I recently read a journal article and there is a sentence that really confused me; please help me figure it out!

This is the context:

Cook (2000) defined language play as playing with words and meanings, playing in language and creating fictional words, and playing with pragmatics, which entails enjoyment with language. This last aspect of the definition, play with pragmatics, recognizes humor (as embedded in riddles, puns, playful episodes), and the enjoyment emerging from this play, as an important aspect of language play.

To my opinion, the (bolded) word 'play' here should be 'playing', but I am not really sure about this. if you have any insight into it, please help me.

  • 3
    The word play occurs two times in your quote. Which occurrence do you think should be changed? And can you provide a link to the rest of the article? That might be helpful and is considered good practice.
    – J.R.
    Jul 31, 2017 at 15:45
  • I agree, it should be: playing and not play.
    – Lambie
    Jul 31, 2017 at 16:25
  • 1
    I've added the additional text to your question. It seems perhaps that the author simply wanted to avoid using playing four times in a row. Or perhaps he simply wanted to use a phrase not identical to Cook's phrase. However, it is much more idiomatic, and perhaps more precise, to write playing. Jul 31, 2017 at 16:29
  • Thank you Lambie and choster too for your replies, as i have to write a critique of this journal article, and while i am reading it i found that there are some minor mistakes, but to criticize it i need to be assure about it. so i really appreciate all of your help here!!! Jul 31, 2017 at 16:30
  • 1
    Clare, thank you for your suggestion, I will take it! Jul 31, 2017 at 16:37

1 Answer 1


At the beginning of the quote, Cook is defining language play - a compound noun. So in the context of their definition, play is a noun (which is an existing English form of the word). They define it in terms of various activities of playing with X. But at the end of the quote, the author returns to using play, as in language play - as a noun.

'Play with pragmatics' is both a valid English construction and in line with how Cook appears to use the term. Compare: 'When my child plays, what kinds of activities should I encourage? According to experts, at this age, structured play should be balanced with free-form play...'

  • Thank you Igid for your deliberately answer! But please explain it a bit for me, also I want to clarify that the authors of this article and Cook are 3 different persons. Regarding the quote above, it is that article authors that wrote those words while citing Cook. Because I am a learner of English, it is so confused to me that: 'language play' is ok to me, but is it still ok if I write 'play with language'? Jul 31, 2017 at 23:54
  • Yes, I should've said that the authors of the article are citing Cook as defining 'language play'. 'Play with language' is possible, but I admit it doesn't sound very natural. I am finding it difficult to explain why 'play with pragmatics' sounds okay here. One reason is, as commenters have pointed out, that 'playing' has already been used 3 times and using 'play' is an opportunity to break the rhythm. But also, we're already talking about language play - which has 3 aspects - and one of those is 'with pragmatics'... I'm sorry if that isn't very clear. Maybe someone else can help me out?
    – Igid
    Aug 1, 2017 at 16:56

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