Linguistics Humor in Language
by
Salvatore Attardo
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0191

Introduction

The field of humor research developed as an autonomous area of research in the mid-1970s, as the first scholarly conferences dedicated to the analysis of humor were held and their proceedings published. Needless to say, psychologists, philosophers, sociologists, literary scholars, and the odd linguist had long before concerned themselves with humor, so much so that the earliest theories of humor go as far back as Plato and Aristotle. Victor Raskin’s Semantic Mechanisms of Humor (see Raskin 1985, cited under Linguistic Models: Semantic Models: Semantic Script Theory of Humor) standardized the division of humor theories in three families: incongruity, hostility, and release. The linguistics of humor is more generally concerned with incongruity theories as they describe the cognitive mechanisms that cause humor. The hostility theories address the aggressive aspect of humor, i.e., the fact that often, but not always, humor is directed against someone. In linguistics, the affiliative aspect of humor has dominated the field of the discourse analysis of humor, which is somewhat of an anomaly within humor research. Finally, the release theories are more concerned with the effects of humor on the psyche, for example, by relieving stress. There is limited contact between release theories and linguistics. Due to space limitations, certain areas of research have been left out. Although certainly interesting, these areas are less central to humor research or are either very technical (for example, the neurolinguistics of humor), of limited interest outside of their specific fields (for example, relevance theoretic accounts or computational humor), or have attracted little following (for example, cognitive linguistic analyses of humor). Readers interested in these fields should consult the relevant sections of Raskin 2008 (The Primer of Humor Research), discussed under Reference Works, or the relevant issues of HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research.

Reference Works

The field of the linguistics of humor is in many ways still in its infancy. This is apparent in the lack of general reference works for the field. The recently published Encyclopedia of Humor Studies (Attardo 2014) will fill a large part of this gap. Moncelet 2006 is the only lexicon of humor research, unfortunately restricted to French. Raskin 2008, Martin 2007, Apte 1985, and Attardo 1994 are more general introductions, the latter focused on linguistics.

  • Apte, Mahadev. 1985. Humor and laughter. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

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    Apte presents a summary and discussion of the anthropological and ethnographical research on humor. Somewhat dated by now, Apte’s work remains a fundamental milestone of humor research. Linguists will find chapter 6 (pp. 177–211), on humor and language, the most relevant.

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    • Attardo, Salvatore. 1994. Linguistic theories of humor. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

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      A complete overview of the linguistics of humor, albeit somewhat dated. It is organized to parallel loosely the traditional organization of linguistic courses (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and discourse). Includes a detailed historical treatment. Assumes working knowledge of basic linguistics.

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      • Attardo, Salvatore, ed. 2014. Encyclopedia of humor studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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        A large scale work, encompassing many more disciplines besides linguistics. Broad, comprehensive and accessible to students.

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        • Martin, Rod. 2007. The psychology of humor: An integrative approach. Burlington, MA: Elsevier Academic.

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          An encyclopedic approach makes this compendium of the psychology of humor tangentially relevant to the linguistics of humor, but this is the basic introduction to the psychology of humor. Linguists will find chapter 4 (pp. 83–111), on the cognitive psychology of humor, the most relevant.

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          • Moncelet, Christian. 2006. Les mots du comique et de l’humour. Paris: Belin.

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            The only reference work on the subject, this over 600-page encyclopedic dictionary of comical and humorous words covers the French lexicon of humor fairly exhaustively. An invaluable compendium of literary and popular French work on humor. Humor research is only addressed when translated in French, and even then spottily.

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            • Raskin, Victor, ed. 2008. The primer of humor research. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

              DOI: 10.1515/9783110198492Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              A collection of about twenty introductory chapters covering various fields of humor research ranging from psychology to anthropology. The coverage and specificity of the chapters vary, but the linguist will find several useful chapters on linguistics, historical views of humor, computational humor, rhetoric, communication, literature, and translation.

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              Introductory Textbooks

              These books are generally targeted at beginning students in the field. They are usually ignored by advanced scholars because they are, generally speaking, simplistic and often wrong-headed (for example, by focusing almost exclusively on the varieties of verbal humor), but they play a significant role in initiating young scholars to the field. The best and more recent is Goatly 2012. Aarons 2011 and Dubinsky and Holcomb 2011 focus on the linguistic system, rather than humor, but attempt systematicity. Blake 2007, Ross 1998, and Nash 1985 are more accessible.

              • Aarons, Debra. 2011. Jokes and the linguistic mind. New York: Routledge.

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                An interesting focus on how humorous and play phenomena can provide evidence for the organization of psychological processes concerning language and provides a different perspective. Appropriate for advanced undergraduates and graduate students.

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                • Blake, Barry. 2007. Playing with words: Humour in the English language. London: Equinox.

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                  A simple introduction to the various forms of humor (jokes, puns, ambiguity, etc.) with no theoretical discussion. It focuses fairly narrowly on verbal humor. Appropriate for undergraduates.

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                  • Dubinsky, Stanley, and Chris Holcomb. 2011. Understanding language through humor. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511977824Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                    A very simplified introduction to linguistics using humorous examples. Intended for beginners, it oversimplifies concepts on occasions. Can be a useful source of material for the professional or advanced student.

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                    • Goatly, Andrew. 2012. Meaning and humor. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511791536Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                      Organized along the lines of a classical linguistics course on semantics (morphology, syntax, etc.), shows how humor can use semantic resources at all linguistic levels to function. Addresses advanced topics and humor theory. Appropriate for graduate students and professionals.

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                      • Nash, Walter. 1985. The language of humour: Style and technique in comic discourse. London and New York: Longman.

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                        A more sophisticated introduction, with some awareness of linguistics (stylistics, prosody) and connections to literary criticism, but significantly dated.

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                        • Ross, Alison. 1998. The language of humour. London and New York: Routledge.

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                          This elementary introduction is targeted at British high school students and undergraduates. It ignores most of the linguistics of humor but covers a broader range of genres including sit-coms, stand-up comedy, and literary humor.

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                          History of Humor

                          Humor itself and the theories of humor evolve over time. This may be obvious in a sense, because humor is clearly the expression of a culture; however, in a different sense, because humor is universal (there are no reports of cultures without humor), it is not clear why it should change, nor is it obvious that the theories of humor are influenced by the forms and manifestations of humor that happen to be popular at the time (Figueroa-Dorrego and Larkin-Galiñanes 2009). As of the early 21st century, no comprehensive, scholarly account of the history of humor is available; however, a great variety of works about specific historical periods can be found, such as Bremmer and Roodenburg 1997 and Horowitz and Menache 1994, especially in the literary field. The more general scholarly reference works cited in this section may serve as an introduction to the subject.

                          • Bremmer, Jan, and Herman Roodenburg, eds. 1997. A cultural history of humour: From antiquity to the present day. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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                            A classic that spans the entire history of Western civilization. Not a comprehensive treatment, but most chapters are by significant scholars and are generally reliable. Does not concern itself with the theories of humor, but with the phenomenon in itself. Generally clear, can be handled by advanced undergraduates.

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                            • Figueroa-Dorrego, Jorge, and Cristina Larkin-Galiñanes. 2009. A source book of literary and philosophical writings about humour and laughter: The seventy-five essential texts from antiquity to modern times. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen.

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                              Both anthology and critical discussion, this collection of writings about humor is a very good source of materials. It is concerned with the theories of humor, rather than humor per se. Fairly inclusive coverage. Good for beginners.

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                              • Horowitz, Jeannine, and Sophia Menache. 1994. L’humour en chaire: Le rire dans l’Église médiévale. Geneva, Switzerland: Labor et fides.

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                                A fundamental book (the title is translated as “Humor from the pulpit: Laughter in the medieval church”) that collects and explores the positions of the church on laughter and humor during the Middle Ages. The outcome is a surprisingly nuanced view of the generally negative attitude of the church toward laughter and humor.

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                                Linguistic Models

                                The linguistic analysis of humor is divided into structuralist models and semantic models (which in the context of humor research is actually closer to generative semantics and pragmatics).

                                Structuralist Models

                                The structuralist approach to linguistics flourished on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1950s and early 1960s, but it was applied systematically to humor only in Europe. Two main strands of research were developed. One strand was initiated by Algirdas J. Greimas, a semanticist, who in the process of discussing how disambiguation took place in sentences used a joke as an example. The second strand concerned the study of puns, traditionally the sole concern of the linguistics of humor, and focused primarily on their classification.

