Metaphorical Expressions And Green Grammar Alternatives In Acehnese Fishing Community: A Critical Eco-Linguistic Perspective


The paper is aimed to identify and describe metaphorical expressions related to fishing activity in Acehnese fishing community, located in Aceh Province, Sumatra, Indonesia through critical eco-linguistic perspective and the alternative structure based on green grammar concept to obtain harmonious relations among the respective objects of nature. A reciprocal relation between language and environment is under the eco-linguistic study as language is a part and product of environment, unseparated from human life, tending to the achievement of global harmony. Based on dialectical theory, eco-linguistic covers three dimensional social praxis; ideological, sociological, and biological. This study attends to qualitative method with its phenomenological approach, giving vivid social pictures, benefited to be analyzed to support and uplift the welfare of the people in a whole. The result of the analysis shows that several metaphorical expressions are implemented by means of the three dimensions concerning the fishing activity. The use of green grammar alternative is proposed to give a constructive relation rather than a destructive one, the first siding to all living creatures, the second standing opposite. This paper is proposed to have a harmonious relationship between language and ecology in order that the change of ecology does not affect the loss of traditional wisdom, ideology as well as culture as the ethnical identity of a community.

Keywords: Metaphorical expressionsGreen grammarcritical eco-linguistics


One of the indigenous languages spoken mostly in Aceh Province, located in the tip of Sumatra Island, Indonesia. Durie (1985) claimed that Acehnese belongs to Chamic branch of the Malayo-Polynesian which is under the branch of Austronesian language family. Acehnese has an essential role in various domains of life in the community for it can unite all the family members of the community as well as the identity of Acehnese people. As a tool of communication among the members of the community, Acehnese is also used in various traditional and cultural discourses, as fishing ritual discourse.

The reciprocal relationship between language and culture had been echoed long time ago. Language is supposed to manifest various cultural belief, activity, concept, norm and value as well as ideology of the community. However, many elements of human culture are regarded the influences of the given environment (see Sapir, 1912). In line with the above explanation, it is common to hear Acehnese is expressed in the cultural discourse by metaphoric expression as the example “lagee bieng bak babah bubee” (like the crab stays in front of a plaited rattan made to trap the fish). This expression delivers a negative meaning, a condition which gives suffer to others. The metaphoric expression implies any lexicons taken from the environment, as being (crab).

Based on critical eco-linguistic perspective, the language used is structured by considering the relationship between the human life and the ecology where the life takes place. The use of language is also directed to the constructive relation rather than the destructive one due to the harmonious relationship between the human being and the ecology or environment. It is hoped that the final result is proposed to achieve a global harmonious relationship among culture, environment, and its community in order that the ecological changes happened do not give impact to the mess of norms and values, to ideology as well as culture as a part of ethnical identity of a community. One of the ways to maintain the relationship is supposed to offer a constructive grammar which takes side with the environment which Goatly (1996) proposed as green grammar.

However, it has been indicated that there is a concrete reality of human behavior which anxiously can disturb the maintenance of local or cultural knowledge and harmonious ecosystem which shapes to the changes of human perspective and behavior of the local community relating to various lexicons existing in fishing domain. Critical eco-linguistic analysis includes, the application of critical discourse analysis to texts about the environment and environmentalism, in order to reveal underlying ideologies. Further, it includes analysis of any discourse which deals with ecology and environment, and all issues dealing with environment. Comparing to the other critical discourse analysis which focus on economic and social discourse and discursive constructions of consumerism, gender, politics, agriculture and also nature. Critical eco-linguistic analysis does not just focus on ideologies which has been exposed and damaged, but also searches for representations which can give contribution so that the ecological society can be sustainable. By following the eco-linguistic framing, the study will explore the phenomena happened to the lexicons constructing metaphorical expressions.

Problem Statement

The purpose of this study is to describe the metaphorical expressions related to fishing activity in Acehnese community which covers the three dimensional of social praxis under the eco-linguistic study. The three dimensions cover biological, ideological and sociological dimensions. The other problem is purposed to offer the alternative grammar for the metaphorical expression which is supposed to give impact to environment constructively. It is supposed to weave a harmonious life among culture, environment, and human being.

Research Questions

How are the forms of metaphorical expressions relating to fishing in Acehnese community?

How is the green grammar perspective towards the expressions relating to maintain the environment of Acehnese fishing community?

Purpose of the Study

This study is purposed to explore the lexicons relating to the fishing activity in the metaphorical expressions which cover the three dimensions of social praxis.

To alternate construction of the expression by basing them with green grammar.

