Conceptual Wandering and Novelty Seeking: Creative Metaphor Production in an L1 and L2

Volume 19
Issue 1
Brian J. Birdsell
This study examined one dimension of metaphoric competence, specifically
creative metaphor production, and analyzed this ability in both a first
and second language. Viewing metaphoric competence as a multifaceted
construct that lies on a continuum from the highly conventional to the highly
creative is widely recognized in the field of cognitive linguistics (see Goatly,
2011; Littlemore, 2010). However, there is scarce research that analyzes
creative metaphor production in individuals using multiple languages.
Creative metaphors, as opposed to conventional ones that rely extensively on
lexical retrieval, require the speaker to combine concepts in unfamiliar and
novel ways. That is to say, it relies on constructing and exploring conceptual
combinations that allow new properties to emerge and this reflects on a small
scale the creative process (Finke, Ward, & Smith, 1992; Miall, 1987). This
article reports on an exploratory study that aimed to measure participants’
creative metaphoric competence in both Japanese (L1) and English (L2). The
results suggest that this ability is an individual difference that underlies one’s
overall linguistic competency for it surfaced in both languages and across
multiple creative metaphor production tasks. I argue that this ability involves
both conceptual wandering, which involves conceptual deviance or the
straying from usual or accepted standard associations, and novelty seeking,
which involves a motivational desire to seek out the unique and unfamiliar.