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Humanising Language Teaching
Year 6; Issue 3; September 04

Ideas from the Corpora

Language and creativity: the art of common talk

Ronald Carter
Routledge, 2004

Here are some quotes from the book:

Do we just use language? Or do we create it?
Who says only a genius can be creative?
What do our everyday conversations tell us about ourselves?

...Drawing on a range of real examples of everyday conversations and speech, from flatmates in a student house and families on holiday to psychotherapy sessions and chatlines , the book argues that creativity is an all pervasive feature of everyday language. Using close analysis of naturally occurrring language taken from the unique, 5 million word corpus held at the University of Nottingham, Language and creativity reveals that speakers commonly make meanings in a variety of creative ways, in a wide range of social contexts and for a diverse set of reasons.

Waitress 1 The ham-sandwich at table 11 wants the bill
Waitress 2 Ok, I'll get it.

Waitress: Are you the fish?
Customer: No, my husband is.

Creativity and dimensions of discourse:

Sentencestretches of discourse
Invented datanaturally occurring data
Ideal individual speakerreal speaker
Rule-governed creativityco-creativity talk
Referentialrepresentational and expressive
Transactionalinteractional and affective
Truth-conditional meaningcontextual meanings

New words for old: morphological inventiveness

The parsley has to be kind of finelyish chopped

His dancers... Are so undancerly they look as if they'd never say no to a McDonalds...

Professor Michael Halliday writes:

"Professor Carter has always recognised that casual, spontaneous conversation is extraordinarily rich in the way its speakers use the resources of their language. Thanks to the Cancode corpus he has been able to document this creativity with dialogue taken from real life..."

[Editorial note: We hope to run a review of this major book in one of the next issues.]

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