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The Curious Incident Of The Dog English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 4319 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The purpose of this study is to show examples of the use of creativity in language, through the written and spoken mediums, explaining also some theories, which support the use of this process. Therefore, to analyse the process of creativity, the methodology used for this research was to analyse creativity throughout one of the most creative vehicles in the written form and literature sub-genre: the novel. In this case, the novel analysed was: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

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The complex boundaries about important concepts involving creativity in language, for example, literature; literary/non-literary; novel; creativity; factual; fictional; and greater appreciation of using creativity in the written medium instead of the spoken, made this study adopt some theories and perspectives from noble personalities to support how creativity can be seen in both mediums, sharing same literariness features and proving that they live in a continuum and creativity must be seen in clines.

Finally, written and spoken mediums are also modes of communication, for that reason, creativity is also involved in the communicative process and core elements of this phenomenon to transmit a successful communicative message, for instance, audience, register, format, purpose and context.


Creativity; Communication; Clines; Literariness; Novel


Creativity can be seen everywhere in our daily bases. A non-literal vision of the world, most of the time, is an escape for the monotony in our lives. Seeing something new, novel, creative is more memorable than ordinary things in our ordinary lives. It brings flavour, expands or destroys boundaries between ideas and concepts, changing social and cultural values; turning creativity into multi-personal process and not just an individual mental development.

Most of the time, creativity is transmitted by language through written or spoken mediums. Advertisements, conversations, novels, jokes, idioms are just some few examples, where the creative phenomenon takes place. Each of the examples mentioned earlier, also reflect the different modes of communication, types of language, types of text and their multiple purposes. Therefore, language and creativity are intertwined and involved in the communicative process, not only in the encoding of a message, but all the contextual aspects, which influence the interpretation and full understanding of a message by the addressee.

So, the person we are talking to (spoken medium) or the reader (written medium) must also be apt to understand the use of creativity in language. Therefore, one of the most important issues about creativity is to consider if the use of creativity in language is an ordinary process or not.

In spoken medium, most of the time, creativity is not a different or difficult way of playing with words, which requires an intense study of subjects involving language. It is just a usual feature of everyday language, which can be understood by everyone, showing the addresser and addressee common cultural background and same understanding of language expressions. However, most of the time, creativity in the spoken medium is not even noticed due to its properties and bias towards the written language.

Therefore, the purpose of this study is to show the use of creativity in language, through the written and spoken mediums, explaining as well some theories, which support the use of this process.

Thus, the methodology applied for this project was to show concrete examples, where the creative process is used in language throughout one of the most creative vehicles in the written form and literature sub-genre: the novel. In this case, the novel analysed was: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, where the main character and narrator, is an autistic teenager called Christopher Boone. Christopher is a bright mind kid «I know all the countries of the world and their capital cities» (p. 2) where everything for him should be logical «I sometimes think of my mind as a machine» (p. 7), human emotions make no sense and animals are less confusing «You always know what a dog is thinking» (p. 3) than humans.

The use of this novel it is not only to show examples of the employment of creativity in language, but also try to explain some complex questions, which are connected with the creativity process in language and still raise some doubts today, mostly because of divergent opinions and theories. Creativity is not an isolated process and there is no true form for it, creativity must be seen as a dialogic process and in clines not forgetting also socio-cultural backgrounds, which influence the perception of this process.

Definition of Creativity.

There is no specific definition to explain exactly what is creativity and how is involved with language and the communicative process. The explanations for creativity are very much ambiguous and are detached, according to multiple principles, where each one of them are related to specific psychologists, linguists, writers, etc., points of view, changing also over time and according to different socio-historical and cultural positions. The explanations for the creative process can be divided into three different approaches: cultural histories, psychological, and socio-cultural approaches.

In relation to cultural histories, creativity is related to other keywords like: creation, divinity, novel, originality and inventiveness. Creation is intrinsically related to mythological, religious beliefs and the word creature, as a divine process, where humans could never manipulate this gift.

In the Renaissance period, the idea of creation is separated from a process, which only could be divine, turning into a human act. Later, in the eighteenth century (Post-Romantic Era), this idea of creation, the gift to create something new and being creative, is changed into a method manipulated by the artist. At this time, also the mean of Art is changed, turning into a concept related to the creation of new, fictional and original things intertwined only with the creative process.

However, it was never disassociated from people characterized by their high and superior knowledge beyond the ordinary charts, making also a link to the word genius. Only people with extraordinary intelligence could achieve and replicate the divine process of creation and therefore the creative phenomenon.

