Cliche Expressions in Literary and Genre Novels

Andreas van Cranenburgh


Abstract
Should writers “avoid clichés like the plague”? Clichés are said to be a prominent characteristic of “low brow” literature, and conversely, a negative marker of “high brow” literature. Clichés may concern the storyline, the characters, or the style of writing. We focus on cliché expressions, ready-made stock phrases which can be taken as a sign of uncreative writing. We present a corpus study in which we examine to what extent cliché expressions can be attested in a corpus of various kinds of contemporary fiction, based on a large, curated lexicon of cliché expressions. The results show to what extent the negative view on clichés is supported by data: we find a significant negative correlation of -0.48 between cliché density and literary ratings of texts. We also investigate interactions with genre and characterize the language of clichés with several basic textual features. Code used for this paper is available at https://github.com/andreasvc/litcliches/
Anthology ID:
W18-4504
Volume:
Proceedings of the Second Joint SIGHUM Workshop on Computational Linguistics for Cultural Heritage, Social Sciences, Humanities and Literature
Month:
August
Year:
2018
Address:
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Venues:
COLING | LaTeCH | WS
SIG:
Publisher:
Association for Computational Linguistics
Note:
Pages:
34–43
Language:
URL:
https://www.aclweb.org/anthology/W18-4504
DOI:
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PDF:
http://aclanthology.lst.uni-saarland.de/W18-4504.pdf