                                Isotopy-Disjunction

                                Greimas’s work was not at all focused on humor, and he never returned to the subject, which takes a scant two pages (pp. 70–71) in his book Sémantique structurale (Structural semantics) (Greimas 1966). Nonetheless, many scholars, starting with Morin 1966 and Guiraud 1976, elaborated on Greimas’s ideas in more detail and eventually broadened the approach (Manetti 1976, reviewed in Attardo 1994).

                                • Attardo, Salvatore. 1994. Linguistic theories of humor. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

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                                  Chapter 2 (pp. 60–107) discusses the linear organization of the joke and includes the most complete discussion of the isotopy-disjunction model, its sources, and its applications. Very technical, not recommended for beginners. Krikmann 2006 (discussed under Semantic Models: General Theory of Verbal Humor) is more accessible, but less complete.

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                                  • Greimas, Algirdas Julien. 1966. Sémantique structurale. Paris: Larousse.

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                                    Not a humor research work, but presents the basic model which was elaborated on in the isotopy-disjunction model.

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                                    • Guiraud, P. J. 1976. Les jeux de mots. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

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                                      Follows Greimas’s disjunction model, but is focused on the classification of puns. Uses a taxonomy based on the syntagmatic/paradigmatic opposition and on the concept of “inclusion.”

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                                      • Manetti, Giovanni. 1976. Per una semiotica del comico. Il Verri 3:130–152.

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                                        This article on the semiotics of humor applies the isotopy-disjunction model to semiotics, showing that it can be applied to all kinds of signifiers and different semiotic systems. Humorous language is seen as systematically ambiguous. Proposes a “relational grid” that encodes the cultural specifications of what counts as humorous in a culture.

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                                        • Morin, Violette. 1966. L’histoire drôle. Communications 8:102–119.

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                                          A classic work in the structuralist tradition, this article on the organization of the joke develops Greimas’s basic model of disjunction using Vladimir Propp’s narratological functions. Jokes are shown to consist of three functions: the setting of the situation, the presentation of a problem, and the punch line.

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                                          Puns

                                          Traditionally, and at least until Raskin 1985 (cited under Linguistic Models: Semantic Models: Semantic Script Theory of Humor), puns were the sole domain of the linguistics of humor. Most work about puns is taxonomic, i.e., tries to classify puns based on various features. Puns are noncasual forms of language; in this they resemble playful and artful uses of language. Puns involve a string (sequence) of sounds, often, but not necessarily, a word (lexical/morphemic unit). Puns can also be syntactic and morphemic. Puns are commonly seen as involving the string that occurs in the text and a target, another string which may or may not occur in the text and that has a different meaning than the original string. Semantically and pragmatically, the two senses brought about by the string and its target have to be opposed, and in this are no different from non-punning humor. Hausmann 1974; Sobkowiak 1991; Attardo 1994 (cited under Isotopy-Disjunction), pp. 108–173; and Ritchie 2004 can be used as an introductions to the field. Oaks 2010 is a resource for professionals. Guidi 2012 and Hempelmann 2004 represent the cutting edge of research.

                                          • Alexander, Richard J. 1984. Verbal humor and variation in English: Sociolinguistic notes on a variety of jokes. Beiträge zur Fremdsprachenvermittlung aus dem Konstanzer Sprachlerinstitut 14:53–63.

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                                            “Register humor” occurs when there is a stylistic clash between the register associated with a word, syntactic construction, or other linguistic feature used in a text, and another feature of the text or its context. “Register humor” is also discussed in Attardo 1994 (cited under Linguistic Models: Semantic Models: Semantic Script Theory of Humor).

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                                            • Guidi, Annarita. 2012. Are pun mechanisms universal? A comparative analysis across language families. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 25.3: 339–366.

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                                              A cross-linguistic analysis of puns covering several language families and fifteen languages demonstrates that the mechanisms underlying puns are probably universal.

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                                              • Hausmann, Franz Josef. 1974. Studien zur Linguistik des Wortspiels. Tübingen, Germany: Niemeyer.

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                                                Presents an elaborate taxonomy of puns, based on the isotopy-disjunction model, using a corpus of puns from a French satirical magazine.

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                                                • Hempelmann, Christian. 2004. Script opposition and logical mechanisms. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 17.4: 381–392.

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                                                  Based on the author’s unpublished dissertation, this short article focuses on the “overlapping” aspect of the semantic theory of humor (see the section on Linguistic Models: Semantic Models: Semantic Script Theory of Humor) and shows that the phonetic similarity between the puns and their targets provides the required “overlap” (coexistence of two senses in the text).

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                                                  • Oaks, Dallin. 2010. Structural ambiguity in English. 2 vols. London: Continuum.

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                                                    The most comprehensive treatment of ambiguity. Presents a catalog of ambiguities in English. At over 500 pages of highly technical descriptions, this is not meant for beginners, but it is a must-have reference for professionals. Only marginally interested in humor. Notes when ambiguity may result in humor.

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                                                    • Ritchie, Graeme. 2004. The linguistic analysis of jokes. London and New York: Routledge.

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                                                      Chapter 9 (pp. 109–142) is concerned with the “structure of puns” and offers a rich variety of examples and an elaborate taxonomy.

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                                                      • Sobkowiak, Włodzimierz. 1991. Metaphonology of English paronomasic puns. Frankfurt: Lang.

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                                                        Classifies puns based on phonetic distance. Puns are, generally speaking, more similar to their targets than to speech errors on the phonetic level. Puns favor word initial and word final positions, which are more salient. Based on a large corpus of puns.

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                                                        Semantic Models

                                                        Until the early 1980s, it was a widespread assumption, at least in the Anglophone world, that the only role that linguistics could play in humor research was to provide taxonomies of puns and little else. The structural models (see also the section on Structuralist Models) had virtually no resonance in the United States or England, and there was little, if any, humor research outside of Europe and the United States. The publication of Raskin 1985 (cited under Linguistic Models: Semantic Models: Semantic Script Theory of Humor) and its semantic/pragmatic theory changed all this, making semantics the central concern of the linguistics of humor, pushing linguistics to the forefront of humor studies, and relegating puns to a secondary role.

                                                        Semantic Script Theory of Humor

                                                        The Semantic Script Theory of Humor (SSTH), introduced in Raskin 1985, was the first comprehensive, mature theory of humor, based on semantic and pragmatic grounds. The theory is based on the psychological and artificial intelligence concept of “script” (i.e., an organized representation of the semantic content associated with a given [often, but not necessarily, lexical] entity). Scripts are also known as “frames” and with other less common terms (schemata, daemons, etc.). “Script” is introduced as an umbrella term, covering all alternative terminology. Famously, the central claim of the SSTH is that the necessary and sufficient condition for a text to be humorous, at the competence level, is that it meets two requirements: (1) the text is compatible (i.e., can be interpreted) with two different scripts, and (2) these scripts are opposed. The theory is presented in Attardo 1994 and elaborated on in Attardo 1997.

                                                        • Attardo, Salvatore. 1994. Linguistic theories of humor. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

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                                                          Chapter 6 (pp. 195–229) provides a thorough discussion of the SSTH and a discussion of its various applications to the teaching of English, sophisticated humor, Jewish humor, etc. It also discusses some of the early expansions of the theory, including the General Theory of Verbal Humor (GTVH).

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                                                          • Attardo, Salvatore. 1997. The semantic foundations of cognitive theories of humor. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 10.4: 395–420.

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                                                            A more advanced discussion of the concept of “script opposition.” Argues that script opposition is equivalent to incongruity. Shows that there is a problem with the original definition of “local antonymy” and suggests a redefinition as a script with “low accessibility and high informativeness” (p. 402).

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                                                            • Raskin, Victor. 1985. Semantic mechanisms of humor. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: D. Reidel.

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                                                              A fundamental book in humor research, not just on the linguistic side. A full, accessible presentation of the SSTH, with numerous applications and many examples. It still remains a must-read for all scholars interested in the semantics and pragmatics of humor.

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                                                              Ontological Semantic Theory of Humor

                                                              The Ontological Semantic Theory of Humor (OSTH) is the latest version of the SSTH/GTVH. It is based on the work in Nirenburg and Raskin 2004. Ontological semantics is based on the concept of “ontology,” i.e., a (hierarchical) representation of the knowledge in the world, which allows the user/system to draw inferences that would not be otherwise available. For example, an abstracting program used by a company that produces board games and pool volleyball nets would either have to include both items, therefore not reducing the information, or list neither, therefore losing all the information, whereas an ontologically enriched semantic processor would be able to generalize that both can be used in games and describe the company as a “game manufacturer” with minimal loss of information and maximum concision. Raskin, et al. 2010 is the most current presentation of the OSTH.

