Creativity, reuse, and regularity in music and language

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A recent strand in research in historical linguistics has argued that language change often involves constructional routinization (e.g. Traugott and Trousdale 2013), while recent psycholinguistic work has also suggested parallels between alignment, routinization and change (Garrod and Pickering 2013): such routines have been shown to emerge in conversational flow, as a product of interaction between speakers and hearers. Similar claims have been made for the development of musical routines in improvisation: much improvisational work involves the use of pre-fabricated routines (Torrance and Schumann 2018). This article seeks to contribute to the debate on creativity by providing an analysis of some of the similarities and differences between musical and linguistic conventions, including a comparison of creative improvisation in music and innovation in language. The discussion is couched in a cognitive linguistic framework, with a particular focus on linguistic constructions (see the overview in Hoffmann and Trousdale 2013), and a reflection of how this might be extended to consider aspects of the cognitive representation of musical structures.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCognitive Semiotics
Issue number1
Early online date4 Jul 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Jul 2020


  • creativity
  • change
  • interaction
  • routines


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