Date of Award
Master of Communication
The purpose of this study was to (1) identify patterns in joke type, word class, word class progressions, use of morphologic/syllabic mechanisms, and compound word manipulations in the “serious” and “humorous” interpretations of puns, (2) compare results with two previous studies (Attardo et al. 1994b and Bucaria 2004) and delineate discrepancies, and (3) to explore how language pattern(s) in English puns contribute to our theoretical understanding of linguistic interpretation.
From a collection of 6,000 puns published online, 225 were randomly chosen and analyzed for alliterative, phonological, lexical, and syntactic categorizations, as well as for patterns in word class, word class progressions, use of morphologic/syllabic mechanisms, and compound word manipulations.
Results indicate a high use of syllabic and morphologic mechanisms in the formation of language-based jokes…a phenomenon which has previously been unexplored. It also found a proportionally low use of adverbs despite their standing as open class words. Finally, this study found a consistent trend across all linguistic levels for holistic processing.
New standards for marginal joke type categorizations are proposed based on syllabic and morphological characteristics. In addition, lack of adverbial use is attributed to proximity, transitivity, similarity, and mobility of this particular word class. Discrepancies between authors' results are attributed to genre, joke elimination, and differing standards for categorization. Finally, holistic processing is discussed from the theoretical perspective of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.
Seewoester, Sarah, "Linguistic Ambiguity in Language-based Jokes" (2009). College of Communication Master of Arts Theses. 3.