In one way, the view of a genius person can be related to the main character of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Christopher. He is a very smart person, with a rank of intelligence beyond the ordinary level, «I know all the countries of the world and their capital cities and every prime number up to 7,057.» (p. 2). All the way through the novel, the reader can see Christopher expressing himself in a very creative way, which will be explained further.

Also in the eighteenth century and in relation to literature, a new art form appeared the novel, which brought up for debate, a broader conception, which fiction, something made up or invented, can creatively represent individual human experiences.

The psychological approach concerns on identifying the characteristic cast of mind and the properties of the brain associated with creative acts, the theories and perspectives are categorized into: practical and pragmatic, psychometric, psycho-dynamic, biographical, cognitive, biological, social-personality and ‘systems’ approaches, as it can be seen in the following table:

Psychological Approaches:


Practical and Pragmatic

Use of creativity for problem solving.


Measurement of creativity use by tests, like IQ.


Creativity impulse is an infliction of unconscious wishes on the part of the creator.


Attempt to isolate features of creativity in lives of highly accomplished individuals.


Understanding of mental operations which involves creative thought.


Physiological approach: Investigating the brain activities which involve creative thoughts.


Supportive environments help and motivate the origination of creativity.


Creativity is only seen where there is a change in a domain, a change that it is transmitted through time and it is accepted by others, according to their cultural background.

Table1: Summary of all psychological approaches about creativity.

Finally, socio-cultural approach divides the creative process according to regions and cultural backgrounds, mainly into Eastern and Western interpretations of the creative process. In one hand for Western countries, creativity is closely connected with originality, but originality becomes creativity only when it is made to fit and is recognized, accepted by the community peers of the creative individual and by the most knowledgeable persons of a particular artistic or scientific domain, which the creator works.

On the other hand, in Eastern countries creativity is more an oriented process to achieve a self-realisation accomplishment, according to cultural values and traditions, performing as a cycle.

Although creativity is a difficult phenomenon to measure, it can be highlighted some consensual characteristics: creativity is a mental process, which everybody can reach it effortlessly. It can be described by an innovative and non-literal way of resolving problems and interpret reality, it changes according to socio-cultural backgrounds and specific time-space relation, turning into an adaptive process. Additionally, creativity can also be a non-individual process. Sometimes is a group activity, involving the notion of performance, which my engage the audience, with the intent of involving her in the creative process, this happens, for example, in poetic duels, where the creative process is developed with the interaction of two or more different persons.

Finally, according to the Russian psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, father of the “Systems” psychological theory, the creative process also should be accepted culturally and should not deviate to far from accepted norms with the intent of being accepted by others, involving three major concepts, culture (domain), society (field) and personal background (individual).

Use of creativity in Language: Spoken medium and Literary Texts.

Until recently, items and structures most typically found in spoken communication have not been fully described; most approaches of the use of the creative process in language had a preference towards the written language.

However, spoken and written language lives in a continuum, for example, in political speeches, lyrics, online chats and emails. Recently, there has been a greater appreciation of the use of language through the spoken medium with linguists such as Ferdinand de Saussure and Noam Chomsky, referring to the spoken language as the real langue.

Use of language, in the process of communication, it is already a practice of creativity in order to communicate, in comparison to non-human communication. According to Charles Hockett, there are some features, which distinguish human and animal language, turning the use of human language into a creative process: displacement, allows us to talk about events from our past and future plans and about places that we have never visited, arbitrariness, permits the lack of any intrinsic link between the linguistic form and its meaning, productivity or creativity, allows us to produce novel utterances whenever we need, cultural transmission, is essential to pass language from one generation to the next, discreteness, relates to the fact, which the individual sounds of a language may not appear to be so very distinct from each other and yet these differences are significant, and duality, which reflects the fact that in terms of speech production, there are two levels of patterning. Each language has its own discrete sounds (phonemes). The sounds need to be combined in different ways to make meaningful morphemes.

These features also come across in different perspectives of what is considered creativity and how is used in language. The productivity/creativity feature of human language is mentioned by Noam Chomsky. For Chomsky creativity consists as a «capacity for generating an infinite number of rule-governed language choices which are for the most part new to both speaker and listener and yet readily understood by both.» (Ronal Carter, The Art of Common Talk, p. 77). This also highlights the importance of the context where creativity is used in the communicative process and also the acknowledgment made by the one who is receiving the message (addressee), involving not also individual aspects of the addressee, for instance, if they are experts or lay persons, adults or children, but also their cultural background, emphasizing as well the cultural transmission of language.

