Linguistic co-creativity and the performance of identity in the discourse of National Trust holiday cottage guestbooks

Joanna Gavins (Lead / Corresponding author), Sara Whiteley, Duygu Candarli

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    This article reports on some of the results of a project undertaken by researchers at the University of Sheffield with The National Trust in the UK, which seeks to examine the discourse found in guestbooks located in the Trust’s holiday rental cottages. Our key interests lie in the ways in which holidaymakers perform particular identities through the stylistic choices they make when writing entries in guestbooks, the role linguistic creativity plays in these performances, and the extent to which cognitive-linguistic analysis can help us understand guestbooks as socially and conceptually complex sites of linguistic interaction. Between 2014 and 2018, we collected over 800,000 words of data from 13 holiday cottages in two popular holiday regions in the UK: the Roseland Peninsula in South East Cornwall and the Port Quin area of Northern Cornwall. Our dataset was analysed and tagged using NVivo qualitative coding software, which enables the identification of both linguistic and non-linguistic features of the discourse and makes these items searchable. In the present discussion, we use Text World Theory to explore both the situational context of this discourse, or the ‘discourse-world’, and the conceptual structures, or ‘text-worlds’, which result from linguistic interaction in the minds of participants. We suggest that the unified examination of these two interacting levels of discourse enables a holistic investigation of the pragmatic and conceptual environment which surrounds the production and reception of the guestbook discourse; the linguistic and stylistic features of the texts themselves; and the mental representations that arise from them. In particular, we present a case-study analysis of the guestbooks of Caragloose, a threebedroomed former farmhouse in South East Cornwall, which our study found to contain levels of linguistic creativity which were exceptional in our dataset. We outline the key stylistic features of this discourse and show how one collective linguistic endeavour in particular in Caragloose fosters an exceptionally experimental style across multiple entries. We reveal how the resulting discourse, although taking place between strangers separated in both time and space, exhibits a density of creativity more commonly associated with collaborative discourse produced between intimates in a face-to-face situation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)381-406
    Number of pages26
    JournalLanguage and Literature
    Issue number4
    Early online date29 Sep 2021
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


    • Creativity
    • Text World Theory
    • co-creativity
    • cognition
    • guestbooks
    • identity
    • performance
    • style
    • tourist discourse


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