Sayyed Mohsen Fatemi, Ph.D.
Creativity of language is an indication that language education and language learning can not be merely justified through the conditioning theory. According to conditioning theory, the presence of responses is related to the presence of stimuli in that specific stimuli can arouse specific responses. Through repeating a series of stimuli, we can expect to have certain responses. In other words, we can create our favorable responses through conditioning. This, however, suggests that we need to have a previous familiarity with the stimulus or stimuli to give some specific determined responses. To put it in another way, conditioning relies on familiarity. It is impossible to do a conditioning or to achieve conditioning without repeating or exposing some thing for a period of time so that the thing (what ever it may be) should be familiar enough to instigate the conditioned responses. As far as learning is concerned, the learner must have heard something said (stimulus) before he/she can repeat it (response)1. The fact that we can produce sentences we have never heard before can, by no means, be explained through the conditioning and behaviorist theories. Even for the understanding of the meaning of the sentences, the behaviorist theory can not present a solid explanation. For example, the sentences "Barbara is keen to please" and "Barbara is hard to please," present similar structures and forms but in the first sentence "Barbara' is the subject of the sentence where as in the second sentence 'Barbara' is the object since the sentence means it is hard to please Barbara. They may be both learned through the superficial similarity but it is only through the deeper knowledge of the language that one can understand the distinction of these two sentences.
Language creativity goes beyond the receipt of the reward as cited in theories such as those of Skinner where a child learns the meaning of milk each time his/her mother feeds him/her upon his/her crying. Creativity of language is born out of breaking the fences, getting out of the boxes, violating the rules, and breaching the familiar horizons. There is not any form of familiarity or acquaintance in breeding the creative flux of thoughts and its crystallization in language. One might say that creative language needs to be born out of the familiar streaks, otherwise it will be a totally new and unfamiliar language that may make the communication too private or too unfamiliar to be perceivable. The answer to this challenge is that it is true that creation, in its human form and meaning, needs to be somehow built on the existing repertoire, but the existing repertoire are only the constituents of the forms and serve as the means. They are not the ones that develop creativity and they are not the constituents of creativity. It is in the manner of arrangement or designing, or orchestration and organization that the novelty emerges. (Although we even may talk of creativity in forms such as the creation of the new words or new diction, they reveal their novelty within contexts that are subtly designed and crafted to reveal that novelty.)
The act of creativity is not searching for the sameness, is not in pursuit of congruence or compatibility, and is not moving towards convergence. Creativity is not bound to coherence, cohesiveness, conformity, correspondence or consistency. What is created may not be in coherence or in correspondence with the existing coherence or correspondence but it can have its own coherence and cohesiveness. Creativity may represent an act of revelation where things are revealed in light of creativity as it can be an act of disclosure where things are cryptically and yet creatively presented. Creativity is not dutifully at the service of the recognized order as it is not respectful of the relationships and their establishment. That is why creativity may bring chaos and disorder but this chaotic situation is only as a result of a comparison between the act of creativity and the previously identified system of order. In other words, the disorder and the unrest of the creativity can have their own order if they are examined within their own setting. Creativity is not obedient, but it is cantankerous.
Creativity of language does not look at the constancy and the continuum of things in the sense that they have been established within the constantly recognizable properties and attributes but it looks at the change and changeability within the same constancy. We can always see a change in the complexion of constancy but to see the change requires the departure from the actualized constancy. It is by opening up the sharpness of attention and the acumen of consciousness that things can be understood otherwise, i.e. other way(s) that they already are. If students are encouraged to experience this flight from actuality towards potentiality, if they are educated to see the novelty in the familiarity and the change in the constancy, if they find out the move from the orderliness to disorderliness and the ensuing orderliness out of the very disorderliness, if they experience the rapture of uncertainty within the comfort of certainty, if they understand the possibility of exploring the perspicuity within the ambiguity, if they learn to delve into the subject of expressivity by alternating between part and whole, they can touch upon the very act of creativity and its infinite offspring ( which in our case, here in these sentences, is epitomized for instance in the point a 'conditional sentence' ( if you go there, you will see him) can be composed of good many 'if clauses' (as shown in this sentence).
