Relationship between syntactic semantics and pragmatics of humor

relationship between syntactic semantics and pragmatics of humor

The aim of this thesis is to provide a pragmatic account of how humorous correlation between humour and laughter, or that humorous laughter is just a .. parallel to what takes place in art, where semantic and ecological factors are crucial. Children with semantic-pragmatic disorder resembled younger . Although there was a very strong relationship between inappropriacy ratings and the classification of .. (no evidence that child was attempting to use humour). Two primary aspects of the syntax of humor are explored. . pieces you find in the pragmatic wastebasket into your favorite syntactico-semantic theory (1 texts featuring the semantic and formal figures mentioned in connection with the above .

Among the most followed are listed here: Later, the claim was broadened to the flout of any of the maxims. The direct access theory Gibbs,based on psycholinguistic evidence, which denies that the speakers must first access the literal meaning of the utterance, as implied by the standard pragmatic model. In the direct access model, speakers directly access the ironical meaning. The graded salience theory, which claims that speakers access the most salient meaning first and the less salient one second Giora, Between the two meanings, there holds a relationship of negation.

Later, the theory was weakened to require only an echo of a belief that could be attributed to someone, and eventually to a reminder of a common belief or social norm, to accommodate the fact that many ironies do not explicitly refer to prior utterances.

For example, there have been proposals to see irony as a prototypical phenomenon, rather than as a categorical one, as assumed by all the theories reviewed here, as well as approaches that tie irony to embodied cognition.

Space limitations prevent a full review; however, a consensus seems to be gathering around the idea of contrast Colston, Contrast subsumes the pretense and mention theories, as well as the standard pragmatic model, as it assumes that a violation of any maxim may generate irony if it is in a situation in which the expected or preferred state of the world is in contrast with the observed one.

Under this view, mention, echo, reminder, pretense, etc. The GTVH accounts for these facts by postulating six knowledge resources parameters or options to be selected: The major claim of the GTVH was that the six knowledge resources are hierarchically organized, so that choices in the most abstract, higher knowledge resources affect the choices in the lower knowledge resources.

Thus, for example, two jokes with different script oppositions for example, stupid vs. In particular, long texts such as short stories were analyzed. To distinguish between text-final punch lines and other occurrences of humor, Attardo introduced the term jab line. Further research Tsakona, showed that jab lines may also occur in jokes. Current Trends in the Linguistics of Humor 3. For example, it has been repeatedly noted that the literalization of metaphors can be humorous. However, none has answered the seemingly basic question of why some metaphors are humorous and some are not.

Obviously, this kind of question can be tackled best from within a cognitive approach. The strong emphasis on embodiment and on the psychological reality of the theoretical models should also favor interdisciplinary research straddling psycholinguistics and cognitive approaches e.

Corpus linguistics has had a very significant impact on the field of linguistics, unmatched in humor studies, where corpus-based studies are rare. Those are considered in Section 3. These have continued, including arguments within the GTVH e. However, more significant contributions to the analysis of humor performance have come from several subfields of applied linguistics.

Conversation analysis showed an early interest in the performance of humor and jokes in particular, as Sacks used a sexual joke as an example in one of the foundational articles of conversation analysis. Jefferson found that the role of laughter in conversation was far from being a passive reaction to humor, but that it was, in fact, used to invite laughter and to affect the structure of the conversation.

A full review of the conversation analytical approach, with updates and contemporary contributions can be found in Glenn and Glenn and Holt Conversation analyses focus primarily on recorded discursive data and use close transcriptions of the conversations. Discourse analysis broadened the perspective to how the humorous status of the exchange is negotiated Davies, among the participants, to their different styles Tannen,and to the social functions of the humor see Attardo, for a review of the numerous strands of research.

Obviously, the functions of humor vary in relation to the setting. Studies have focused primarily on workplace humor especially the Language in the Workplace project, by Janet Holmes and her associatesconversations among friends, and classroom discourse. The most obvious function of humor is to create solidarity among the participants.

As Davies showed, humorous exchanges are co-constructed, with participants taking up the humor produced by another speaker, elaborating on it, repeating it, commenting on it, or merely signaling their appreciation, thereby reinforcing it. The longest reported sequence of joint fantasizing extends to 13 turns. However, conversations do not generally evolve into non-stop joking.

