Entrenchment inhibition: Constructional change can be in competition with large-scale 're-compositional' creativity


This paper addresses creativity as inhibition of repetitive behaviour. We argue that entrenchment and constructional change can be in competition with large-scale creative attempts of recomposition of constructions’ internal constituency. After undergoing chunking, the recurrent usage of a construction may be significantly counterbalanced with new attempts of entrenchment inhibition (viz. inhibition of entrenchment). These are cases where speakers opt for more compositional and less predictable ways to express a similar meaning of a conventionalised form. We focus on the constructionalisation of noun–participle compounds (e.g. snow-covered) in the Historical Corpus of American English. During the second part of the twentieth century, speakers increasingly inhibit the usage of conventionalised noun phrase–past participle forms in favour of more compositional strategies involving the same internal constituents. This entails that constructional change not only affects the meaning of the chunk that undergoes constructionalisation but also the way speakers creatively rediscover its internal constituency. These results additionally aim to inform research in cognitive architectures and artificial intelligence, where creativity is often merely considered as a problem-solving mechanism rather than a potential process of inhibition of automatised behaviour.

Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory