Your Basket

Your Basket is Empty


Feature - Issue #7

The Grammar of Being

Words by Anna Souter
Conceptual design and flower artistry by Alice McCabe
Featuring the work of Darren Appiagyei

How our use of language can define our relationship with the natural world.

How do we speak with plants? How do we talk of animals? How do we encounter nonhuman lives through our words? The language we use to talk about our ecosystems is both symptomatic of and contributes to how we perceive the more-than-human world.

The English language could be characterised by its ungenerosity towards nonhuman lives; a belief in the supremacy of the human is written into our grammar, inscribed on our tongues. English shuts out the agency of animals and plants, attributing personhood almost exclusively to human beings.

The difficulty lies primarily in the pronouns. In primatologist Jane Goodall’s first scientific paper, she referred to individual chimpanzees as “he” or “she” and used the relative pronoun “who”. Her editor sent it back to her after changing every “he” or “she” to “it” and every “who” to “which”. Goodall pushed back and, perhaps surprisingly, her original pronouns were allowed to stand. The anecdote nevertheless points to a widely held belief that using so-called “anthropomorphic” language about animals or plants is unscientific, imprecise, and even dangerous. The notion of “anthropomorphism” in language is in itself complex. Although some would disagree, it is arguably deeply arrogant to imply that animacy, gender, and consciousness are uniquely human traits; perhaps our experience of these things is a mere shadow of something practiced every day in the multiplicitous lives of plants and animals.

You can continue reading this, alongside all of the content from back issues, by becoming a digital subscriber.


Choose Your Own Leaf, Explore Related Pieces...

View All

Stories - issue #11

Emerging Islands

Interview by Madeleine Bazil with Nicola Sebastian and David Loughran

Poem - ISSUE #11

What Can’t Be Taken

Poem by Andrea Gibson


The Palm Tree Diaspora

Words by Márcio Cruz and artworks by Cédrique Scheidig and Gabriel Moraes Aquino


Staying Power

Words by By Tania Roa and illustration by LĪga Kitchen


Perception Is Cultural – An Ode to Moss

Words and photograph by Ulla Nolden


Grasping the Nettle

Words by Aletta Harrison and illustration by Amelia Rouse

Feature - Issue #11

Wild Arrows

Words by Anna Souter

Feature - Issue #11

Dreaming in Sci-Fi

Words by Akielly Hu and illustrations by Pei-Hsin Cho

Feature - Issue #6

Feature - Issue #7