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Semantics of Humour

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Anett Roggenbuck

on 2 December 2014

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Transcript of Semantics of Humour

The recipient requires knowledge
about certain joke patterns or joke situations..

...when all of a sudden a feature appears which cannot be referred to an isotopy, hence when isotopy is structurally not detectable
Our Structure
1. The Theory of Incongruity
2. Structural Semantics
2.1 Greimas' Isotopy Model
2.2 The Isotopy-Disjunction-Model
of Attardo (1994)
2.2.1 Attardo - Connector
2.2.2 Attardo – Disjunctive Element
2.2.3 Brock - Disjunctive Element
2.2.4 Attardo - Analysis of Pun
3. General Theory of Verbal Humour
4. Conclusion

Immanuel Kant:

"[humour arises] from the sudden
transformation of a strained expectation
into nothing."
1 The Theory of Incongruity
There has to be a
communicative element
in order to produce humour

When this communicative element breaks with a specific expectation (of the recipient towards the text) then it is
incongruent
to the specific
expectation
and humour is created
Incongruity comes through:
A break (different experience-areas coincide)

The hearer's expectation concerning the development of the communication pattern is not met

expectation is incomplete
2.1 Greimas' Isotopy Model
What is "HUMOUR"?
Semantics of Humour


A text gets meaning from its lexemes
sharing
the same
meaning features


Example:

a text about mammals in the ocean will have features like
[MAMMAL]
and
[AQUATIC]
constantly appearing

-> These features build an
isotopy chain


Algirdas Julien Greimas
*1917– †1992
most famous French semiotician along with Roland Barthes

-> isotopy
-> semiotic square
-> the actantial model
-> the narrative program
-> semiotics of the natural world

2.2 The Isotopy-Disjunction-Model of Attardo (1994)
Example:

“Is the doctor at home?”
the patient asked in his bronchial whisper.
“No,”
the doctor’s young and pretty wife whispered in reply.
“Come right in.”

eg. [SEXUAL]

Application of isotopy model for jokes semantic formalisation of the incongruence theory

According to Attardo it needs
two elements for a joke
2.2.1 Attardo - Connector
“A connector is any segment of the text
that can be given
two distinct readings
“.
Connector # only semantic element
needs
context
influenced by other features
e.g. the quality of the voice
2.2.2 Attardo –
Disjunctive Element
Causes
„the passage from a first sense to a second sense (S2)
antagonistic
to the first one (S1)“
2.2.3 Brock -
Disjunctive Element







Period or point in time
when the break with the expectation is realized
Conclusion
To explain humor or a joke it needs more than semantics :)
whale, ocean, ...

SEAL
???

[ ] AQUATIC
[ ] ANIMAL
[ ] MAMMAL

[x] AQUATIC
[x] ANIMAL
[x] MAMMAL

" "
Any Questions?
...
other examples...
“John took off his trousers by the bank.”
or

Motivates the change
from one isotopy to the next
Creates a
new context
for the joke,
often in final position
But position of disjunctive element
is not position of incongruency
Cognitive unit
2.2.4 Attardo - Analysis of Pun
Exploitation of
Similarity
Exceptional use of language - defunctionalization of language
Planned and deliberate
For
play
instead of communication
"We need witnesses - How else are we gonna get
abreast
of the case?"
Azis Ansari thinks texting ruined dating

Basic structure proposed by Attardo :

isotopy (S1) -> Disjunctor -> (Connector)-> isotopy (S2)


Isotopy-Disjunction model
Attardos divides jokes into 2 types:

Referential jokes:

Elements that set off laughter are based on semantics (Meaning) -> and therefore these jokes can be translated
into another language

Verbal jokes:
Elements that set off laughter carry a phonetic or syntactic ambiguity or are Alliterations
they can't always be translated because the elements that set off laughter would be lost during the translation.
only verbal jokes include connectors

->Example of the classic '
pun
':
„Did you hear about the the italian Chef who died ?“
„He pasta away“

Disjunctor
( phonetic realisation of the sentence vs. Written realisation of the VP -> „pass away“ )!

Also example for
verbal joke
-> wouldn't be translatable into other language without losing it's sense!

3. General Theory
of Verbal Humour

How many monkeys does it take to change a light bulb?

