Metonymy and Text Messaging: A Framework for Understanding Creative Uses of Metonymy

Littlemore, Jeannette and Tagg, Caroline (2018). Metonymy and Text Messaging: A Framework for Understanding Creative Uses of Metonymy. Applied Linguistics, 39(4) pp. 481–507.



The significance of linguistic creativity in everyday situations is now widely recognized in applied linguistics. There has been substantial discussion of the role played by various tropes in the development of linguistic creativity. However, there is one trope which has been relatively underexplored in this literature. Metonymy—the use of one entity, process or event to refer to another related entity, process or event—is an important means of communication as it allows people to formulate and express ideas succinctly as well as serving a range of communicative functions. The use of metonymy as a creative linguistic resource has received very little attention in the literature on everyday creativity. To show how metonymy is used creatively in everyday texts, this article reports findings from an in-depth study of metonymy in an 11,067-word corpus of textmessages. We highlight the role of metonymy as a creative resource, and propose a framework for categorizing and explaining creative uses of metonymy. The framework identifies two non-mutually exclusive forms of creativity involving metonymy: one based on meaning and one based on form.

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