                                                              • Nirenburg, Sergei, and Victor Raskin. 2004. Ontological semantics. Cambridge, MA, and London: MIT Press.

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                                                                Highly technical and not a humor research book, but fundamental reading necessary to access any of the OSTH publications.

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                                                                • Raskin, Victor, Christian F. Hempelmann, and Julia M. Taylor. 2010. How to understand and assess a theory: The evolution of the SSTH into the GTVH and now into the OSTH. Journal of Literary Theory 3.2: 285–312.

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                                                                  By adding the resources of ontological semantics, the SSTH/GTVH can be both streamlined, because it is no longer necessary to have a separate list of basic oppositions, and strengthened, especially in relation to logical mechanisms.

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                                                                  General Theory of Verbal Humor

                                                                  The General Theory of Verbal Humor (GTVH) was proposed in Attardo and Raskin 1991 to address the issue of whether any two jokes were more or less different. Intuitively, two jokes that are mere paraphrases of the same joke will be perceived as very similar, if not indeed the same joke, whereas two jokes that involved different settings would be perceived as less similar. The GTVH explains this fact by arguing that a full analysis of jokes as texts needs to involve more than the script opposition postulated in the SSTH. It therefore adds five other parameters, called Knowledge Resources (KR), which address various aspects of the joke text. The KRs are the Script Opposition (SO), from the original SSTH; the Logical Mechanism (LM), which is concerned with the resolution of the incongruity (Attardo, et al. 2002; Hempelmann and Attardo 2011); the Situation (SI), which can be thought of as the “propos” of the joke; the Target (TA), i.e., the butt of the joke; the Narrative Strategy (NS), which addresses the way in which the text is organized; and, finally, the Language (LA), which addresses the lexical, syntactic, etc., choices. The order in which the KRs are presented reflects the hierarchy of the KRs (see Ruch, et al., 1993). The GTVH is widely recognized as the most successful linguistic theory of humor. It has been criticized on the grounds that it is too complex, that it emphasizes excessively the formal aspects of the subject, and that it is not formalized enough (see Krikmann 2006, Davies 2011, and Oring 2011).

                                                                  • Attardo, Salvatore, Christian F. Hempelmann, and Sara Di Maio. 2002. Script oppositions and logical mechanisms: Modeling incongruities and their resolutions. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 15.1: 3–46.

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                                                                    The most extensive treatment of Logical Mechanisms. Uses set theory and graph theory to show that this aspect of the GTVH can be described formally with these mathematical tools. Very technical.

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                                                                    • Attardo, Salvatore, and Victor Raskin. 1991. Script theory revis(it)ed: Joke similarity and joke representation model. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 4.3: 293–347.

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                                                                      The article that introduced the GTVH. It contains a full justification of the organization of the theory in six knowledge resources and their relationships. It is a fairly technical treatment and therefore not the best point of entry for students.

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                                                                      • Davies, Christie. 2011. Logical mechanisms: A critique. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 24.2: 159–165.

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                                                                        A general critique of the concept of logical mechanisms that ends up arguing against linguistic theories at large, by a prominent sociologist and humor scholar. Davies argues that the GTVH may be unfalsifiable and that the question of the logical mechanisms may be entirely misguided.

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                                                                        • Hempelmann, Christian F., and Salvatore Attardo. 2011. Resolutions and their incongruities: Further thoughts on logical mechanisms. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 24.2: 125–149.

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                                                                          A further development of the GTVH that introduces the distinction between foregrounded and backgrounded incongruities and partial and complete resolution. The article also addresses some of the criticisms of the GTVH.

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                                                                          • Krikmann, Arvo. 2006. Contemporary linguistic theories of humour.

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                                                                            This article by an Estonian folklorist summarizes various linguistic approaches including the SSTH and the GTVH but also includes a discussion of some of the criticisms directed to the GTVH.

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                                                                            • Oring, Elliott. 2011. Parsing the joke: The general theory of verbal humor and appropriate incongruity. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 24.2: 203–222.

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                                                                              Oring, a noted folklorist and humor scholar, criticizes the GTVH from the perspective of his “appropriate incongruity” approach. He finds that, paradoxically, his analyses of jokes are closer to language, whereas the GTVH analyses are closer to culture.

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                                                                              • Ruch, Willibald, Salvatore Attardo, and Victor Raskin. 1993. Toward an empirical verification of the General Theory of Verbal Humor. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 6.2: 123–136.

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                                                                                An empirical experimental study that confirmed the central claim of the GTVH, i.e., that the perception of joke similarity is predicted by the hierarchy of the knowledge resources. Two jokes differing in script opposition will be perceived as less similar than two jokes differing in targets, for example.

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                                                                                Narrative and Narratological Models

                                                                                This section covers works that look at the humorous aspect of narratives, not at narratives in general. Most structuralist and semantic research on humor has used jokes as its testing bed, for obvious practical reasons: jokes are easy to collect and analyze. The GTVH was deliberately limited to jokes in its formulation, following the SSTH, despite the name of the theory which seemed to imply that it should cover all humor expressed verbally. Therefore, it became somewhat of an obvious problem to address how to move from analyzing short, simple texts to much more sophisticated, complex, and longer texts. Chłopicki 2006, Galiñanes 2005, and Holcomb 1992 are approaches that are independent of the GTVH, whereas Attardo 2001 introduced the expansion of GTVH to long texts, empirically tested in Corduas, et al., 2008. Tsakona 2003 and Ermida 2008 are critical of the GTVH’s expansion, albeit for different reasons.

                                                                                • Attardo, Salvatore. 2001. Humorous texts: A semantic and pragmatic analysis. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

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                                                                                  Extends the GTVH to long texts (short stories, novels, etc.). Introduced the concept of the humorous “jab line” (occurs in the middle of the text) to contrast with the punch line (occurs at the end of a narrative and reorients it). Examines the distribution of humor in the text.

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                                                                                  • Chłopicki, Władysław. 2006. Humour and cognition: Dynamics of characters and events. In At the crossroads of linguistic sciences. Język a komunikacja 10. Edited by Piotr P. Chruszczewski, Michał Garcarz, and Tomasz P. Górski, 331–347. Kraków, Poland: Tertium.

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                                                                                    Brings together ideas from several prior publications by Chłopicki and broadens the analysis of humor to cover context, culture, genre, narrative, and cognition. Several examples of English short story fragments are analyzed. Fairly technical.

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                                                                                    • Corduas, Marcella, Salvatore Attardo, and Alyson Eggleston. 2008. The distribution of humour in literary texts is not random: A statistical analysis. Language and Literature 17.3: 253–270.

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                                                                                      An application of the distribution of humor methodology in Attardo 2001 shows, using a time-series statistical model, that the distribution of humor is not random and varies from text to text. Very complex statistical apparatus, not for beginners.

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                                                                                      • Ermida, Isabel. 2008. The language of comic narratives: Humor construction in short stories. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

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                                                                                        Ermida presents her model to handle humorous short stories, based on the GTVH, while distancing herself from the “linear” analysis in Attardo 2001. Argues that texts need to be analyzed holistically and interdisciplinarily. Considers briefly six examples.

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                                                                                        • Galiñanes, Cristina Larkin. 2005. Funny fiction; or, jokes and their relation to the humorous novel. Poetics Today 26.1: 79–111.

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                                                                                          A hybrid model using scripts, Relevance Theory, and the GTVH suggests that a text develops a preponderant script which moves along the interpretation of the text, much like how scripts, which are based on stereotypical knowledge, help along the interpretation of jokes.

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                                                                                          • Holcomb, C. 1992. Nodal humor in comic narrative: A semantic analysis of two stories by Twain and Wodehouse. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 5.3: 233–250.

                                                                                            DOI: 10.1515/humr.1992.5.3.233Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            Developing the SSTH introduced by Raskin (see Raskin 1985, cited under Linguistic Models: Semantic Script Theory of Humor), Holcomb introduces the concept of humor “nodal points”: “joke-like constructions,” i.e., areas in the narrative where the concentration of humor is greater. Introduces the idea of “major” and “local” oppositions. The former occur at the beginning of the narrative; the latter, in the nodal points.

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                                                                                            • Tsakona, Villy. 2003. Jab lines in narrative jokes. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 16.3: 315–330.

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                                                                                              Finds that many jokes, despite being short and apparently simple, contain jab lines (see Attardo 2001) within them, in the setup part of the text, before ending in a punch line. The script opposition in the punch line is different than the one(s) in the jab lines.

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                                                                                              Discourse Analysis

                                                                                              The discourse analysis of humor (here broadly understood to include the conversation analysis of humor as well) is definitely the area of research in the linguistics of humor that has produced the greatest number of publications. The field can be divided into three sections, roughly (but not entirely) arranged on a chronological basis: (1) the foundations, largely built around the pioneering work of Harvey Sacks and Gail Jefferson, spanning roughly from the 1970s to the early 1980s and concerned primarily with canned jokes, and the role of laughter; (2) the functionalist period (1984–2000), defined by the interest in the uses to which humor is put by the speakers in conversation and how the humor is jointly constructed by the speakers; and (3) the corpus-based period (2000–early 21st century), defined by the burgeoning uses of large corpora and by an interest for quantitative data. Needless to say, these three periods are not rigidly fixed, and interests and concerns cross these boundaries. It is also, somewhat paradoxically, the area of linguistic humor research that has been influenced the least by the mainstream theories of humor (including those developed within linguistics). This is presumably due to two distinct facts. The first reason is that Sacks’s pioneering work in the early 1970s took place independently of the early research in humor studies and was not influenced by it. Thus, many scholars, especially in the foundational period, did not see themselves as humor scholars at all. The second reason is that, ignoring the fact that Sacks himself had focused on a canned joke, many discourse analysts have rejected the results of humor research because most of them had been achieved using canned jokes as their materials (despite evidence that the distinction is not as rigid as they seem to think). Be that as it may, it remains that much, but by no means all, of the discourse analysis of humor is somewhat detached from humor research, while still being a very important part thereof.

                                                                                              Foundations

                                                                                              Starting from the original studies by Sacks 1989 (originally published in 1974), a fairly significant number of researchers looked at the organization of humor in conversation, such as Edwards 1984 and Zajdman 2009, and in particular at the function of laughter, which was found to be far from a mere reaction to humor but, in fact, to be used to invite more laughter and to define the situation as humorous (see Jefferson, et al., 1977; Jefferson 1979; O’Donnell-Trujillo and Adams 1983). A more complete discussion of the foundational period can be found in Attardo 1994 (cited under Reference Works), chapter 10, pp. 293–331, which covers the period from 1972 to 1992.

                                                                                              • Cashion, Joan L., Michael J. Cody, and Keith V. Erickson. 1986. “You’ll love this one. . .”: An exploration into joke-prefacing devices. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 5.4: 303–310.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1177/0261927X8600500405Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                The authors see prefaces as a tool to secure the floor and a potential face-saving technique. Joke tellers may forewarn hearers of potential offensive material. The authors also note that jokes may be relevant to the situation or that they may not have a preface.

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                                                                                                • Edwards, Carol L. 1984. “Stop me if you’ve heard this one”: Narrative disclaimers as breakthrough into performance. Fabula: Zeitschrift für Erzählforschung 25.3–4: 214–228.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1515/fabl.1984.25.3-4.214Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  Examines disclaimers, i.e., prefatory statements before the telling of a canned joke. Edwards sees their function as metacommunicative, i.e., she interprets them as an attempt on the part of the teller to dissociate themselves from the text about to be delivered.

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                                                                                                  • Jefferson, Gail. 1979. A technique for inviting laughter and its subsequent acceptance declination. In Everyday language: Studies in ethnomethodology. Edited by George Psathas, 79–96. New York: Irvington.

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                                                                                                    Examines how speakers may “invite” laughter from the hearer, with a “post-utterance completion laugh particle” (p. 80), i.e., laughing after one’s turn. By laughing, the speaker validates that response. The laughter may occur at the end of the turn or also during it.

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                                                                                                    • Jefferson, Gail, Harvey Sacks, and Emanuel A. Schegloff. 1977. Preliminary notes on the sequential organization of laughter. Pragmatics Microfiche.

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                                                                                                      Focuses on multiparty laughter as a sequence-systematic and interaction-constructional phenomenon. Laughter may be synchronous (“unisons”) and/or turn taking (“relay laughter”). Laughter can be used as a repair in the “offense-remedial cycle,” i.e., as a way to handle a problematic conversational situation.

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                                                                                                      • O’Donnell-Trujillo, N., and K. Adams. 1983. Heheh in conversation: Some coordinating accomplishments of laughter. Western Journal of Speech Communication 47:175–191.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1080/10570318309374114Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        Notes the functions of laughter as turn taking, cueing on the humorous intention of the speaker, cueing on the interpretation of the utterance, asking for more information, and finally serving as an affiliative resource.

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                                                                                                        • Sacks, Harvey. 1989. An analysis of the course of a joke’s telling in conversation. In Explorations in the ethnography of speaking. 2d ed. Edited by Richard Bauman and Joel Sherzer, 337–353. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511611810Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          Originally published in 1974. The foundational article in the field. Examines the sequential organization of the telling of a dirty joke in conversation composed of three serially ordered and adjacently placed types of sequences: preface, telling, and response sequences.

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                                                                                                          • Zajdman, Anat. 2009. Contextualization of canned jokes in discourse. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 4.1: 23–40.

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                                                                                                            Proposes a four-stage model of the relevance of a canned joke to its context and argues that a rigid distinction between canned and conversational jokes cannot be maintained. Canned and conversational jokes lie on a continuum of contextualization.

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                                                                                                            Functionalists

                                                                                                            By its own nature, it is hard to characterize generally the functionalist work, except to say that these studies are concerned with how people use humor to accomplish “relational work” within the conversations. The main examples of functionalist works are Davies 1984 and Tannen 2005 (originally published in 1984), Norrick 1993, and Glenn 2003. By and large, functionalist work suffers from a bias toward the positive aspects of humor (Boxer and Cortés-Conde 1997 and Priego-Valverde 2003 are notable exceptions). Holmes and Marra 2002 focuses on workplace humor.

                                                                                                            • Boxer, Diana, and Florencia Cortés-Conde. 1997. From bonding to biting: Conversational joking and identity display. Journal of Pragmatics 27:275–295.

                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1016/S0378-2166(96)00031-8Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              A very successful characterization of humor as being used both for affiliative (bonding) and disaffiliative (biting) functions. One of the very first articles to focus on both aspects of humor.

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                                                                                                              • Davies, Catherine Evans. 1984. Joint joking: Improvisational humorous episodes in conversation. In Proceedings of the tenth annual meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, 17–20 February 1984. Edited by Claudia Brugman, et al., 360–371. Berkeley: Univ. of California.

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                                                                                                                Often overlooked by later researchers, this article introduced many of the central themes of the functionalist approach to the discourse analysis of humor, such as the co-construction of humor, the building of solidarity, and the dynamic nature of the definition of humor spaces.

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                                                                                                                • Glenn, Phillip. 2003. Laughter in interaction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511519888Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  Book-length study focused on laughter, not humor. Distinguishes between invited laughter and volunteered laughter (without invitation). Shared laughter tends to be short and needs to be renewed. In dyadic interactions, the speaker laughs first more often, unlike in multiparty interactions. Not very aware of humor research. Introduced the term “laughable.”

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                                                                                                                  • Holmes, Janet, and Meredith Marra. 2002. Having a laugh at work: How humour contributes to workplace culture. Journal of Pragmatics 34.12: 1683–1710.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/S0378-2166(02)00032-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    Explores humor frequency, type, and style within a community of practice framework to identify characteristics of workplace subcultures in different organizations. Corpus-based, but addresses largely functionalist concerns.

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                                                                                                                    • Norrick, Neal R. 1993. Conversational joking: Humor in everyday talk. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                      The first book-length treatment of conversational joking. Closer to Sacks’s original work than most. Presented many of the functionalist concerns that dominated the field.

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                                                                                                                      • Priego-Valverde, Béatrice. 2003. L’humour dans la conversation familière: Description et analyse linguistiques. Paris: L’Harmattan.

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                                                                                                                        The most comprehensive functionalist analysis of conversational humor. Comes to the conclusion that humor may be used for any function. Pioneered the consideration of disaffiliative humor. Uses standard discourse analysis techniques augmented by Bakhtinian dialogism.

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                                                                                                                        • Tannen, Deborah. 2005. Conversational style: Analyzing talk among friends. New ed. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                          Originally published in 1984. A famous book outside of humor research, also largely overlooked by the field. Analyzed all the humorous occurrences in the conversations held at a Thanksgiving dinner. Concludes that humor makes itself felt and has a significant role in building and signaling one’s conversational personality.

