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Low carbon diet: Reducing the complexities of climate change to human scale

  • Brigitte Nerlich (a1), Vyvyan Evans (a2) and Nelya Koteyko (a3)


For many years, cognitive linguists, such as Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner, have studied meaning construction through language based on intricate mental mapping operations. Their research suggests that conceptual metaphor and conceptual blending permit human beings to reduce very complex issues to human scale. Climate change is such a complex issue. We ask: How is it linguistically reduced to human scale and, in the process, made amenable to thinking and acting? To address these questions, we have analysed the emergence of lexical compounds around a recent key word in debates about climate change in the English speaking world, namely ‘carbon’. One such compound and metaphor/blend is ‘low carbon diet’. In this article we study how the use of the compound ‘low carbon diet’ in an advertising campaign, a book, and by a catering company in the United States permitted US newspapers to reduce climate change to human scale. We have combined and compared metaphor and blending analysis with media and discourse analysis to shed light on the linguistic framing of a real-world problem, that is, we engaged in applied blending analysis.


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