Research Methods

This research follows qualitative method proposed by Creswell (2005). The approach or tradition applying in this research is phenomenology field research approach. The data were gathered mainly by noting from various documentation and sources. The data are in the form of metaphorical written expression completed with the meaning. Then all the data gathered as well as the meaning were confronted to selected respondents. This research also apply in-depth interview with the respondents of Acehnese fishing community of Acehnese by recording and note taking techniques through their native language. (Creswell, 1998, 2005, 2009 compare with Kuswarno, 2007, 2009).

The phenomenological steps proposed by Creswell (1998) are applied to analyze the available data. It can be summed up that it is supposed to get the holistic and accurate meaning, every phenomenon expressed by the respondents was described texturally and structurally. The result of the analysis was presented in the form of formal and informal methods.

Some concepts of eco-linguistics used in this study to analyze the reciprocal changes between environment and the language use is supposed to be able to describe the shift of norms and value of the cultural, and also the traditional wisdom existing in the community. On the other hand, the culture is potentially able to force the language as the consequence of the force towards the environment happened previously. The concepts cover critical eco-linguistics, sustainability, eco-linguistic parameters, and traditional or local wisdom. Furthermore, the theoretical framework includes the clarification of eco-linguistics as the interdisciplinary study which involves language and environment (ecology/ecosystem). Then, this study also describes the relationship dialectically between language and language government as well as human domination (Bundsgaard & Sune, 2000). The interrelation among the three is figured out below (Figure 01 ):

Figure 1: Logical dimension model from Bang and Door (1993)
Logical dimension model from Bang and Door (1993)
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The three dimensional diagram from social domination above shows that language is the unity of the three dimension in which one cannot be separated with other. The three dimensions include 1). Ideological dimension which refers to the individual and collective mental, cognitive, ideological and psychic system; 2). Sociological dimension refers to the way we interact with others and to keep the collective relationship; 3). biological dimension refers to collectivity and coexistence between human being and other living creatures. The first problem was answered by following this concept.

Now the discussion turns to the ways in which the proper language use to describe material process in linguistic systemic functional is inconsonant with modern scientific theory (Goatly, 1996) as Gaia theory (see Lovelock, 1986). Goatly (1996) claimed that material process in transitivity is the most inconsonant, even though this process is regarded congruent. The followings are the conditions of the material process in transitivity which make them inconsonant (Goatly, 1996):

(1) Participants whether it is agentive or affected, and the circumstance are regarded unsuitable with the modern scientific theory in general and Gaia theory in particular. Such structure is claimed to be the handicap in achieving the notion of undivided wholeness

(2) Agent and the affected participant division are not suitable with the matter being active or with the mechanism feedback of Gaia. Consequently, it represents a false direction of cause and effect.

(3) Agent and the affected participant in one hand and circumstantial in the other hand can be regarded misguided for it states that environment which occurs by the latter is being powerless.

(4) Transitivity categorizes phenomena into process and thing, and this is uncertain to the understanding of modern physics.

Goatly (1996) argued that literal and congruent less than conventional metaphors, for congruent represent an anthropocentric. In the contrary, nominalization in grammatical metaphors and other labels in transitivity system and other resources of ergative system are able to harness to construct consonant grammar which reflects epistemology of current scientific and ecological ontology. Based on the explanation above, the critical discourse analysis, in this case critical eco-linguistic is regarded suitable to the idea toward green thought to avoid anthropocentrism and human domination of the environment by technology for their own individualized interests. Table 01 depicts the Social Praxis Dimensions in Acehnese Metaphors.

Table 1 -
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Metaphorical expressions of fishing discourse in Acehnese Community

Some metaphorical data and expressions were found in fishing discourse in Acehnese community relating to three dimensions offered by eco-linguistic social praxis.

Metaphors relating to biological dimension

[1] laen krueng laen lingkok, laen lhok laen buya

Different river different bay, different deep pool in a stream different crocodile

Different place will present different culture and habit.

The metaphorical expression above reflects the natural environment as the living background of the community. Based on this, the expression represents the different situation, including: culture, ideology, ways of life and behavior of the members of the community. It also draws that environment will give impact to the way of thinking of the local community and it is realized by the pattern of the language use. It is understood that Acehnese community live in the particular geographical condition in which ocean, river and stream around the mainland.

[2] lagee bieng bak babah bubee

Like crab PREP mouth fish trap

It is like a crab in front of the fish trap made by rattan

The above metaphor shows that the members of the community are very familiar with the environment around them. They have a cognitive understanding about the species or living creature, in this case a crab and its character. Based on the condition of the environment, they are used to using a particular traditional tool to trap the fish which usually exist in the river, in the swamp, or other area in which fishes exist. Accordingly, this condition is realized in the speech pattern which implies the lessons, suggestion or even an allusion. This metaphor reflects the meaning that someone prevents to do a job or task in order that others cannot do that job because others think that the job is other’s responsibility. This metaphor implies the negative condition in society.