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                                                                                                                          Corpus-Based

                                                                                                                          Significantly smaller in numbers in terms of articles and books, but with very significant results that promise to raise the profile of this approach, the corpus-based approach is distinguished by the use of large corpora (unlike the smaller corpora, usually collected personally by the researcher, often as a participant observer) and the use of statistical analyses and descriptions. Holmes, et al. 2001; Schnurr 2009; and Koester 2010 focus on workplace settings. Günther 2003 and Tannen 2005 (originally published in 1984) address conversational humor. Partington 2006, Partington 2007, and Partington 2011 use explicitly marked instances of irony or laughter.

                                                                                                                          • Günther, Ulrike. 2003. What’s in a laugh? Humour, jokes and laughter in the conversational corpus of the BNC. PhD diss., Univ. of Freiburg.

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                                                                                                                            Investigates humor, laughter, and joke performances in conversations from two British corpora. The analysis extends from the study of canned-joke performances via a discussion of structural properties in the construction of jokes to a description of laughter and humor in everyday interaction.

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                                                                                                                            • Holmes, Janet, Meredith Marra, and Louise Burns. 2001. Women’s humour in the workplace: A quantitative analysis. Australian Journal of Communication 28.1: 83–108.

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                                                                                                                              Groundbreaking quantitative analysis showing, against stereotype, that women produce more humor than men and they produce more humor when they chair a meeting than men in a similar position. Women also produce more humor in single-gender groups, whereas men produce less humor in single-gender situations.

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                                                                                                                              • Koester, Almut. 2010. Workplace discourse. London and New York: Continuum.

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                                                                                                                                Considers a sample of sixty instances of humor and finds five general functions: building a positive identity, defending one’s own positive face, showing convergence, negative politeness, and showing divergence.

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                                                                                                                                • Partington, Alan. 2006. The linguistics of laughter: A corpus-assisted study of laughter-talk. New York: Routledge.

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                                                                                                                                  Examines the functions of “laughter-talk” (the talk preceding and eliciting an episode of laughter) and what hearers signal by means of laughter.

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                                                                                                                                  • Partington, Alan. 2007. Irony and reversal of evaluation. Journal of Pragmatics 39.9: 1547–1569.

                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2007.04.009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                    Examines “explicit irony,” i.e., irony that is explicitly labeled as such in the discourse in which it occurs, for example, by using markers such as “John said ironically . . .” Concludes that irony is evaluative, argues against echoic (mention) theory, and in favor of the two-stage theories.

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                                                                                                                                    • Partington, Alan. 2011. Phrasal irony: Its form, function and exploitation. Journal of Pragmatics 43:1786–1800.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2010.11.001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      Examines “phrasal irony,” i.e., irony that is manifested by combining phrasal expressions with contrasting evaluative polarity, as in “bent on self-improvement” in which “bent” has a negative connotation (e.g., “bent on destruction”), whereas self-improvement has a positive valence. Phrasal irony can be reduced to general irony.

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                                                                                                                                      • Schnurr, S. 2009. Leadership discourse at work: Interactions of humour, gender and workplace culture. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

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                                                                                                                                        The only book-length treatment of humor to emerge from the groundbreaking language in the workplace research by Janet Holmes and her associates. Examines humor in the workplace, challenging many widely held beliefs, such as the claim that women produce less humor than men. A must-read.

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                                                                                                                                        • Tannen, Deborah. 2005. Conversational style: Analyzing talk among friends. New ed. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                          Originally published in 1984. The first book that explicitly uses a corpus of conversations to identify and quantify the uses of humor in conversation. Finds considerable variation among speakers and concludes that, overall, about 10 percent of turns are humorous. A classic that cannot be ignored. Also addresses functionalist concerns.

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                                                                                                                                          Prosody and Humor Markers

                                                                                                                                          A relatively recent development within the discourse analysis field, this approach is based on instrumental and quantitative measurements of data. The focus is on determining what markers, if any, the speakers use to indicate what parts of discourse are humorous. Pickering, et al. 2009; Attardo, et al. 2011; and Flamson, et al. 2011 present results for spoken humor; Adams 2012, for online humor. Bryant and Fox Tree 2005 and Rockwell 2000 deal with irony. Wennerstrom 2011 discusses a previously unanalyzed phenomenon.

                                                                                                                                          • Adams, Audrey. 2012. Humor markers in computer-mediated communication. MA diss., Texas A&M Univ.—Commerce.

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                                                                                                                                            A synthesis of the (scant) research on the subject and a significant contribution. Finds that emoticons, laughter, and special formatting are significantly more frequent with humorous turns. Recognition of humor is significantly more likely to occur when markers are used. The first corpus-based study on the subject.

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                                                                                                                                            • Attardo, Salvatore, Lucy Pickering, and Amanda Baker. 2011. Prosodic and multimodal markers of humor in conversation. Pragmatics and Cognition 19.2: 224–247.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1075/pc.19.2.03attSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              Shows that conversational humor is not marked by prosodic features, replicating their previous study of canned jokes, and that laughter and smiling tend to co-occur with humor, but unsystematically.

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                                                                                                                                              • Bryant, G. A., and J. E. Fox Tree. 2005. Is there an ironic tone of voice? Language and Speech 48.3: 257–277.

                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1177/00238309050480030101Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                The authors conclude that there is not a specific ironical tone of voice and that hearers interpret irony by relaying on a variety of clues, including context. They find prosodic contrasts, but these are not exclusive to irony.

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                                                                                                                                                • Flamson, T., G. A. Bryant, and H. C. Barrett. 2011. Prosody in spontaneous humor: Evidence for encryption. Pragmatics and Cognition 19.2: 248–267.

                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1075/pc.19.2.04flaSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  Analysis of spontaneous humorous speech in Portuguese, comparing acoustic features of humorous utterances (followed by laughter) to nonhumorous utterances by the same speakers.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Pickering, L., M. Corduas, J. Eisterhold, B. Seifried, A. Eggleston, and S. Attardo. 2009. Prosodic markers of saliency in humorous narratives. Discourse Processes 46:517–540.

                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1080/01638530902959604Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                    Examines such factors as volume, pitch, pauses, speech rate, laughter, and smiling in canned joke telling. Speakers use a lower pitch and volume when delivering punch lines. Speakers do not significantly raise or lower their speech rate at and around the punch line. Finds no evidence supporting that punch lines are preceded by pauses.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Rockwell, P. 2000. Lower, slower, louder: Vocal cues of sarcasm. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 29.5: 483–495.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1023/A:1005120109296Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      This aptly titled article shows that sarcasm is uttered with a lower pitch, slower speech rate, and higher volume, when performed by trained professionals.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Wennerstrom, A. 2011. Rich pitch: The humorous effects of deaccent and L + H* pitch accent. Pragmatics and Cognition 19.2: 310–332.

                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1075/pc.19.2.07wenSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                        Two intonation patterns—the “intonation of contrast” and the “intonation of given information,” or “deaccent”—may help produce humor. Both intonation patterns contribute to cohesion by triggering the search of a cohesive tie. Humor occurs if the search “yields an unexpected incongruity” (p. 310).

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                                                                                                                                                        Laughter

                                                                                                                                                        This section is concerned with the prosodic and acoustic analysis of laughter (in other words, the sounds of laughter). Those interested in the functions of laughter in discourse should consult the section on Discourse Analysis: Foundations. Chafe 2007 is a broad introduction that ties the subject to humor research. Provine 2000 is a controversial classic, criticized, for example, by O’Connell and Kowal 2008. Trouvain and Campbell 2007 and Bachorowski, et al. 2001 are more technical and less connected to humor research.

                                                                                                                                                        • Bachorowski, J.-A., M. J. Smoski, and M. J. Owren. 2001. The acoustic features of human laughter. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 110:1581–1597.

                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1121/1.1391244Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                          Large sample of elicited laughter bouts. There is much variation in laughter. Laughter is not articulated. Males produce significantly more unvoiced grunt-like laughter, whereas females produce more “voiced song-like” laughter (p. 1584). Males laugh significantly lower acoustically than females, but there is variation in both genders.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Chafe, Wallace L. 2007. The importance of not being earnest: The feeling behind laughter and humor. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1075/ceb.3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                            Fundamental textbook from a major linguist that redefined the field. A complete description of the acoustics and prosody of laughter, with the addition of an evolutionary theory that might account for its evolution. Indispensable, accessible to beginners.

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                                                                                                                                                            • O’Connell, Daniel, and Sabine Kowal. 2008. Communicating with one another: Toward a psychology of spontaneous spoken discourse. New York: Springer.

                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1007/978-0-387-77632-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                              Chapter 12 (pp. 163–173) is dedicated to laughter and summarizes the authors’ previous work on the subject of laughter as distinguished from humor. The authors reject Provine’s claim that laughter punctuates speech.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Provine, Robert R. 2000. Laughter: A scientific investigation. New York: Penguin.

