Why did the Canada goose cross the sea? Accounting for the behaviour of wildlife in the documentary series Life

Alison Sealey, Lee John Oakley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The language investigated here comprises commentaries to a television documentary series about wildlife. We explore debates about the implications of evolutionary theory for accounts of animals’ behaviour, and the challenge facing broadcasters seeking to explain this to a general audience. Our analysis, which was supported by concordancing software, focuses specifically on deontic and dynamic modal constructions. We identify four kinds of ‘obligation’ to which the non-human creatures featured in these texts are represented as being subject. We suggest that the modal system of English is implicated in the inevitable tendency in these broadcasts towards both anthropomorphic and teleological explanations of animals’ behaviour. We conclude that applied linguists have a contribution to offer as broadcasters make decisions about such linguistic choices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-37
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Applied Linguistics
Volume24
Issue number1
Early online date15 Jan 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2014

Keywords

  • corpus linguistics
  • discourse analysis
  • language & ecology
  • language and the media
  • modal verbs

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