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Creativity meets convention: idiom variation and remetaphorization in ELF
1TU Dortmund University
Citation Information: . Volume 1, Issue 1, Pages 27–55, ISSN (Online) 2191-933X, ISSN (Print) 2191-9216, DOI: 10.1515/jelf-2012-0003, March 2012
- Published Online:
This article discusses creativity in English as a lingua franca (ELF) and its link to a phenomenon of conventional language use, namely the use of idioms. Reviewing a number of approaches to creativity in linguistics, it attempts to address some of the salient and recurring issues that different conceptualizations have in common, such as the importance of norms and conventions for the occurrence of creativity. It proposes a two-fold distinction between norm-following and norm-developing creativity that relates to the synchronic-diachronic dimension of language variation and change, and it suggests that such a conceptualization of creativity may be particularly relevant for ELF. Referring to general findings of previous ELF research, the article builds on the assumption that ELF is generally effective in communication, in spite of the considerable variability in linguistic forms it exhibits, and proposes that creativity might serve as a fundamental concept in accounting for the variability and situational adaptability that seems to be central to ELF. Using this conceptualization as a basis, the article reports on the findings of an extensive qualitative corpus linguistic study on the variation of idioms in spoken ELF. It provides a short overview of formal characteristics of creative idioms, points out dimensions of metaphorical creativity and illustrates the range of discourse functions of creative idioms and metaphors in the Vienna-Oxford International Corpus of English (VOICE). Exploring the general tension between creativity and convention in language use, the article stresses the importance of the intrinsic (diachronic) link between two seemingly distinct (synchronic) categories, i.e. conventional idioms and creative metaphors, and suggests that this link is paramount to the intelligibility and functionality of variable idiom use in ELF. It suggests that processes like idiomatizing and re-metaphorization take precedence over distinct categories like idiom and metaphor in the context of ELF research.