Idiomatic creativity: a pragmatic model for creative idiomatic uses in authentic English discourse

Vo, Thuc Anh (2011) Idiomatic creativity: a pragmatic model for creative idiomatic uses in authentic English discourse. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

PDF - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (27MB) | Preview


This thesis is a corpus-based investigation from a pragmatic perspective or the phenomenon of idiomatic creativity. The ultimate aim of the thesis is to provide comprehensive empirical evidence of the intertwining relationships between different factors of idiomatic creativity and the effects of such relationships on the reassessment of the determinants of idiomatic creativity in context-specific communicative events.

It has often been suggested in the psycholinguistics tradition that the semantic transparency of some idioms facilitates the creative manipulations of such idioms in discourse, while the lack thereof hinders creativity in some others. In other words, the internal characteristics of idioms, including compositionality, analysability and motivation, which contribute towards transparency, arc postulated to determine idiomatic creativity. While theoretical arguments and illustrative examples appear to support such a hypothesis, empirical validation of the hypothesis using large bodies of authentic data is still required for it to gain acceptance in the linguistic community. In the first half of the thesis, therefore, quantitative analyses of corpus data and statistical tests arc carried out to empirically validate the psycho-linguistic hypothesis concerning the semantic determinants of idiomatic creativity. It is found in the analyses and tests that there are significant trends in the data that point towards the prevalence or transparent idioms over opaque ones in terms of both the range and the frequency of their creative manifestations in authentic English discourse.

In the second half of the thesis, with a view to flesh out the otherwise decontextualised and superficial results from such quantitative analyses, qualitative analyses of individual instances of idiom variants in the data are carried out, thus elaborating on the varying degrees or importance of the underlying factors of idiomatic creativity and, notably, their interaction with one another in specific contexts. The results suggest that, together with idioms' semantic characteristics, external factors, including context, cognitive constraints and phraseological constraints, also contribute to idiomatic creativity. It is further revealed that the roles of the facilitating and constraining factors of idiomatic creativity vary according to the particular context-specific types of variant, in which context has the overarching power to overrule certain constraints as well as to disambiguate unusual creative uses. As such, the true functional profile of idiomatic creativity is argued to be best described and predicted in relation to context.

A context-based model of idiomatic creativity in authentic English discourse is therefore proposed in this thesis in the hope that it will contribute to the existing literature on idiomatic creativity and offer a better understanding of the possibilities and constraints on the phenomenon in real life discourse.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Carter, R.A.
Stockwell, P.J.
Subjects: P Language and literature > PE English
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of English
Item ID: 14388
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2014 10:55
Last Modified: 22 Dec 2017 07:56

Actions (Archive Staff Only)

Edit View Edit View