Students’ ‘Creative Language’ in Action: To What Extent Is It Acceptable Collocation? 1

(An abstract of paper presented at an international conference; by one NEB)

Obvious from their especially written language, one feature of students’ language production which goes unnoticed—let alone analyzed—is their so-called ‘creative language’ (after one human language characteristics put forward by Chomsky [1965 and 1966], i.e., the creative aspect of language). This is taken to mean that students, when trying to express themselves in their ideas, often attempt to create their very own language doing so in both phrases and sentences. One problem which may arise at this point is that the creative, self-constructed language they produce may not sound English specially in writing and to native speakers of English.

The creative language I mention here is what is formally and academically known as ‘collocation’, which is simply a group of words which belong together and which are accepted to be common and/or English-sounding as judged by native speakers of English. Collocation can be either common fixed phrases, common idioms, expressions prompted by local pragmatic norms and values (Antoni and Gunawan 2005 and Antoni 2010—supporting Kirkpatrick 2001), or self-created language (SCL) out of the creativity of language and students alike, which may pose the above-said problem and which is what this paper seeks to address.

This paper firstly discusses the nature of creative language as likened to collocation in the given category of SCL. It secondly renders examples of students’ creative language taken from their unedited writing tasks or assignments. It thirdly weighs them as to how they may or may not be accepted as appropriate collocation, offering ways to try so making use of information technology. It reveals that all students’ collocations are intelligible and almost all prove common to the degree that they are used fairly frequently. It lastly offers the topic’s implications on the teaching of collocation.

Key words: creative language, collocation, fixed expressions.

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