Weird Collocations: Language as Infrastructure in the Storyworlds of China Miéville

  • Terence Cave


China Miéville is a prolifically experimental novelist who constantly challenges the linguistic and generic expectations of his readers. The ‘weird’ creatures, landscapes, and urban configurations he relishes appear in a cognitive perspective as a series of impacted collocations that violate this-worldly norms. Beginning with an account of collocation as a linguistic phenomenon, this chapter explores violent or counter-intuitive conjunctions of bodies and spaces (especially urban spaces) across a wide range of Miéville’s fiction—from the political world of the Bas-Lag series via the impacted cityscape of the procedural noir novel The City & the City to the weird linguistics of Embassytown. It shows both how robust collocations can be in Miéville’s inventive storyworlds, and how they warp and break down when placed under intense fictional pressure. The chapter argues accordingly that the power of Miéville’s writing comes not so much from his ideological critiques or his self-referential games with generic tropes, as it does from his ability to exploit the explosive power of barely possible collocation.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.St John’s CollegeOxfordUK

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