Creative language breaches the stream of the recursive contents and breaks the constancy of the frequency of thinking within the repeated modes. It negates the placement of repeated exposures in the abodes of forms and it abnegates the belonging of the established contents to the recognized forms. It calls for a live and a genuine connectedness between contents and forms through inciting the infinitely multiple modes, styles and ways of thinking. Thus, creative language opens up the possibility of looking into the known and the familiar through unfamiliar and unknown ways. The very novel ways may reveal ways of thoughtfulness which may introduce numerous ways of putting into words what moves in the incessantly flowing activity of mind. Language learners, in this case, get engaged in constantly looking for images of 'otherwise' instead of 'eitheror' while benefiting from the genius of 'and'. In other words, learners continuously engage in an act of searching for finding out the novelty within the familiar ways. This engagement demands mindfulness. Oblivion, inattention and passivity can not produce creativity. Creativity is an act of mindfulness.
Language educators whose objective is to promote mindfulness and creativity of thought among the language learners teach not only language but also thinking. They take the hands of learners and let them freely play among the bushes of imagination while watching them carefully so they do not get lost in the confusing meanders and slopes of wonders. This free frolic in the bushes of imagination may lead to experiencing what lies beneath, around, beside and above the bushes. But it surely generates the reality of an encounter with what can be experienced consciously. It is through these novel and yet clandestine experiences that the act of creativity can be molded.
Language educators who stimulate the wakefulness of consciousness and mindfulness in students and allow them to detach themselves from the tyranny of the preoccupation with memory and association also teach living in the moment, living in the present and experiencing the immediacy of consciousness. The gift of living in the present and indulging oneself in the profusion of the moment blooms the state of connectedness to the flowing reality of the moment where the bubbling brook of the happenings are constantly streaming in the river of being and becoming.
The essence of creativity and critical thinking begins with questioning and challenging the boxes of clinging habits, ordinary and every day discourses, memory's impact, and the interference of association of ideas. It is here when the new horizons of thinking powerfully beam; it is here where the spectrum of looking into things in a novel way glows. Creativity starts with a journey inside and outside the existing values, prevalent practices, pervasive approaches and common modes and exercises. It begins with questioning the flux of order, the arrangement of presentation, the apparition of the happenings, the manner of unfolding, the ways of showering, the moments of satisfaction, the pleasures of certainty, the avenues of solutions, the mansions of conclusiveness, the comfort of sufficiency, the impressiveness of suppositions, the forcefulness of associations, the obviousness of realization and the easiness of acceptance. Creativity challenges the way things are and explores other ways things can be. Creativity fights for otherwise. Creativity targets the unknown, the unfamiliar and the unexplored. It searches for mystery within mastery, the opening within the closure, the possibility within actuality, the passage within the blockage, the revolution within stability, the disintegration within integration, the decomposition within the composition, the indeterminacy within determinacy, the plurivocity within univocity, the imperturbability within perturbability, and the light within the darkness. Creativity rises in the midst of habituation, acclimatization, and familiarization and seeks novelty, exquisiteness, innovation and revivification. Creativity does not succumb to the deluge of ordinariness, commonality, platitudinous and conventionality.
1Strict Behaviorists who are the advocates of stimulus, response and reinforcement in explaining all sorts of behavior make no distinction between human behavior and animal behavior. As to language learning, their emphasis is, again, on stimulus, response and reinforcement. According to Pavlov, the founder of classical conditioning, words can become conditioned stimuli that control conditioned responses. First he reasoned that words drive their meaning by association with sensory signals from the environment. For example, seeing an apple is a signal, which, in Pavlov's terminology stimulates the animal's "visual analyzer". Seeing the apple is the first signal of the real apple. The word "apple", Pavlov argues, is a conditioned stimulus that is associated with the perceived apple. Naming the perceived apple is the second signal of the real-world apple. Thus, the word apple is the signal of signals; hence, the second signal system (Barker, p.94. 2001).
Barker, L. M. (2001). Learning Behavior. Biological, Psychological and Sociocultural Perspectives. Prentice Hall.
Sayyed Mohsen Fatemi holds a PhD in language and literacy education. He also holds a doctorate in psychology and is a frequently published author and poet with numerous conference presentations. Mohsen has taught courses on language and communication, psychology of mass media, psychology of mind, hermeneutics and psychoanalysis, psychology of self and problem of choices, English poetry, creative writing, film and genre, communication and interpersonal skills, communication and problem solving, television studies, mind, mindfulness and health for UBC, UBC Continuing Studies, and Athabasca University. In addition to teaching for UBC Continuing Studies and Athabasca University, Mohsen is also teaching graduate and undergraduate courses for for New York Institute of Technology, Pattison College, Kingston College and Century College.
Mohsen has also conducted numerous seminars and workshops in Canada, USA and overseas on various issues of interpersonal and intrapersonal skills and issues such as stress management, team building, negotiation skills, presentation skills, assertiveness, emotional management, anger management, emotional intelligence, creative and critical thinking, and voice clinic.