Creativity is just not a vague expression or act in an open space, where nobody understands, it is totally the opposite, as mentioned earlier and according to Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, creativity has to be embraced culturally in order to be recognized and transmitted. Thus, creativity is not just an individual development; it is also a cultural phenomenon and sometimes involves more than a person. For Mikhail Bakhtin, the use of creativity in spoken medium is a natural process and is awakened almost instantly between two people on an interpersonal relationship (dialogic process), being the reason, why creativity in the spoken language is seen as non-individual process.

In terms of written language, the use of creativity it is associated with literary texts (literature), but the notion of literature has changed during time, according to the Oxford Concise Dictionary of Literary Terms, «Since the 19th century, the broader sense of literature as a totality of written or printed works has given way more exclusive definitions bases on criteria of imaginative, creative, or artistic value, usually, related to a work’s absence of factual or practical reference»; «Until the mid-20th century, many kinds of non-fictional writing [] were counted as literature [] which deserves to preserved as part of current production of meanings within a given culture» (p. 124). Today, literature is classified as a genre, which is divided in sub-genres, fictional and factual, and each one of them (sub-genres) has its own types of texts.

The main problem related to literature and the use of creativity in the written language, it is to define, which kind of texts are literary and non-literary texts and, which one of them use language in a creative way, being a very complex boundary to define and establish. There is no specific definition to classify texts from literal and non-literal because involves cultural views, which defines creativity itself. So, it is better to see creativity in clines, meaning, in a graduation, analysing not only the use of language, but also the context and purpose. There is no determinant boundary defining which type of text is creative, each type of text is more or less creative than others. However, for some linguistics the fictional sub-genre is the most creative one (paraliterature).

Consequently to analyse or evaluate a text as being more creative than others, there is a keyword, which must be introduced: Literariness. According again to the Oxford Concise Dictionary of Literary Terms, literariness is understood as a «series of deviations from ‘ordinary’ language. It thus appears as a relation between different uses of language, in which the contrasted users are liable to shift according to changed contexts.» (p. 123).

Literariness is related to the deviation theory, which is the use of language beyond its literal meaning or in an incorrect form (Norm/Standard), involving the use of imagery and figurative figures in speech, which can be found not only in the written medium, but also in the spoken medium, for example, in a daily conversation analyses, where it can be found, for instance, jokes, proverbs and idioms. Nevertheless, some figures of speech require more extensive treatment than others, some of them require a complete stretch of text in order for their function to be understood, bringing the notion again, which creativity must be seen in clines.

So, this criterion can be used to distinguish literary texts by being more or less creative, for example, instructions, newspapers, where written language is associated with other modes and of communication, mostly with visual codes, which not use language in a creative way, reporting only factual experiences.

However, some doubts still can be raised according to this statement by making a connection with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon novel, which through the book it can be seen the use of multiple type texts, which are considered non-literary texts, within a type of text characterised as paraliterature, a sub-genre that is defined by its creativity (novel). How this can be possible? The answer for this question will be developed in next topic.

Definition of Novel (Mikhail Bakhtin perspective):

According to Mikhail Bakhtin, the novel is an exceptional literary type of text of the fictional sub-genre, because it does not need a proper structure or format to be identified. For him, a novel is the expression of the narrator and characters way of being and their social condition to the fullest.

Thus, there is no specific form associated to how the narrator and each character must express their way of thinking and their cultural and social background. Each one of them expresses themselves differently and freely, even if they embrace other types of text that are not characterised as non-literary, this phenomenon is called by Mikhail Bakhtin as heteroglossia. Normally, the characters express themselves differently in comparison with the narrator of the novel. Also, this could be related to one perceptive supported by Guy Cook that is called: Schema refreshment.

Schema refreshment consists by a refreshment of our mental schemes (schemata) of how the world is perceived by different types of text and discursive modes.

All of this can be seen in Mark Haddon novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, where Christopher, an autistic teenager, who has his own way of seeing the world because he does not understand human emotions, expressing himself through schemes, timetables, draws, etc. According to Ronald Carter, in The Art of Common Talk, «The novel departs from formal conventions but as result also works to renew perception and understandings of political process. Schema refreshment in literary texts results in new ways of seeing and thinking about the world.» (p. 60).

Additionally, multiple types of texts, which not show literariness features, can be seen in the novel, like: written signs, letters, notices, maps, pictures, stamps, graphs, equation and figures.

Types of Texts and Examples of Creativity in the Written and Spoken Mediums in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon novel:


n, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon novel, the reader can see the use of multiple types of text which are not considered literary texts, but are involved in the creative work of the novel, most of them related to points of view of the narrator and main character. Each of these texts, portrays a different purpose and through this, also a different class of discourse. Some types of text involved in the novel are: schemes, advertisements, written signs, letters, notices, maps, pictures, stamps, graphs, equations and figures.