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                                                                                                                                                                Investigates laughter under different perspectives. Claims that people laugh primarily at nonhumor and that laughter punctuates speech. Controversial book. See also Ruch, Willibald. 2002. Review of Robert R. Provine. Laughter: A scientific approach. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 15.3: 335–344.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Trouvain, Jürgen, and Nick Campbell, eds. 2007. Proceedings of the interdisciplinary workshop on the phonetics of laughter, Saarland University, Saarbrücken, Germany, 4–5 August 2007. Saarbrücken, Germany: Saarland Univ.

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                                                                                                                                                                  A collection of interdisciplinary papers presented at the 2007 workshop on the production, acoustics, and perception of laughter.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Pragmatics of Humor

                                                                                                                                                                  As seen in the Semantic Models section, the semantic level is very important in understanding the mechanics of humor. However, the pragmatic level is just as important, in two ways: (1) because pragmatics encompasses implied and figurative (nonliteral) meanings, which play a very significant role in humor, and (2) because pragmatics comprises the study of context and its relationship to text, which is a crucial aspect of the appreciation of humor. In the second sense, contextual pragmatics blends seamlessly into sociolinguistics; therefore, interactionist and variationist pragmatics are discussed in the sociolinguistic sections below Pragmatics of Humor: Irony and Sarcasm and Interactionist: Variationist Approaches, and the other aspects are discussed in this section.

                                                                                                                                                                  Irony and Sarcasm

                                                                                                                                                                  Irony is probably the topic of humor research that has been the object of most research and publishing. A bibliographic search returns more than a thousand articles in the past ten years! There are many theories of humor, mostly represented in Gibbs and Colston 2007, and little, if any, consensus has been reached on how the phenomenon should be considered. Nonetheless, most scholars would agree that irony and sarcasm are very close but not identical phenomena (we use “irony” as an umbrella term in this bibliography). Irony is a primarily pragmatic phenomenon. Irony involves “saying” one thing while “meaning” another (the definition of “saying” and “meaning,” of course, are highly controversial). The context in which irony is used is highly significant. Irony may, but by no means must, be marked as such by an array of linguistic and paralinguistic “markers” (Burgers, et al. 2012). Those hearing an ironic turn may react in a variety of ways including laughter, ignoring the turn, and considering either the “literal” or the “ironical” meaning. Irony is acquired by children later than most other linguistic skills (Whalen and Pexman 2010). Individuals with brain damage and individuals on the autism spectrum may experience difficulties, potentially severe, in processing irony. Finally, irony is a very complex phenomenon connected, but not equal to, humor (Hidalgo Downing and Iglesias Recuero, 2008).

                                                                                                                                                                  • Burgers, Christian, Margot van Mulken, and Peter Jan Schellens. 2012. Type of evaluation and marking of irony: The role of perceived complexity and comprehension. Journal of Pragmatics 44:231–242.

                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2011.11.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                    This paper explores the complex relationship between the type of evaluation of irony and the markers of the ironic intent, showing that comprehension, perception of difficulty, and attitudes are affected. Explicit irony is easier to understand and better liked; markers increase comprehension and increase positive attitudes.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Gibbs, Raymond W., Jr., and Herbert L. Colston, eds. 2007. Irony in language and thought. New York: Erlbaum.

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                                                                                                                                                                      This indispensable volume collects a broad selection of the fundamental articles around which the discussion of irony and sarcasm pivoted roughly between 1980 and 2005. The articles range from the theoretical to the psycholinguistic, the sociolinguistic, and the developmental. A section on situational irony rounds off the volume.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Hidalgo Downing, Raquel, and Silvia Iglesias Recuero. 2008. Humor e ironía: Una relación compleja. In Dime cómo ironizas y te diré quién eres: Una aproximación pragmática a la ironía. Edited by Leonor Ruiz Gurillo and Xose A. Padilla García, 423–455. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.

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                                                                                                                                                                        One of the very few systematic treatments of the difficult problem of the relationships between humor and irony. The consensus is that there is a significant overlap between the two phenomena, i.e., that a large part of irony is humorous.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Whalen, J. M., and P. M. Pexman. 2010. How do children respond to verbal irony in face-to-face communication? The development of mode adoption across middle childhood. Discourse Processes 47:363–387.

                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1080/01638530903347635Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                          A developmental study of mode adoption (response with irony to irony). Mode adoption requires the ability to produce irony and not just to understand it. Indeed, mode adoption increases with age. Ironic compliments were found to be harder to understand. Mode adoption rate for children was about 10 percent.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Interactionist

                                                                                                                                                                          Interactionist pragmatics overlaps significantly with the functionalist approach to discourse analysis, but interactionist pragmatics is not necessarily committed to the discourse analysis methodology. Both fields are concerned with what speakers do with humor in interaction and how they achieve their goals.

                                                                                                                                                                          Humor Support and Mode Adoption

                                                                                                                                                                          Speakers may react to humor in discourse in a variety of ways, which include supporting the humor, i.e., showing a favorable attitude to it (Hay 2001) or even contributing to it, i.e., mode adoption (Eisterhold, et al. 2006; Kotthoff 2007; Ruiz Gurillo 2009; and Tsakona 2011).

                                                                                                                                                                          • Eisterhold, Jodi, Salvatore Attardo, and Diana Boxer. 2006. Reactions to irony in discourse: Evidence for the least disruption principle. Journal of Pragmatics 38.8: 1239–1256.

                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2004.12.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                            Claims that a principle of least disruption exists that enjoins the speakers to return to a serious mode as soon as possible and that shows significant percentages of speakers reacting seriously to a humorous turn.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Hay, Jennifer. 2001. The pragmatics of humor support. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 14.1: 55–82.

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                                                                                                                                                                              Uses natural conversational data to illustrate a variety of humor support strategies. Common support strategies include contributing more humor, playing along with the gag, using echo or overlap, offering sympathy, and contradicting self-deprecating humor.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Kotthoff, Helga. 2007. Oral genres of humor: On the dialectic of genre knowledge and creative authoring. Pragmatics 17.2: 263–297.

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                                                                                                                                                                                Discusses humorous conversational activities in the context of genre theory and describes “joint fantasizing” in which speakers sustain a co-constructed humorous improvisation.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Ruiz Gurillo, Leonor. 2009. “Cómo se gestiona la ironía en la conversación” Rilce Revista de Filologia Hispanica 25.2: 363–377.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  This article on how irony is managed in conversation found that 48.5 percent of the author’s corpus of ironical conversational exchanges consisted of single turns and 68.5 percent consisted of three or less turns.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Tsakona, Villy. 2011. Irony beyond criticism: Evidence from Greek parliamentary discourse. Pragmatics and Society 2:57–86.

                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1075/ps.2.1.04tsaSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                    Found that the ironical turns in a Greek parliament discussion did not exceed three utterances, and found only two instances of mode adoption, thus corroborating the idea that speakers return to the serious mode as soon as needed.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    Affiliative, Disaffiliative, Politeness

                                                                                                                                                                                    Humor may serve to position the speakers vis-à-vis each other as in-group, i.e., affiliative function (Norrick 1994; Antonopoulou and Sifianou 2003), or out-group, i.e., disaffiliative function (Boxer and Cortés-Conde 1997, cited under Discourse Analysis: Functionalists).

                                                                                                                                                                                    • Antonopoulou, Eleni, and Maria Sifianou. 2003. Conversational analysis of humour: The telephone game in Greek. Journal of Pragmatics 35.5: 741–769.

                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1016/S0378-2166(02)00150-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                      Investigates humorous exchanges in Greek telephone conversation openings in the light of Raskin’s and Attardo’s semantico-pragmatic theories of humor and the principles of conversation analysis regarding telephone interaction, and proposes connections between the GTVH, conversational analysis, and politeness theory.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Norrick, Neal. 1994. Involvement and joking in conversation. Journal of Pragmatics 22:409–430.

                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1016/0378-2166(94)90117-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                        Study of everyday talk arguing that wordplay tends to disrupt conversation but conveys solidarity and modulating involvement.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        Cross-Cultural and Intercultural

                                                                                                                                                                                        The speakers engaging in humorous discourse may not all belong to the same linguistic community, or they may belong to different subcultures or dialects. This type of situation presents particular challenges. The work by Bell 2005, Bell 2006, Bell 2007a, and Bell 2007b is focused on second language acquisition, whereas Cheng 2006, Marra and Holmes 2007, and Habib 2008 focus more on intercultural and cross-cultural situations.

