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4 Field Colloquium: "Language and Creativity OR How to love text messages"

Monday, March 30, 2015
4:00 AM
411 West Hall

Current theory in sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology emphasizes language as doing, as procedural and dynamic. This is evident in the now commonly used term languaging, which constitutes an attempt to rethink the ontological basis of the discipline. Yet, at the same time as we are beginning to formulate a new vocabulary for thinking and speaking about language as social and cultural form, it appears difficult to move away from approaching linguistic practice in terms of structures, patterns and even rules. The idea that language is – in some sense at least – a structured (and thus predictable) system remains pervasive in sociolinguistic and linguistic theory.

In this paper, I take a closer look at the everyday creativity of interactive digital writing (texting or text messaging), and the theoretical implications of such practices (drawing on Deumert 2014). Writers of text messages experience language as an open semiotic practice, where the existence of a norm or convention is always temporary and carries with it the potential for its destruction. Their everyday practices challenge the ways in which linguists have conventionally understood language, and encourage us to focus our attention not on structures and rules, but on the poetics and aesthetics aspects of language. Approaching language as creative practice is not only of interest to linguistic theory, but allows for dialogue and interdisciplinary theory building in the humanities where creativity has emerged as a key topic across a wide range of disciplines, including sociology (Joas 1996), anthropology (Ingold and Hallam 2008), philosophy and psychology (Paul and Kaufman 2014).

Ana Deumert