-> Two. One to do it and one to scratch his bum.

How many Belgians does it take to change a light bulb?

-> Two. One to change it and one to put some chips with it.


How many Americans does it take to screw in a light bulb?

-> Five. One to screw it in and four to write the environmental impact statement

How many Germans does it take to screw in a light bulb?

-> 1. Two, one to give the order that the bulb be changed and one to screw it in.

-> 2.None. They assign the task to a gastarbeiter.


Language
: linguistic realisation and structure (phonetic, morphophonemic, pragmatic etc.)

Narrative strategy:
Narrative set up of a text

Target
: „object“ of a joke

Situation
: „Props“ or background set-up of a joke

Logical Mechanism:
figure-ground reversal mechanisms

Script opposition:
Opposition of certain „fixed“ scripts

Device to analyse the semantic distance and similarities of joke texts ->
6 Levels of representation:
Form groups of four people and
take a look at the following „light
bulb jokes“.
Try to distinguish whether they have
a certain similarity or not!
they can't always be translated because the elements that set off laughter would be lost during the translation

only verbal jokes include connectors

• How many monkeys does it take to change a light bulb?
Two. One to do it and one to scratch his bum.

• How many Belgians does it take to change a light bulb?
Two. One to change it and one to put some chips with it.


• How many Americans does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Five. One to screw it in and four to write the environmental impact statement

• How many Germans does it take to screw in a light bulb?
1. Two, one to give the order that the bulb be changed and one to screw it in.
2.None. They assign the task to a gastarbeiter.

Jokes Overview
[x] TECHNICAL
[x] OBJECT
[ ] ALIVE
[ ] ANIMAL

[ ] TECHNICAL
[ ] OBJECT
[x] ALIVE
[x] ANIMAL

"My mouse is out of order"
"He has got a mole in his face"
[x] ANIMAL
[ ] ON THE SKIN
[x] FUR
[ ] ALIVE
[ ] ANIMAL
[x] ON THE SKIN
[ ] FUR
[ ] ALIVE
Sources
Attardo, Salvatore. 1994. Linguistic Theories of Homor. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter
Brock, Alexander. 2004. Blackadder, Monty Python und Red Dwarf: Eine linguistische Untersuchung
britischer Fernsehkomödien. Tübingen: Staffenburg
Brône, Geert. “Bedeutungskonstitution in Verbalem Humor. Ein kognitiv-linguistischer und
diskurssemantischer Ansatz.“ ling.arts-kuleuven.be. Katholische Universität Leuven, 2007.
Web. 26.11.2014.
Krikmann, Arvo. 2007. "Contemporary linguistic theories of humour". Folklore. Electronic Journal
of Folklore, 33, 27 – 57. Web. 26.11.2014.
Monro, D. H. "Theories of Humor." Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum 3rd ed. Laurence
Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen, eds. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1988. 349-
55. Web. 26.11.2014.
Sornig, Karl. „Rezension: Linguistic Theories of Humor.“ uni-graz.at. Grazer Linguistische
Studien 45, Spring 1996. Web. 26.11.2014.

http://jimmyakin.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341bfbfe53ef015391e7b9e7970b-800wi
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b4/Algirdas_Julien_Greimas.jpg
http://www.tamuc.edu/academics/colleges/humanitiessocialsciencesarts/departments/literatureLanguages/ostl/images/attardo.jpg
http://trabajoeninglaterra.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/listening-kids_w_can.jpg
http://blues-hat.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/thumbs-up-borat.jpg
http://www.druckerei-eisenhardt.de/uploads/pics/Siegel_01.jpg
http://www.uni-watch.com/wp-content/uploads/questions1-225x300.jpg
http://blog.orangebaby.de/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/manchmal_bin_ich_bockig_98678.jpg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ae/Korea-Gyeongju-River_bank-03.jpg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/89/Sparkasse_Karlsruhe_Ettlingen.JPG
http://dreamatico.com/data_images/mouse/mouse-8.jpg
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/naturelibrary/images/ic/credit/640x395/e/eu/european_mole/european_mole_1.jpg

humor is created out of a conflict between
what is expected and what actually occurs


most obvious feature of much humour:

an ambiguity, or double meaning, which deliberately misleads the audience, followed
by a punchline
"Humor is reason gone mad."
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