"Nature" and "environment" in German and Portuguese sustainable development strategies for Johannesburg 2002
The recent Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development was an important symbolic moment, in spite of the poor results some people claim to have emerged from it. The very fact that official written texts were produced for a wide discussion in many participating countries is a positive side-effect, as it enables the almost unique possibility of using parallel corpora for the analysis of the respective language and underlying assumptions. This could lead to the identification of some potential
... of some potential causes for conflicts and misunderstandings. Both texts were produced according to a (supposedly, at least) common intention, so they may be seen as functionally equivalent. In spite of that, there are obviously huge differences, not only in extension, but also in the type of lexical combinations and stylistic features used. Words like ambiente, in the Portuguese language, and Umwelt, in German, as well as natureza/Natur, appear in very different lexical environments, so that one can, by means of a distributive methodology, obtain a picture of what might be intended with their use in the two countries. Another issue brought about by this analysis was a reflection on the concept of "foreign" language. This raises the question not only of knowing whether, or to what extent, written texts like these are really intended to have an effect on (local) people's minds, but also about pragmatic/cultural constraints that have influenced their very shaping.