Metaphors relating to ideological dimension

[3] lagee ta peutimang Qur’an brok

Like we Pre hold Qur’an bad

It is like to hold in hand the worn out holy qur’an

Acehnese people are recognized as religious ethnic in which Islam is their belief. As a Muslim society, they put a high respect to holy Qur’an. In real, al qur’an cannot be put in any old ways and place. Furthermore it cannot be served as the ordinary book. When someone would like to read it, it must be sure that the body should be clean. A worn qur’an is of course not able to read clearly anymore due to the unclear writing. On the other hand, due to the holiness, Qur’an is forbidden to throw away. It is regarded as the difficult situation, there is a feeling of being sinful if the qur’an is thrown away, but impossible to read.

The above metaphor is analogized to a respected person or a religious as well as knowledgeable person. However, the condition of the person has been already senile. Frankly, taking care of a senile person is not easy, because he always asks everything which is regarded impossible to serve. However, if it is not given a quick response, it would be regarded improper. It is a dilemma.

However, this metaphor reflects the cognitive understanding about the ideology of the community with the use of Qur’an lexicon. It also delivers a traditional wisdom that old man, specially religion and knowledgeable person should be respected.

Metaphors relating to social dimension

4] peusabe puk ngon ureung tuha

Pre same speak with people old

Be together with old people

The use of lexicon ureung tuha in the above metaphors shows the social dimension in the praxis. This metaphor delivers a cultural wisdom of Acehnese. It contains a suggestion to kids or young people not to get involved with the old people discussion. Based on traditional knowledge, this action will be regarded impolite. Young people and the old one have their own level or rank in social strata. Each stratum has its own domain. So, each domain should not get involved with other, due to the different topic of discussion.

[5] rumoh meuadat, pukat meukaja

House Pre culture, boat Pre rope

House has culture, boat has rope

Usually this metaphor is preceded by the expression umong meuateung, ureueng meupeutua, used in farming domain. This metaphor reflects the cultural wisdom which delivers a lesson that every domain has its own rules which govern all the members of the domain to lead their lives. They cannot go beyond that in order that their way of lives will be in the right direction. The above metaphor represents the social institution in Acehnese community as rumoh and pukat represent the domain, adat and kaja represent the rules.

Green grammar alternatives towards the expressions relating to maintain the environment of Acehnese fishing community

It is common to understand that language can reflect the idea, intentions and also the ideology of the users. Based on eco-linguistic perspective, language is supposed to maintain the environment from the destructive action. However, once the language use can contribute destructive, beneficial or even ambivalent (Stibe, 2015). In line with this, eco-linguistics offers the alternatives of sentence construction to have an ethical framework which promotes the “culture of peace” (see Carbaugh, 2007; Stibe, 2015). The sentence construction is regarded more acceptable with the environment sustainability. In English, this construction changes the agent with there as: someone in the family has died becomes there has been a death in the family. There is the extential option which usually relates to nominalization and the incongruent choice in a process in relation. This structure is supposed to make possible to state an argumentation which involves a process without stating the participants (actor/ agent). Table 02 compares the structure of the sentences (Original expression vs Green grammar alternative).

Table 2 -
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The above sentences in the right column are more acceptable compare with sentences in the left side. It is due that the left one tends to show human domination towards the environment. The structure of the sentences in the left column show the situation influenced by the process of human action which tend to damage the environment. On the contrary, the sentence structures in the right side with various alternatives tend to be more acceptable with the environment because it shows the natural process of the action. The existence of the prefix teu replaces the agent and patient in the sentences, so that it shows the result of the action, not the process in which the agent dominates it. This is the way that Green grammar is intended to show the process without getting involve the clear participants.

Furthermore, in line with the principles that green grammar offers to construct a sentence, Acehnese has also its own way to express the activity. For the instance, Acehnese prefers to say troun u la’ot or jak u la’ot (go to the ocean) instead of saying keumawe eungkot (to catch the fish). The meanings implied the two sentences remain the same, however, the first sentence does not show the participant (recipient), but the second shows the participant “engkout” as the recipient from the action keumawe.


Acehnese fishing community still maintain the lexicons relating to the fishing domain, it is proven that the lexicons are represented in the metaphors which reflect the local wisdom of the community. Based on the eco-linguistic perspective, the green grammar structure is regarded ideal to a harmonious relation between the community and the environment.


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30 March 2020

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Pratiwy, D., Asnani, A., Pardi, P., & Manugeren, M. (2020). Metaphorical Expressions And Green Grammar Alternatives In Acehnese Fishing Community: A Critical Eco-Linguistic Perspective. In N. Baba Rahim (Ed.), Multidisciplinary Research as Agent of Change for Industrial Revolution 4.0, vol 81. (pp. 404-411). European Publisher.