Language Workshop

Language Workshop

This session addresses the topic of English language complexity in its various manifestations and dimensions, i.e., structural, grammatical, cultural and cognitive, with the aim of exploring the spectrum ranging from conventionality to creativity.

As complexity scientists have been pointing out in the last few decades, complex systems are notable for their flexibility, adaptability and non-linearity (discontinuity) – properties which distinguish them from rigidly ordered systems. At the same time, however, if correctly investigated, complex systems exhibit an underlying coherence which provides structure and dynamic continuity, allowing them to reach temporary stability and preventing them from becoming chaotic. We would like to explore the idea that languages can be considered complex and dynamic systems, comprising phonetic, morphological, lexical, semantic and pragmatic sub-systems. Each sub-system is characterized by a complex interplay of variables and components which dynamically interact with the context letting meanings emerge in more or less predictable ways.

Conventionality and creativity stand at the two extremes of a continuum along which various degrees of complexity can be identified. Conventionality refers to the typical default ways with which we express meanings, including formulaic expressions, text types and genres, conversational routines, grammar rules and social norms, among others. Certain form-meaning associations become crystallized through repetitive use and produce common patterns of thought,  thus providing quick access to meaning and reducing inferential load.

Creativity typically involves bending rules and norms in language, deliberately manipulating its forms and meaning-making potential. Moreover, for language to be interpreted as creative, it needs to in some way “stand out”, as typically occurs with creative figures of speech, unusual collocations, violations of word formation rules, unpredictable compounds, among others. Both conventionality and creativity provide interpretive frameworks specific to each level of language organisation; moreover, the tension between the two forces represents a crucial dimension of diachronic change.

It is our persuasion that the English language today is a privileged domain of observation for understanding the complexities of verbal communication between conventionality and creativity. We therefore welcome presentations in the following macro-areas of English language studies: morphology, lexicology/ lexicography, translation and contrastive studies, intercultural communication, text and discourse analysis, figurative language (synchronic and diachronic perspectives).

For each area, a non-exhaustive sample of possible research topics is offered:

  1. Morphology: creativity vs. productivity in word-formation; analogy vs. rule; creativity in First Language Acquisition and in Second/Foreign Language Learning; creative compounds; complexity in compounds; complex words; new combining forms; combining forms vs. blend splinters; analogical words; nonce formations; morphopragmatics;
  2. Lexicology/lexicography:  new words, neologisms, nonce words and occasionalisms in the news, in journalism, in advertising, in Internet English, in specialised (medical, economic, political, legal, etc.) lexicon; novel terminology in medical/economic/political/legal jargon; new vocabulary in young people’s speech; trendy neologisms; lexical complexity and theoretical models; the mental lexicon; lexical pragmatics; the acquisition of English lexis in learning English as a foreign language (normal and pathological conditions); lexical complexity in diachrony; complexity, creativity and conventionality in dictionaries and  lexicographic tools ; the English lexicon and its varieties;
  3. Translation (interpreting) and  contrastive studies:  new approaches, paradigms and theories in the 21st century; challenges for translation theory and translation practice in specialized domains (literary, scientific, audiovisual texts); the relationship between theory and creativity; the translation/adaptation of creative new words in films, formulaic language (idioms, collocations, routines, phraseology); complexity, creativity and conventionality in LSP research and translation across languages and cultures;
  4. Intercultural communication:  English words across cultures; intercultural and societal dimensions of language change; the cultural dimensions of specialised discourse; politeness in intercultural exchanges; transferring knowledge across cultures;
  5. Text and discourse analysis: complexity, creativity and conventionality across communicative contexts and genres, (e.g., specialised discourse, professional settings, academic settings, new media); methodological approaches for analyzing complexity, creativity and conventionality in discourse, (e.g., corpus methods, qualitative analyses, case studies);
  6. Figurative language: conventional and creative metaphors, figures of speech in different texts, genres and domains.



Prof. Marcella Bertuccelli (

Prof. Silvia Bruti (

Prof. Belinda Crawford (



Prof. Giuliana Garzone (