Friday, November 18, 2011

Collocations, creativity and education

Many words, most of the times, are always associated with other words. They always tend to go along with their “partners”. For instance, ‘Abject’ always goes with ‘Poverty’, ‘Blonde’ with ‘hair’ and ‘flock’ with ‘sheep’.

This fascinating feature of the language has its place in linguistics with the term- ‘Collocations’. Linguistics, the science of language, not only acknowledges their presence but also helps the beginners to understand them.

Collocation, though very effective way of expression, can not be formed just by placing any word along with any other. Collocations need to be formed, rather than, they are made to form. They are outcome of the efforts to express in minimum words without diluting the meaning.

A collocation, once formed out of such efforts, becomes part of the language. Its one word is juxtaposed with the other and its usage becomes so customary that its words are recognized only as part of it. ‘Abject’ has a clear identification mostly with ‘Poverty’.

When a collocation is formed, its words lose their original shades of meanings. The word ‘Herculean’ has lost its simple meaning- “Of Hercules”, ever since the collocation “Herculean Task” became part of the language.

But after its overuse, the collocation becomes a cliché and loses the sharpness of its first usage. Then, a chief guest is always ‘Eminent Personality.’ All difficult tasks are then either ‘Herculean’ or ‘Daunting.’ ‘Competition’ becomes always ‘Cutthroat.’ Whenever interest rates fall sharply, they always reach ‘Rock-Bottom Level.’ A manufacturing firm always has ‘Cutting – Edge Technology’. A sudden change is always ‘Drastic Change’
This overuse leads to ‘Stagnancy’ in the language and then a need to construct new collocations to express one’s thoughts emerges. Genius writers and poets do many experiments. They abstain themselves from using cliches and while doing that, old combinations are destructed and new combinations are constructed. It is indeed a creative process. Many times they appear bizarre, weird and even esoteric. But this process, which I would like to call ‘Creative Juxtaposition’, continues until the writer or poet is satisfied.

We should get into the process of ‘Creative Juxtaposition’ unknowingly and for this we should recall our childhood endeavors of creative experimentation. Children are deemed to be cute when they mix up the things. They have the natural tendency to juxtapose one with another. Children play with words without any purpose and place a word with some other. However, they can’t establish a relationship between these words as they have limited knowledge of words.

And as they grow, while their ability of understanding of words improves, their natural tendency of experimentation declines. First they forget this tendency, and then they forget asking ‘why’. This is detrimental to creativity, which is nothing but the ability of thinking about two things, (which may have no apparent relationship) simultaneously or one after another, in such a way that a link can be established between those two things. But it is sad that this acumen doesn’t develop, as a child grows. Many times it remains undeveloped instead of getting matured.

This happens because whenever children experiment with words knowingly or unknowingly, these efforts of theirs are rejected as ‘Mistakes’. Parents, elders and even the teachers laugh at them saying that they are making ‘mistakes’. Schools, homes should be safe places to commit more and more mistakes. Teachers should be facilitators to accelerate the process of creativity. But teachers and parents give emphasis on academics but not creativity. Children also succumb to their pressure. Creativity is curbed.

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