Public discourse. Strategies of persuasion and interpretation



The human mind is capable of creativity and innovation unparalleled by any other species. At the same time, human beings elaborate and preserve complex and highly-stable traditions, transmitting them over very long time spans by means of the spoken word and through a variety of technologies, such as writing. How does human cognition give rise to such complex manifestations as oral poetic performance, and how are they affected by the introduction of writing? ORFORCREA investigated the cognitive basis of creativity in verbal art, examining its interplay with both oral tradition and literacy.

In addition, ORFORCREA contributed to establishing the new interdisciplinary field of cognitive oral poetics: my research became the only one among other existing publications in the field that builds on living traditions and uses only empirical data, something that is much needed not only in cognitive poetics but also in cognitive linguistics in general. 

In order to tackle this issue, the following objectives were defined:

  • To model the main form-meaning pairing procedures underlying formulaic patterns in poetic transitional texts from oral traditions.
  • To draw the main theoretical and methodological implications for the general study of language and cognition, in particular for construction grammar, frame semantics, and conceptual scripts and schemas.
  • To understand the interplay of innovation and tradition in the linguistic usage evidenced by transitional texts. In particular, what are the cross-cultural creative strategies of oral singers for coining novel expressions, based on traditional formulas or on linguistic materials from outside the tradition?
  • To establish the semantic, functional, and cognitive differences in the frequency and use of formulaic language, between transitional texts and fully-oral texts as well as within different degrees in the use of written techniques in transitional texts.
  • To develop new methods for studying oral traditions, especially at their transitional stage: the ER will combine combining approaches and techniques from literary studies, cognitive linguistics and corpus linguistics.
  • To analyze how factors other than oral/written produce variation in traditional formulaic language use: genre requirements, performance content and style, or cultural differences.


Results of conducting five sessions of field work I: (a) recorded poetry performed live; (b) recorded poetry being dictated; (c) collected written poetic texts; (d) worked closely with the poets and their audience in order to clarify linguistic technicalities, better understand the role of performance and music, and study the role of interaction between poet and his audience. These unique materials obtained directly from the bearers of living traditions allowed the researcher to conduct truly empirical research.

Collection of databases of oral and transitional texts. The texts used in this project were from two living traditions (Moroccan and Socotri) and one extinct (Basque). While the old Basque oral poetry is already available online, the ones from Morocco and Socotra needed to be collected and analyzed because they constituted the basis for my research.

The elaboration of a new analytical methodology, that integrated elements from literary, anthropological, general linguistic and cognitive approaches. The researcher also tested approaches, earlier suggested by other researchers, working in the field of cognitive poetics.

All of these contributed to better understanding of transitional phase in between oral and written texts. It has been demonstrated possible manifestations of creativity in oral and transitional texts through the lens of frame, scripts and formula. The research contributed to better understanding of what exactly is transitional text (or, better to say, transition from orality to literacy) is and initiated a debate on this topic through, first, organising the conference on transitional texts and then co-editing a special volume, entirely dedicated to this topic.  

Through comparative analysis, this approach has been demonstrated is valid across cultures.

In addition –and as a potentially interesting addition to ORFORCREA’s main topic of research–, the researcher was able to work on topics closely related to human cognition, creativity and oral poetry.


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Main Researcher

Sarali Gintsburg

Sarali Gintsburg
Extension: 803400
Office 1290 (1st floor, ICS)


Funding (2017-2019)

European Commission

Marie Curie