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date: 01 December 2020

The Nature of Productivity (Including Word Formation Versus Creative Coining)locked

  • Andrew SpencerAndrew SpencerDepartment of Language and Linguistics, University of Essex

Summary

The term productivity most commonly applies to word formation, but in principle it can be applied to any linguistic process. A process is said to be productive if it applies without restriction to give rise to novel expressions, for instance, new words. Ideally, speakers apply productive processes without conscious deliberation and in principle they can be applied by any and all competent native speakers. Creative coining of words, by contrast, is typically a one-off intentional act (nonce word creation), often of one individual, and often with the aim of drawing attention to the coined word for the purposes of advertising, humor, and so on. Creative coining often involves extra-grammatical processes which cannot be described deterministically, unlike bona fide linguistic rules. However, many productive processes are restricted in various ways, and some of the extra-grammatical devices are very frequent, so the distinction between productive, grammatical word formation and (nonce) word creation is blurred.

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