In European societies, sustainable development is often mentioned by politicians and media. But what do politicians and media mean when they use the expression sustainable development? Linguistic research has shown that sustainable development is frequently intended as an unspecified condition that needs to be achieved with an anthropocentric attitude (Alexander 2002, Mahlberg 2007, Naeem et al. 2016). The present research aims at outlining the discursive construction of sustainable development in the political discourse of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and in news discourse appeared after the release of the UN’s resolution. The discursive construction of sustainable development is explored in English, Hungarian and Italian and it is identified by means of two concepts: cultural keywords, namely politically, socially and culturally salient lexemes (Williams 1983); and meaning by collocation, namely the semantics that lexemes acquire thanks to their co-occurring with a limited set of words belonging to certain word classes, fitting a common semantic area and sharing a mutual connotation (Firth 1957, Sinclair 1991). The study of cultural keywords and meaning by collocation is carried out within the theoretical framework of corpus-assisted, ecological analysis of discourse with a cross-linguistic approach. The discursive construction of sustainable development is investigated in two corpora: the 2030 Agenda Corpus and the Sustainable development Corpus (or SusCorp). The 2030 Agenda Corpus is a multilingual, parallel corpus of political discourse including the English, Hungarian and Italian versions of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; the English, Hungarian and Italian sections of the corpus count between 15,000 and 18,000 tokens each. The SusCorp is a multilingual, comparable corpus of news discourse containing broadsheet articles published between 2016 and 2018 in the English, Hungarian and Italian press; the English, Hungarian and Italian sections of the corpus count between 250,000 and 450,000 tokens each. The two corpora are analysed in turn in search for cultural keywords and meaning by collocation. Cultural keywords are found among the most frequent and statistically salient lexemes of the English, Hungarian and Italian subcorpora. Meaning by collocation is outlined by extracting the collocational patterns of the English lexical items sustainable, sustainability, sustainable development and their Hungarian and Italian translational equivalents for the 2030 Agenda Corpus, and by collecting the collocational patterns of the English lexeme sustainable and its Hungarian and Italian translational equivalents for the SusCorp. The cultural keywords identified in both corpora and for all languages mainly refer to sustainable development and to the sustainability goals recommended by the UN’s 2030 Agenda. Also the international dimension of sustainability is tackled cross-linguistically by cultural keywords in both corpora. In addition, in the SusCorp environmental concerns like climate change feature among the cultural keywords of English and Italian, while Hungarian cultural keywords include issues like migration. The meaning by collocation extracted for the adjective sustainable in both corpora and for all languages makes the lexeme represent a positive quality associated with other positive qualities and characterising material processes of change, depletion, improving and supporting. The meaning by collocation of the noun sustainability in the 2030 Agenda makes the noun a property bound especially to economic matters. The meaning by collocation of sustainable development in the 2030 Agenda makes it a condition that needs to be achieved for the wellbeing of people worldwide thanks to the aid of the UN’s Agenda.

The semantics of sustainable development: A corpus-assisted, ecological analysis of discourse across languages

VALVASON, ELENA
2021-07-07T00:00:00+02:00

Abstract

In European societies, sustainable development is often mentioned by politicians and media. But what do politicians and media mean when they use the expression sustainable development? Linguistic research has shown that sustainable development is frequently intended as an unspecified condition that needs to be achieved with an anthropocentric attitude (Alexander 2002, Mahlberg 2007, Naeem et al. 2016). The present research aims at outlining the discursive construction of sustainable development in the political discourse of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and in news discourse appeared after the release of the UN’s resolution. The discursive construction of sustainable development is explored in English, Hungarian and Italian and it is identified by means of two concepts: cultural keywords, namely politically, socially and culturally salient lexemes (Williams 1983); and meaning by collocation, namely the semantics that lexemes acquire thanks to their co-occurring with a limited set of words belonging to certain word classes, fitting a common semantic area and sharing a mutual connotation (Firth 1957, Sinclair 1991). The study of cultural keywords and meaning by collocation is carried out within the theoretical framework of corpus-assisted, ecological analysis of discourse with a cross-linguistic approach. The discursive construction of sustainable development is investigated in two corpora: the 2030 Agenda Corpus and the Sustainable development Corpus (or SusCorp). The 2030 Agenda Corpus is a multilingual, parallel corpus of political discourse including the English, Hungarian and Italian versions of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; the English, Hungarian and Italian sections of the corpus count between 15,000 and 18,000 tokens each. The SusCorp is a multilingual, comparable corpus of news discourse containing broadsheet articles published between 2016 and 2018 in the English, Hungarian and Italian press; the English, Hungarian and Italian sections of the corpus count between 250,000 and 450,000 tokens each. The two corpora are analysed in turn in search for cultural keywords and meaning by collocation. Cultural keywords are found among the most frequent and statistically salient lexemes of the English, Hungarian and Italian subcorpora. Meaning by collocation is outlined by extracting the collocational patterns of the English lexical items sustainable, sustainability, sustainable development and their Hungarian and Italian translational equivalents for the 2030 Agenda Corpus, and by collecting the collocational patterns of the English lexeme sustainable and its Hungarian and Italian translational equivalents for the SusCorp. The cultural keywords identified in both corpora and for all languages mainly refer to sustainable development and to the sustainability goals recommended by the UN’s 2030 Agenda. Also the international dimension of sustainability is tackled cross-linguistically by cultural keywords in both corpora. In addition, in the SusCorp environmental concerns like climate change feature among the cultural keywords of English and Italian, while Hungarian cultural keywords include issues like migration. The meaning by collocation extracted for the adjective sustainable in both corpora and for all languages makes the lexeme represent a positive quality associated with other positive qualities and characterising material processes of change, depletion, improving and supporting. The meaning by collocation of the noun sustainability in the 2030 Agenda makes the noun a property bound especially to economic matters. The meaning by collocation of sustainable development in the 2030 Agenda makes it a condition that needs to be achieved for the wellbeing of people worldwide thanks to the aid of the UN’s Agenda.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11571/1438355
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