to present not so much an authoritative statement but an opening of a new window. A provocation perhaps – a jolt to encourage different ways of thinking about the sayings and doings of language in an environmental context, and how this might matter to the choices and decisions we make in a rapidly changing world.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorSarah Davies (Supervisor) & Hywel Griffiths (Supervisor)


  • affect
  • affordance
  • agency
  • conversation
  • enchantment
  • ecolinguistic activities
  • environmental policy
  • environmental valuation
  • language
  • language-as-practice
  • language-as-relational force
  • lived experience
  • poiesis
  • practice
  • sustainability

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