Anthropomorphic grammar? Some linguistic patterns in the wildlife documentary series Life.

Alison Sealey, Lee John Oakley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human language inevitably depicts the world from a human point of
view. This article briefly reviews key positions on the use of anthropomorphic and anthropocentric language taken by scientists and discourse analysts. It then presents the data used in this investigation – a corpus of transcripts of the television series Life. The methods of analysis are explained, as is the focus adopted, which is less on the more obvious, lexical choices made by the presenter, David Attenborough, and more on the grammatical patterns which we suggest play a significant role in the depiction of the wide range of species represented in the programs. Three grammatical features – pronouns, the connective so, and the to infinitive form – were explored in context, and the results demonstrate how, separately and together, they play a significant role in the representation in these texts of animals’ perspectives, connoting in subtle ways both intention and evaluation. We suggest a need for greater dialogue between broadcasters, discourse analysts, and ethologists.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-420
Number of pages21
JournalText & Talk
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • anthropomorphism
  • TV documentaries
  • corpus analysis
  • wildlife
  • pronouns
  • infinitives


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