History, discourse analysis, and corpus linguistics show the green movement (humankind's response to issues affecting the environment) to have proliferated both ecological ideologies and the linguistic tools to discuss them, (R. J. Alexander, 2002; Bang, Døør, Steffensen, & Nash, 2007; Carvalho, 2007; Mahlberg, 2007; Wang, 2009) showing the development of green or environmental language in the lexicon. The topic has also left its mark on the market, and green market research has shown effects of messages on perceptions of green brands (Phau & Ong, 2007) and profiles of m (J. A. Roberts, 1996). However , surprisingly little research has been done on how these terms are used, whether some words are more green than others, nor how effective these terms are in persuading consumers to buy green. Thus, the goal of this study is to identify the use of green terms, what consumers see as green terms and how they perceive products advertised using green language. Experiment one examined the development of environmental terms using Google Book's NGram Viewer (Google, 2011) and the Corpus of Historical American English (COHA) (M. Davies, 2010) and Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) (Davies, 2008). Results revealed changes in the use of several green terms over time, including the creation of several following the 1960s, as well as increased collocation with other terms associated with the environmental movement. Experiment two examined green terms for levels of perceived greenness. Different levels of greenness for several words were identified, with words like environmentally friendly rating positively and industrial rating negatively. Experiment three examines the effects of a word's level of greenness on participants' perceptions of automobile, personal care, and cleaning products' attractiveness, effectiveness, buyability, and environmental friendliness. . Green words were shown to have a significant effect on participants' values of attractiveness and buyability for personal care and cleaning products, effectiveness for cleaning products, and environmental friendliness for both aforementioned products. Significant differences between automobile types were also found. Implications include an affirmation of the link between world view and language, the use of large corpora to view semantic shift, and application of the data in green marketing.



College and Department

Humanities; Linguistics and English Language



Date Submitted


Document Type





corpus linguistics, marketing, environment, sociolinguistics, green language



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Linguistics Commons