Folk perceptions of language and creativity: Figurative language and play

Folk perceptions of language and creativity: Figurative language and play


MYLT 101

What can an octopus and American coffee tell us about linguistic creativity?

Stephen Skalicky - School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies

The relationship among creativity, humour, and figurative language is often taken for granted, with the assumption that figurative language is naturally also creative and also humorous. This assumption is not necessarily incorrect, as many scholars have drawn  theoretical and empirical links among these three phenomena. Regardless of what the researchers say, what do we know about common, folk perceptions of creativity as they relate to figurative language, such as metaphor and sarcasm?

In this seminar, Stephen reports on a study designed to measure these perceptions. Participants provided self-ratings of creativity for their own language when compared to preconstructed responses containing different combinations of figurative language. Results from ordinal regression models demonstrate participants were less likely to selfrate their answers as more creative when comparing their answers to preconstructed responses containing figurative language, but only for specific metaphors or instances of sarcasm. Moreover, participants who made explicit attempts to include figurative language or play in their response were significantly more likely to self-rate their answers as more creative. These results suggest layperson perceptions of creativity are influenced by figurative language and language play, aligning well with the current scholarly literature.

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