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The ways in which HOMONOMY is used to create humour

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Natasha Bowyer

on 26 November 2013

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Transcript of The ways in which HOMONOMY is used to create humour

Some background information...
different lexemes with the same form; may be written, spoken or both
Meaning of a word is an essential feature- this is how we distinguish between words
Limited no. of cases, the same form (e.g. Paper) has the same origin
Words of the same origin are called
(Lobner, S. 2005)
Pronunciation is the same (allowing for accent variation)
is different
e.g. to/two/too
Same spelling
Different pronunciation
E.g. Wind (N) vs. Wind (V)
Lexical ambiguity...
Aims of the presentation-
To look into the background of homonymy
To explore the use of homonymy within humour
To discover the relationship between homonymy and lexical ambiguity

With regard to homonymy, humour is derived from the ability to replace a word with one of the same pronunciation.

Most riddles appear to be largely based on homophony, with the answers being, essentially, based on two words whose relationship is nothing more than a phonological similarity.
The Fun of Language and the Language of Fun. 2013. Homonymy in Humor: Part 1. [online] Available at: http://olgakagan.blog.com/2012/01/23/homonymy-in-humor-part-1/ [Accessed: 25 Nov 2013].
This video shows how one word may be mistaken for another

'feel' and 'Phil'- due to the accent

May be seen as regional variation, it can be used to demonstrate how homonmys can lead to humour.

Sometimes refered to as a 'clipped homophone'.
Examples of jokes derived from homonymy are:
• How could the vampire's mum tell he had been smoking?
Because of his coffin!

• What do you get if you cross a chicken with a parrot?
Foul language

• Why is 6 afraid of 7?
Because 7 ate 9!

• Why was the rabbit upset before he went to the disco?
Because he was having a bad hare day!

• Why did the bee sneeze?
Because he sniffed at the flour!

• Why wasn't the clock hungry?
Because it already ate!

• Why did the girl take a pencil to bed?
To draw the curtains!

• What did one traffic light say to the other traffic light?
Don't look now I'm changing!

For each of the jokes identify the homonym, state the word that it should be and explain what has been done.
For example, the first one would be 'Coffin'; the word should be 'coughing' however, the word 'coffin' has been used as coffins are associated with vampires.
Englishwithjim.files.wordpress.com. 2013. Untitled. [online] Available at: http://englishwithjim.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/homophone-jokes2.doc [Accessed: 25 Nov 2013].
Moore, A. 2013. Semantics. [online] Available at: http://www.teachit.co.uk/armoore/lang/semantics.htm#15 [Accessed: 25 Nov 2013].
Homonyms are unrelated senses of the same phonological word(saeed, 2003, p.63.)

There are two major types of homonyms, based upon whether the meanings of the word are historically connected or result from coincidence.

Coincidental homonyms
the bill of a bird vs the bill one has to pay
the bark of a dog vs the bark of a tree.

Polysemous homonyms
the leg of a chair and the leg of person;
the face of a person vs. the face of a clock.

Why does English have homophones?

Some words have been borrowed from other languages
invasion from Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans
Pronunciation changed
Regional differences

Task: Think of another example of a polysemous homonym and explain the relationship between the two words.
Home.alphalink.com.au. 2013. About Homophones. [online] Available at: http://home.alphalink.com.au/~umbidas/Homophones_main.htm [Accessed: 25 Nov 2013].
Will Will will Will's will?
(modal verb) (a person) (Bequeath) (another person) (document)
Homonyms can be used to create lexical ambiguity
Ambiguous if understood or interpreted in more than one way
To disambiguate an additional sentence/context is needed
Used in jokes and comedy sketches
Humour and lexical ambiguity are closely related....
Obvious and purposeful ambiguity throughout the scene
Some words are homonyms, some clear collocations
A number of references to modern technology made in the context of a green grocers- creating humour
e.g. Blackberry/ phone; eggs box £3.60/ Xbox 360; Desktop (two types); date (fruit/future event)

...the ambiguity of an individual word or phrase that can be used (in different contexts) to express two or more different meanings.

TheFreeDictionary.com. 2013. lexical ambiguity. [online] Available at: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/lexical+ambiguity [Accessed: 25 Nov 2013].
Can you recall any of the other words used?
In which ways were they ambiguous?
We can see that homonyms exist in the English language for a number of reasons; this can be coincidental or polysemous.

Although used in a wide range of contexts, they are mainly used purposefully to create humour.

They often create lexically ambiguous sentences which can cause confusion, however the speaker must use their own judgement and rely on contexts in order to decipher the meaning
Homophone originates from
meaning 'same sound.'
Homonym originates from
meaning 'same name.'
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