                                                                                                                                                                                        • Bell, Nancy. 2005. Exploring L2 language play as an aid to SLL: A case study of humour in NS–NNS interaction. Applied Linguistics 26.2: 192–218.

                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/applin/amh043Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                          Language play overlaps with humor, but not entirely, because it includes songs and rhymes, for example, that are not humorous. Bell focuses on humorous language play. Language play is found to facilitate second language learning, for example, by allowing speakers to practice using different “voices” and affording opportunities for learning.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Bell, Nancy. 2006. Interactional adjustments in humorous intercultural communication. Intercultural Pragmatics 3.1: 1–28.

                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1515/IP.2006.001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                            Humorous interactions are a notoriously difficult activity for nonnative speakers, and research has shown that native speakers compensate for the perceived difficulty of nonnative speakers. This article documents cases in which native speakers overcompensate and assume a lower level of proficiency than the non-native speaker is capable of understanding.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Bell, Nancy. 2007a. How native and non-native English speakers adapt to humor in intercultural interaction. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 20.1: 27–48.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              Speakers adjust to the intercultural situation by avoiding “dangerous” topics (e.g., teasing) and clearly contextualizing the play frame, and by a “general attitude of leniency” (p. 33) toward the speakers’ use of humor and its understanding. Native speakers report choosing their vocabulary carefully. Large corpus of conversational data (n = 541) from three female participants.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • Bell, Nancy. 2007b. Humor comprehension: Lessons learned from cross-cultural communication. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 20.4: 367–387.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                Using conversational data from second language speakers in a cross-cultural environment, argues for a dynamic, social constructivist view of humor comprehension, while drawing on previous views of humor competence/performance.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Cheng, Winnie. 2006. Humor in intercultural conversations. Semiotica 2003.146: 1–526.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  A qualitative exploratory study of spontaneous humorous occurrences in conversation between native Hong Kong Chinese and English speakers.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Habib, R. 2008. Humor and disagreement: Identity construction and cross-cultural enrichment. Journal of Pragmatics 40.6: 1117–1145.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2008.02.005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ethnographic data show that teasing and disagreement can be used in an intercultural context as educational tools to maintain a strong relationship, raise cultural awareness, and gain knowledge of the world.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Marra, Meredith, and Janet Holmes. 2007. Humour across cultures: Joking in the multicultural workplace. In Handbook of intercultural communication. Edited by Helga Kotthoff and Helen Spencer-Oatey, 153–172. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1515/9783110198584Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Focuses on the shared knowledge, beliefs, and values necessary to interpret and use humor in multicultural workplaces.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      Failed Humor

                                                                                                                                                                                                      The focus of humor research has been primarily on successful humor. However, recent papers by Bell 2009a, Bell 2009b, and Priego-Valverde 2009 consider what happens when humor does not work and why this happens. Bell and Attardo 2010 is an attempt at a synthesis.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Bell, Nancy. 2009a. Impolite responses to failed humor. In Humor in interaction. Edited by Neal Norrick and Delia Chiaro, 143–163. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1075/pbns.182Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Using the same methodology as in Bell 2009b, addresses 44 percent of responses that are impolite. The author argues that these are due to the face-threatening nature of humor, both for speaker and hearer. Humor disrupts serious talk and, when weak, violates expectations of adult competency.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Bell, Nancy. 2009b. Responses to failed humor. Journal of Pragmatics 41:1825–1836.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2008.10.010Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Through the elicitation of responses to a deliberately weak joke, collects a corpus of 160 instances of failed humor. Most frequent responses are laughter, metalinguistic comments, and interjections. A majority of comments are critical of the joke and a smaller number of the teller. Most responses are negative or neutral.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Bell, Nancy, and Salvatore Attardo. 2010. Failed humor: Issues in non-native speakers’ appreciation and understanding of humor. Intercultural Pragmatics 7.3: 423–447.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            Constructs a typology of failed humor based on a corpus of diaries of six advanced nonnative speakers of English and identifies seven levels at which a speaker may fail to engage successfully in a humorous exchange.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Priego-Valverde, B. 2009. Failed humor in conversation: A double voicing analysis. In Humor in interaction. Edited by Neal Norrick and Delia Chiaro, 165–183. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1075/pbns.182Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Using an approach inspired by Bakhtin’s dialogism (namely, the idea that humor includes two “voices” in the sense that the speaker conveys the “literal” and the humorous meaning), Priego-Valverde considers cases in conversational data among friends in which humor is not understood or rejected, thus turning the interaction aggressive.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              Variationist Approaches

                                                                                                                                                                                                              The sociolinguistics of humor is a still-developing field. It considers how differences in humor correlate with differences in the population. Davies 2010 is concerned with ethnicity and social class; Nardini 2000, with age and ethnicity. Hay 2000, Holmes 2006, and Kotthoff 2006 deal with gender; Porcu 2005, with social class.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Cortés-Conde, Florencia, and Diana Boxer. 2010. Humorous self-disclosures as resistance to socially imposed gender roles. Gender and Language 4.1: 73–97.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                A study of two groups of professional women in distinct speech communities and languages showing how, through humorous self-disclosures co-constructed in talk-in-interaction, women build a shared history and display this history to others.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Davies, C. E. 2010. Joking as boundary negotiation among “good old boys”: “White trash” as a social category at the bottom of the Southern working class in Alabama. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 23.2: 179–200.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Shows how the humor of a radio show making fun of “rednecks” is rooted in sociolinguistic stereotyping of lower-working-class speakers.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Hay, Jennifer. 2000. Functions of humor in the conversations of men and women. Journal of Pragmatics 32:709–742.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/S0378-2166(99)00069-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Provides a tool for categorizing functions of humor and applies it to highlight some interesting patterns in the humor of New Zealand men and women.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Holmes, Janet. 2006. Sharing a laugh: Pragmatic aspects of humor and gender in the workplace. Journal of Pragmatics 38.1: 26–50.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2005.06.007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Analyzes and demonstrates that humor in the workplace serves to construct and maintain collegiality and gender identity.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Kotthoff, Helga. 2006. Gender and humor: The state of the art. Journal of Pragmatics 38:4–25.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2005.06.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        An overview of the literature on four dimensions of joking especially sensitive to gender: status, aggressiveness, social alignment, and sexuality.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Nardini, Gloria. 2000. When husbands die: Joke-telling in an Italian ladies’ club in Chicago. Pragmatics 10.1: 87–97.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Ethnographic study of an Italian-American ladies’ club. The examples discussed are on a variety of “outrageous” subjects, such as death and inheritance. The seven female participants are aged between forty and sixty.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Porcu, Leide. 2005. Fishy business: Humor in a Sardinian fish market. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 18.4: 69–102.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Examines the humor occurring in a Sardinian fish market, with detailed examples and an in-depth analysis of the socioeconomic relations among the stewards, the shop owners, and the buyers. Shows sexist, homophobic, aggressive humor to be very significant.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Applied

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The following sections will cover a sampling of applications of humor research to two areas of particular interest: translation and second language learning.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Translation

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Translation is an increasingly important area of research, especially outside the United States. Humor has often been quoted as one of the most challenging kinds of texts; in fact, it is often maintained that translation of some kinds of humor is impossible, in a strict sense. The consensus of translation researchers is that most humor can be translated; however, it may be a complex matter and will not involve a direct transposition of the text, but it may involve, for example, producing a different joke in a different part of the text. Chiaro 2010a and Chiaro 2010b (a two-volume collection of articles) and Valero-Garcés 2011 are good examples of the variety of the issues in the field. Laurian and Nilsen 1989 and Vandaele 2002 are earlier collections of articles. Attardo 2002 is also discussed in Zabalbeascoa 2005.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Attardo, Salvatore. 2002. Translation and humour: An approach based on the General Theory of Verbal Humour (GTVH). The Translator 8.2: 173–194.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1080/13556509.2002.10799131Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              An application of the General Theory of Verbal Humor (GTVH) to the theory of humor translation using the metric of joke similarity introduced in the GTVH. If the translated joke is similar to the original joke, it will be a better translation.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Chiaro, Delia, ed. 2010a. Translation, humour and literature. Vol. 1, Translation and humour. Continuum Advances in Translation Studies. London and New York: Continuum.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Divided in three sections on society, antiquity and great literary tradition, this volume focuses on the translation of humor in relation to different authors, styles, and cultures.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Chiaro, Delia, ed. 2010b. Translation, humour and the media. Vol. 2, Translation and humor. Continuum Advances in Translation Studies. London and New York: Continuum.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Gives a broad perspective on the translation of humor in cartoons and comics, cinema and television, global advertising, video games, and simultaneous interpretations.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Laurian, Ann Marie, and Don Nilsen, eds. 1989. Meta. Journal des Traducteurs/Meta. Translator’s journal 34.1: 5–141.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Collection of numerous articles on humor translation across different languages (Russian, German, Spanish, and English) and cultures (Jewish, American, and Indian).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Valero-Garcés, Carmen, ed. 2011. Dimensions of humor: Explorations in linguistics, literature, cultural studies and translation. Valencia, Spain: Universitat de València.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Includes articles from several cultural and scholarly perspectives on different humorous texts and has a section on humor and translation.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Vandaele, Jeroen, ed. 2002. Special issue: Translating humor. The Translator 8.2.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Includes a selection of papers and book reviews by experts in the field focusing on different languages, approaches, and type of humorous texts and sources (irony, metalinguistic jokes, comedy, fiction, and conference interpreting).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Zabalbeascoa, Patrick. 2005. Humor and translation—an interdiscipline. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 18.2: 185–207.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1515/humr.2005.18.2.185Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Introduces a binary branch model for humor translation based on the six hierarchically-structured Knowledge Resources and underlines the insignificance of similarity in the translation process.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Audiovisual Translation

