Professor Mike McNulty
August 7th 2014
Question 1 Word Count: 780
The idea of linguistic creativity was actually first talked about over 500 years ago by Rene Descartes with his work the Discourse on Method. There Descartes argued that humans using language by arranging sentences to make their thoughts understood that separates man from beast (Lecture Notes 2014). The creativity of language that was alluded to here still continues to be used as the standard for what separates us from animals, and even machines (Lecture Notes 2014). According to Chomsky: “The essential difference between man and animal is exhibited most clearly by human language, in particular, by man's ability to form statements which express new thoughts and which are appropriate to new situations.” (Lecture Notes 2014). Language separates us because humans are able to use language creativity in order to explain their thoughts and emotions.
Linguistic creativity has two main parts to it, the first being creative word formation (Lecture Notes 2014). There are two different ways to be creative with word formation: first. one can simply make up a new word and attach meaning to it (Lecture Notes 2014). In fact, this is how most words are created and are even put into our dictionary. If this did not happen then our society’s vocabulary would not continue to grow as it does. The second way is by combining existing morphemes (Lecture Notes 2014). By doing this words can now be created using parts of words or from existing words (Lecture Notes 2014). Vocabulary is always evolving in order to keep up with technology and the ever changing society we live in. For example using the word “unfriending” when describing facebook, or using “text” as a verb. The second part of linguistic creativity is creativity of sentence construction. People are always creating new sentences by easily combining words to try to express their thoughts (Lecture Notes 2014). There are millions of sentences that have never even been created before. In the video Colourless Green Ideas we see George Carlin demonstrate this exact point by taking words and combining them to make new sentences. Another example was shown in our lecture notes: “On a beautiful night in Montréal during the summer of 2004, McNulty sat at his computer composing a lecture and dreaming about going camping when his work was finally done.” (Lecture Notes 2014). There are an infinite amount of possible words in the world meaning there can be an infinite amount of combinations that haven’t been made yet. Through linguistic creativity it allows us to truly look at the meaning behind language.
When I say it allows us to look at the meaning of language I mean for example that meaning is malleable (Lecture Notes 2014). When you look at any sentence you are able to see that the sentence, words, and context of the sentence could have several sources. In other words the meaning can easily be changed. “Each word has its own meaning, separate from the meaning of the sentence, and different arrangements of words create sentences with new meanings” (Lecture Notes 2014). Linguistic creativity also looks at how grammar and meaning are independent with language. Grammatical rules determine how words can be put together. Although words have meanings in and of themselves and in sentences, not all combinations are possible (Lecture Notes 2014). For example going back to the video Colourless Green Ideas the sentence “The big red balloon” is never said as “The red big balloon.” Automatic ordering is something we automatically do, and shows yet again how there are just certain ways to form sentences. Through this we can see that we can construct grammatically correct sentences that can be meaningless. Chomsky gives this line as an example: “Colourless green ideas sleep furiously.”(Lecture Notes 2014). Although this sentence makes absolutely no sense, it does work as a grammatically correct sentence. Linguistic