Download PDFOpen PDF in browser

The Soul of a New Cliché: Conventions and Meta-Conventions in the Creative Linguistic Variation of Familiar Forms

16 pagesPublished: June 22, 2012


Creativity – whether in humans or machines – is more than a matter of simple creation. To be “creative” implies an ability to do more than invent, but an ability to recognize and appreciate the inventions of others. After all, the ability to recognize surprising value in the efforts of others is the same ability we use to guide our own creative efforts. Solipsistic creativity is rare indeed, and most creativity relies on an audience that is creative enough to value our efforts. Of what value is an ability to e.g. speak ironically if we cannot also understand or appreciate the irony of others? The goal of imbuing computers with creative abilities must thus include a sub-goal of enabling computers to recognize and respond appropriately to the creativity of others. As computers are increasingly used to analyze the burgeoning texts of the world-wide-web, the ability to automatically detect and analyze the linguistic creativity of speakers has become more important than ever. In this paper we consider how speakers engage creatively with cliché, to achieve creative ends through the novel variation of familiar linguistic forms. Our computational analysis of a large collection of linguistic patterns on the Web shows that speakers are surprisingly conservative in their variation strategies, and novelty alone rarely leads to creativity. This conformity can make it easier for computers to detect when speakers are using familiar language in truly original ways.

Keyphrases: cliché, language, linguistic creativity, Linguistic norms, linguistics, stereotypes, Web

In: Andrei Voronkov (editor). Turing-100. The Alan Turing Centenary, vol 10, pages 370--385

BibTeX entry
  author    = {Tony Veale},
  title     = {The Soul of a New Clich\textbackslash{}'e: Conventions and Meta-Conventions in  the Creative Linguistic Variation of Familiar Forms },
  booktitle = {Turing-100. The Alan Turing Centenary},
  editor    = {Andrei Voronkov},
  series    = {EPiC Series in Computing},
  volume    = {10},
  pages     = {370--385},
  year      = {2012},
  publisher = {EasyChair},
  bibsource = {EasyChair,},
  issn      = {2398-7340},
  url       = {},
  doi       = {10.29007/lx8f}}
Download PDFOpen PDF in browser