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Audiovisual translation (also known as multimodal or multisemiotic translation) involves more than the linguistic code and is correspondingly more complex. For example, if a particular instance of humor involves a reference to a given visual element, translation of the humor is constrained by the need to refer to the specific visual element, or needs to be altered, to allow the reference. Zabalbeascoa 1996 is a foundational article on this topic. Chiaro 2007 and Martínez José 2009 are more specific. Vandaele 2002 attempts a linkage with humor theory.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Chiaro, Delia. 2007. The effect of translation on the humour response: The case of dubbed comedy in Italy. In Doubts and directions in translation studies. Edited by Yves Gambier, Miriam Shlesinger, and Radigundis Stolze, 138–152. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1075/btl.72Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Explores how Italian and British audiences perceive Verbally Expressed Humor when it is translated or omitted (not translated) for the screen and the impact of translation on individual humor responses.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Martínez, Sierra, Juan José. 2009. El papel del elemento visual en la traducción del humor en textos audiovisuales: “Un problema o una ayuda” Trans. Revista de Traductología 13:139–148.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This article on whether the role of the visual element in the translation of humor in audiovisual texts is problematic or helpful focuses on the role of the visual component of audiovisual text in the translation of humor.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Vandaele, Jeroen. 2002. “Funny fictions”: Francoist translation censorship of two Billy Wilder films. Special issue: Translating humor. Edited by Jeroen Vandaele. The Translator 8.2: 267–302.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1080/13556509.2002.10799135Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A superiority theory-based approach to the Francoist reception and translation of humor.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Zabalbeascoa, Patrick. 1996. Translating jokes for dubbed television situation comedies. The Translator 2.2: 235–258.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1080/13556509.1996.10798976Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Examines a number of mostly British sitcoms and argues that translation should be prioritized, so that humor might have to be replaced completely with different humor if the global priority of the text to be funny is to be respected. Classifies jokes as ranging from international to language-bound.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Subtitling

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A special genre of audiovisual translation often used outside the United States, with its own set of issues. Jaskanen 2001 was a pioneering article based on the author’s master’s thesis. There are numerous approaches, based on different theories. For example, Bucaria 2005, Bucaria 2007, and Antonini 2005 apply Chiaro’s work on translation to subtitling. Asimakoulas 2004 adapts the GTVH. Pelsmaeker and Van Besien 2002 applies speech act theory. Spanakaki 2007 and Jankowska 2009 are eclectic, but both reference Zabalbeascoa’s work on translation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Antonini, Rachele. 2005. The perception of subtitled humor in Italy. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 18.2: 209–225.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1515/humr.2005.18.2.209Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Addresses the effectiveness of subtitles in the appreciation and perception of humor and provides a useful literature review on humor and subtitling.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Asimakoulas, Dimitris. 2004. Towards a model of describing humour translation: A case study of the Greek subtitled versions of Airplane! and Naked Gun. Meta 49.4: 822–842.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.7202/009784arSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A study based on the GTVH adapted to subtitling. Sees the goal of subtitling translation as “to reflect as closely as possible the structure of the original humorous sequence” (p. 827). Presents examples of translation ranging from puns to register humor.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Bucaria, Chiara. 2005. The perception of humour in dubbing vs. subtitling: The case of “Six Feet Under.” ESP Across Cultures 2:34–46.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Analyzes the Italian dubbing of the series Six Feet Under and notes the systematic “toning down” of the language to avoid controversial topics and the consequent loss of some of the humor.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Bucaria, Chiara. 2007. Top 10 signs your humour has been subtitled: The case of the Late Show with David Letterman. In New approaches to the linguistics of humor. Edited by Diana Popa and Salvatore Attardo, 72–87. Galati, Romania: Editura Academica.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Analysis of David Letterman’s show, which shows that the translators attempt to preserve all specific cultural references. Notes that the distribution of the kinds of humor vary depending on whether a given part of the text is “scripted” and that this leads accordingly to increased loss of humor.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Jankowska, Anna. 2009. Translating humor in dubbing and subtitling. Translation Journal 13.2.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Presents the results of an empirical study on how elements of humor travel across languages, cultures, and different translation methods.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Jaskanen, Susanna. 2001. “A fine kettle of fish”: Exploring textual norms in Finnish subtitles. Helsinki English Studies: Electronic Journal 1.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Studies the strategies used in subtitling focusing on the difficulties in translating humor.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Pelsmaeker, Katja, and Fred Van Besien. 2002. Subtitling irony: Blackadder in Dutch. The Translator 8.2: 241–266.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1080/13556509.2002.10799134Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A speech act approach to irony that examines translations of humorous irony in the constrained form of subtitling focusing on the strategies used and how they affect the ironic message.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Spanakaki, Katia. 2007. Translating humor for subtitling. Translation Journal 11.2.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Focuses on the translation of culturally opaque elements and language-specific humor in subtitling.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Second Language Learning

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The use of humor in teaching has a long and checkered history. Its application to second language acquisition (SLA) is relatively recent. Deneire 1995 is representative of early work; more recently, Bell 2009 and Bell 2011 have put forward a coherent case for the use of humor in SLA. Davies 2003, Wagner and Urios-Aparisi 2011, Pomerantz and Bell 2011, and Tocalli-Beller and Swain 2007 are specific case studies.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Bell, Nancy. 2009. Learning about and through humor in the second language classroom. Language Teaching Research 13.3: 241–258.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1177/1362168809104697Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A critique of many pedagogical applications of humor in the L2 classroom, as well as a proposal and practical suggestions for an adequate treatment of humor in the L2 classroom.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Bell, Nancy. 2011. Humor scholarship and TESOL: Applying findings and establishing a research agenda. TESOL Quarterly 45.1: 134–159.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.5054/tq.2011.240857Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In this review article published in the leading journal of the field, Bell argues that attention to humor research may be beneficial for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) scholars. Provides a broad coverage of the field of humor as it relates to teaching English as a second language. A good starting point for beginners.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Davies, C. E. 2003. How English-learners joke with native speakers: An interactional sociolinguistic perspective on humor as collaborative discourse across cultures. Journal of Pragmatics 35.9: 1361–1385.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1016/S0378-2166(02)00181-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Documents the ability of beginning language learners to collaborate in the construction of conversational joking discourse with native speakers and underlines the importance of the ability to participate in such joking.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Deneire, Mark. 1995. Humor and foreign language teaching. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 8.3: 285–298.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Aims at showing how humor can enhance the students’ linguistic and cultural competence when used correctly.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Pomerantz, A., and Nancy Bell. 2011. Humor as safe house in the foreign language classroom. Modern Language Journal 95:148–161.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-4781.2011.01274.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Advocates for humor to be seen as a pedagogical safe house that allows students to construct complex and creative acts of language use than those normally found in L2.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Tocalli-Beller, Agustina, and Merrill Swain. 2007. Riddles and puns in the ESL classroom: Adults talk to learn. In Conversational interaction in second language acquisition. Edited by Alison Mackey, 143–167. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Use of puns to raise awareness of L2 forms and meanings.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Wagner, M., and E. Urios-Aparisi. 2011. The use of humor in the foreign language classroom: Funny and effective? HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 24.4: 399–434.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1515/humr.2011.024Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Suggests a multidisciplinary approach to humor in the foreign language (FL) classroom and introduces a coding scheme for investigating its use.

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