Call for papers for a symposium at the European Systemic Functional Linguistics Conference

Conference Date: Online 15-17 September 2021
Deadline for Submissions: 28 May 2021

Alison Moore and Daniel Lees Fryer

In recent years, the humanities and social sciences have witnessed an “animal turn”, an increasing interest in and centering of the lives of nonhuman animals and human-animal relations (Ritvo 2007, Pedersen 2014, inter alia), often situated within the context of social justice (Celermajer et al. 2021). We might expect this animal turn to have been taken up in systemic functional linguistics (SFL) and social semiotics (SFS), given their focus on language, representation, ideology and identity, but there has been no such significant body of critical work (Moore 2014). Inspired by the theme of ESFLC 2021, we want in this symposium to explore the contributions that social semiotics and systemic functional linguistics can make to understanding and improving animal lives and human-animal relations. Our plan is to bring selected papers from the symposium together with some invited pieces to produce a special issue or edited volume.


There is a rich history in systemic functional theory and social semiotics, as well as in related fields such as critical linguistics and critical discourse analysis, of studying language and meaning as social action (e.g. Kress and Hodge 1979, Hodge and Kress 1988, Fairclough 1992, Martin 2004). Indeed a core premise of SFL has been that the study of language, text, and context is never neutral, but rather “a mode of intervention in critical social practices” (Halliday 1993: 223-224). We note that “intervention” here includes practising linguistics or semiotics in a way that maintains the status quo, whether deliberate or not. A related theme thathas energised SFL/SFS is the insistence that meaning potential is unevenly distributed across participants in a culture, usually along the lines of class, gender, ethnicity, generation, and capacity (e.g. Martin 1992: 575-576).

Nonhuman animals are participants in these cultures, too. They are our companions, our protection, our food, our entertainment, our medicine, and our (wild) imagination. Their lives, largely contingent on ours, are precarious and expendable, but their collective and individual interests are not merely subordinate to our own. While animals are probably more affected by material oppression than the symbolic oppression that helps to marginalise certain groups of humans, recent scholarship suggests we underestimate animals’ capacity –and ours –to participate together in the meaning making practices that constitute everyday multispecies life (Brooks Pribac 2021, Celermajer 2021). But either way, our meaning making practices as humans are central to what kind of life the members of other species can live.

In this symposium, we invite papers that respond to the animal turn, to the animal other, or more generally to the lives of nonhuman animals from a social semiotic or systemic functional perspective. We particularly welcome proposals that seek to advance nonhuman animals’ interests (though this may be a longterm goal beyond the specific academic project).

Papers can include, but need not be limited to, the following topics:

• Inter-and intraspecies communication
• Animal advocacy and/or animal liberation
• Animals and the media
• Animals and education
• Animals and medicine
• Animals and the climate predicament
• Animal agriculture•Animal studies or critical animal studies
• Animals and nationalism
• Animals and social justice
• Glottocentrism
• Critical reflection on disciplinary theory and practice

Paper proposals:

Abstracts for papers should be sent to both symposium organisers (details below) by 28 MAY. They should follow the ESFLC 2021 guidelines and contain a short title, name(s) of presenter(s), affiliation(s), a summary of up to 250 words (excluding references), and up to five key words.

For more information, please contact the symposium organisers, or visit the ESFLC 2021 website:

Contact information:
Alison Moore:
Daniel Lees Fryer:


Brooks Pribac, Teja. 2021. Enter the animal.Sydney: Sydney University Press.
Celermajer, Danielle. 2021. Summertime. Sydney: Hamish Hamilton/Penguin.
Celermajer, Danielle, Schlossberg, David, Rickards, Lauren, et al. 2021. “Multispecies justice: theories,challenges, and a research agenda for environmental politics.” Environmental Politics30: 119-140.
Fairclough, Norman. 1992. Discourse and social change. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Halliday, M. A. K. 2003 [1993]. “Language in a changing world.” In Volume 3 in the collected works of M. A. K. Halliday. On language and linguistics,edited by Jonathan J. Webster, 213-231. London: Continuum.
Hodge, Robert, and Gunther Kress. 1988. Social semiotics. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Kress, Gunther, and Robert Hodge. 1979. Language as ideology. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Martin, J. R. 1992. English text: system and structure. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Martin, J. R. 2004. “Positive Discourse Analysis: Power, solidarity and change.” Revista canaria de estudios Ingleses49: 179-202.
Moore, Alison Rotha. 2014. “That could be me: Identity and identification in discourses about food, meat, and animal welfare.” Linguistics & the Human Sciences9: 59-93. Special Issue on Identity, edited by Alexanne Don.
Pedersen, Helena. 2014. “Knowledge production in the “animal turn”: multiplying the image of thought, empathy, and justice.” In Exploring the animal turn: human-animal relations in science, society and culture, edited by Erika Andersson Cederholm, Amelie Björck, Kristina Jennbert and Ann-Sofie Lönngren, 13-18. Lund: Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies.
Ritvo, Harriet. 2007. “On the animal turn.” Daedalus136 (4): 118-122.