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Humor in Language

Elsevier Ltd
DOI: 10.1016/b0-08-044854-2/00365-5
  • Alignment
  • Anecdote
  • Contextualization Cue
  • Conversation
  • Customary Joking Relationship
  • Formulaicity
  • Gender
  • Irony
  • Joke
  • Politeness
  • Pun
  • Punchline
  • Rapport
  • Semantic Script
  • Wordplay
  • Linguistics


All forms of verbal humor arise from incongruity based on linguistic constructions or on the events they describe, and this incongruity can be represented as a clash between opposed semantic scripts. Everyday talk contains spontaneous conversational joking, personal anecdotes, and canned jokes. Linguistics provides a description of the syntax and semantics of these forms of humor, as well as of their interpersonal and social dimensions in contexts. It must describe how verbal humor relates to gender, power, solidarity and social distance, principles of politeness and cooperation, in order to understand how joking can express aggression, yet still build rapport.

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