Creativity in parliamentary discourse: Pragmatic goals and institutional affordances

Tsakona, Villy

University of Athens, Greece


Recent approaches to linguistic creativity (Carter 2004, Goodman & O’Halloran 2006, Maybin & Swann 2006) suggest that creativity is not only a characteristic of literary texts, but also a pervasive phenomenon in everyday interaction and surfaces in a variety of formal, informal and non-literary genres. Creative elements, such as repetitions, parallelisms, puns, neologisms, hyperboles, metaphors, idioms, and proverbs have been basic ingredients of informal conversation before becoming part of formal and literary genres.

The aim of the present study is to investigate linguistic creativity in Greek parliamentary discourse. Parliamentarians often resort to creative language so as to attract the attention of the wider audience and involve them in the decoding of the political messages conveyed (Tsakona 2007). They also aim at fostering a more personalized and conversationalised context, thus providing the audience with the illusion of involvement in the political decision-making process (Alvarez-Cáccamo & Prego-Vásquez 2003). Moreover, linguistic creativity often seems to be a means of evaluation and criticism towards the opponent, as well as a way to perform a perspective shift on the political issues discussed (Carter 2004).

It is, furthermore, argued that linguistic creativity in Greek parliamentary discourse may be related to the degree of polarization of the topic discussed and to specific institutional parameters such as the consensus/competitive democracy, the presidential/parliamentary political system, the possibility/impossibility of public access to parliamentary sessions (Steiner et al. 2004). In particular, the political importance of specific debates, their broadcasting by the media, as well as the competitive parliamentary political system in Greece seem to favour the use of creative linguistic means in parliamentary discourse.

The data of the present study consist of the budget speeches delivered by the Greek Prime Minister and the Greek Leader of the Opposition from 2004 to 2006. The methodology proposed combines a microanalysis of parliamentary discourse by examining the pragmatic functions of creative language therein, with a macroanalysis considering linguistic creativity to be a result of the particularities of the Greek political system and the topic discussed in these debates.


Alvarez-Cáccamo C. & Prego-Vásquez G. 2003: Political cross-discourse: Conversationalization, imaginary networks, and social fields in Galiza. Pragmatics 13 (1), 145-162.

Carter R. 2004: Language and Creativity. The Art of Common Talk. Routledge: London.

Goodman S. & O’Halloran K. (eds.) 2006: The Art of English: Literary Creativity. Basingstoke/Milton Keynes: Palgrave Macmillan, The Open University.

Maybin J. & Swann J. 2006 (eds.): The Art of English: Everyday Creativity. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, The Open University.

Steiner J., Bächtiger A., Spörndli M. & Steenberger M. R. 2004: Deliberative Politics in Action. Analysing Parliamentary Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tsakona V. 2007: Parliamentary discourse: A linguistic analysis. Paper presented at “Language and Society”, 28th Annual Meeting of the Department of Linguistics, School of Philology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Thessaloniki, 21-22 April 2007. [in Greek]

Session: Paper session
Discourse 3
Friday, April 4, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 11