Everyday creativity in language: textuality, contextuality and critique

Maybin, Janet and Swann, Joan (2007). Everyday creativity in language: textuality, contextuality and critique. Applied Linguistics, 28(4) pp. 497–517.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/amm036


This paper starts by examining recent work by applied linguists who argue that creativity is not only a property of especially skilled and gifted language users, but is pervasive in routine everyday practice. Also variously addressing literariness, language play and humour, this apparent democratisation of creativity contributes to a more general refocussing within applied linguistics on language users as creative designers of meaning. Alongside the textual analysis of poetic form, there has been an increasing interest in the interactional functions of creativity, suggesting the need for a more dynamic model which can address the dialogical nature of everyday creativity, its sociohistorical dimensions and processes of contextualisation. In order to suggest how such a model could be developed, the authors draw on Russian sociohistorical conceptions of the evaluative function of language as social sign and bring together the applied linguistic research with work from linguistic anthropology on contextualisation, framing and reflexivity within performance. While linguistic anthropologists have focussed mainly on traditional oral art, the authors argue that the framing and critical potential of performance is also keyed by more fleeting uses of poetic language in everyday interaction. In relation to four contrasting examples of data, they suggest how an integrated analytical framework might be developed which addresses textual, contextual and critical dimensions of creativity.

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