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Moreover, throughout the novel, the readers can see many examples of creativity in the spoken and written medium. Firstly, in relation to the spoken medium, the readers can see many expressions which use language in a creative way and are a result from conversations on an interpersonal level, reflecting not only the characters social status, but also their cultural background, through, idioms, proverbs and jokes.

Secondly, in the written medium, the readers can also see some expressions, which involves a creative process, although they are few because the narrator, also main character, do not embrace creativity in his way of writing, when he wants to establish comparisons and express feelings, essentially, when he is pressured by a chaotic environment, a creative use of language comes to surface.

Both modes of communication use imagery and figures of speech and word play, contributing very importantly for the literariness process, as can be see in few examples on the following table:

Examples of Creativity in the Spoken Medium

Examples of Creativity in the Written Medium

“He said, “Someone killed her dog?”

I sad, “With a fork.”

He said, “Jesus Christ.”” (p. 36).

“Father said, “Just try and keep your nose out of other people’s business.”” (p. 20).

“We’ve got to get out of this town, kiddo.” (p. 45).

“Swindon is the arsehole of the world.”(p. 45).

“Christopher, if you do not behave I swear I shall knock the living daylights out of you.” (p. 47).

“You are going to drive me into an early grave.” (p. 48).

“See you later alligator” (p. 78).

“And he pointed and said, “Through those doors there. But I’ll be keeping an eye on you, understand?” (p. 162).

“I’m going to hit the hay”; “It’s brass monkeys out there”; “Let’s rustle up some tucker.” (p. 43).

“I laughed my socks off, He was the apple of my eye, They had a skeleton in the cupboard, we had a real pig of a day, The dog was stone dead.” (p. 15).

“There was something subtly wrong with the face, some coarseness of expression, some hardness, perhaps of eye, some looseness of lip which married its perfect beauty” (p. 71)

“He also had a very hairy nose. It looked as if there were two very small mice hiding in his nostrils.” (p. 17).

“Then I detected in the utility room.

Then I detected in the dining room.

Then I detected in the living room” (p. 92).

“So I carried on walking. And I could still feel the feeling like a balloon inside my chest” (p. 169).

“The people are like cows in a field” (p. 172).

“And then there was a sound like people fighting with swords” (p. 176).

“It was falling so hard that it looked like white sparks” (p. 103).

Table2: Examples of Creativity in the Written and Spoken Mediums in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon novel.


In conclusion, creativity is a complex phenomenon and very difficult to measure. With help of some noble perspectives from many personalities, like, Guy Cook, Charles Hockett, Mikhail Bakhtin and many others, it can be highlighted some common features to characterise the creativity process. Creativity is a common development in all human beings not just only in artists. It is a non-literal vision of the world to resolve problems or emphasize negative or positive features about things that surround us influencing not only us, as individuals, but our culture and society, which embarrasses, sometimes, also this vision.

Language is one medium, which transmit this process through multiple modes of communication, but essentially, through spoken and written mediums, where literariness plays a special role.

The novel is one special vehicle that although represents a literature text, embrace other non-literary types of text to genuinely represent the use of creativeness by all human beings, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, is just one of these perfect vehicles, which carries creativity.

Bibliographic Reference:

Primary Reference:


Haddon, M., The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, New York: Vintage, 2003.

Carter, Ronald, Language and Creativity, The Art of Common Talk, London and New York: Routledge, 2004, pp. 1-86, 139.

Carter, R. and M. McCarthy, Cambridge Grammar of English: A Comprehensive Guide – Spoken and Written English Grammar and Usage, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006, p. 82.

Bloomer, A. et al., Language in Use – A Coursebook, London: Routledge, 2005, pp. 25-27.

Burton, S. and J. Humphries, Mastering the English Language, London: Macmillan, 1992, pp. 82-83.

Internet Sites:

http://www.stanford.edu/class/linguist34/; The language of Advertising, viewed on 13th November 2012 at 22.38 p.m.

Keyword: novel, Clarke, Richard, http://www.rlwclarke.net/courses/LITS3304/2008-2009/07BBakhtinDiscourseintheNovel(Overview).pdf, accessed on: 15th November of 2012 at 15:13 p.m.

Secondary Reference:


Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary for Advanced Learners, London: HarperCollins.

Oxford Concise Dictionary of Literary Terms, Oxford: Chris Baldick.


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