Attardo reviews studies that show that a majority of humorous exchanges are under 3 turns, and many instances are single turn. Obviously, participating in a shared activity produces solidarity.

relationship between syntactic semantics and pragmatics of humor

Another way of showing solidarity with the speaker is to engage in humor support Hay, Humor support consists of discursive strategies meant to acknowledge and support humorous turns. An extreme form of humor support is mode adoption, which, for the hearer of a humorous remark, consists of engaging in the same kind of humor i.

Support and mode adoption must be seen in a broader framework, as presented in Hay Hay notes that, when faced with a humorous utterance, the hearer must undergo four different processes, which bear an implicational relationship among them.

Only after the humor stimulus has been recognized and understood may the hearer engage in the appreciation of the humor and, eventually, react to it. As is clear, appreciation of humor presupposes that the humor has been recognized and understood.

relationship between syntactic semantics and pragmatics of humor

The study of failed humor shows that humor may fail at each of these levels. For example, a speaker may recognize the intention to be humorous but not understand the joke Bell, Moreover, humor often creates an in-group vs. For example Haugh and Bousfield found that jocular mockery humorous teasing created solidarity by building an in-group of friends: Plester and Sayers find the same dynamic on the workplace, where employees of an IT company bonded over humor touching on taboo and sensitive topics.

Everts documents the use of aggressive humor to create solidarity within a family. See Haugh for an overview on teasing. Within the workplace, the issue of connections between humor and power becomes very significant. It can be used to reinforce and uphold the power imbalance e. Crucially, humor may function as a tool to challenge authority because of one of its features, namely retractability.

This option is called decommitment Attardo,p. For example, Walle reports that customers trying to pick up waitresses in a bar couched the request in humorous terms, to avoid embarrassment if they were turned down. The relationship between humor and politeness is also an interesting issue. More recent work e. For a discussion of the connection between humor and politeness, see Simpson and Bousfield and references therein.

Failed humor is another example of a topic long ignored by discourse and conversation analysis but that has undergone a recent efflorescence of research, summarized in Bell Failed humor presents an obvious difficulty to conversation and discourse analysts, since by definition it cannot be identified by the presence of laughter or smiling.

relationship between syntactic semantics and pragmatics of humor

Despite these problems, methodologically, failed humor is crucial because analyzing only successful humor would arbitrarily restrict the landscape of humorous interactions only to those that succeed. Bell shows that the reactions to failed humor range significantly, from ignoring the event to strong criticism.

Causes of failure range across the communicative gamut and can be likened to misunderstandings. Several of the studies on the social functions of humor, reviewed in Section 3. She finds significant differences in frequency of laughter among lectures. Corpora offer the advantage of allowing the researcher to make generalizations based on relative frequencies.

However, these sorts of conclusions are warranted only insofar as the corpus is representative of the population that one wishes to generalize to. Obviously, size tends to be a good predictor of validity in this sense. Limitations of size may be overcome by using a balanced corpus. Some of the results that have emerged from these studies have significantly challenged the status quo of humor research in some areas.

For example, Holmes found that: These results are antithetical to previous studies on gender and humor, which assigned women a passive role in humor production and reception see below.

Too Little Information provided to Partner Good conversationalists obey what Grice has termed the 'maxim of quantity', i. Children with conversational problems may fail to observe this maxim in one of two ways: Three types of inappropriate utterance were identified in which the maxim of quantity was contravened because too little information was conveyed.

Inappropriate presupposition 'pseudo-ellipses' This was coded when the child's response omitted one or more elements, apparently wrongly presupposing that the listener had knowledge of the 'elided' words. Consider the following example which was taken from a transcript of a 9-year-old language-impaired boy, who had fluent and grammatically complex speech: The adult has not used a verb which could be presupposed by the child's utterance.

If the adult had said 'You didn't get hurt though', then it would have been quite appropriate for the child to respond as he did, and elide the presupposed verb 'get hurt'. This code was only used if it was clear from the rest of the child's transcript that he or she was capable of producing the complete sentence form that should have been used in this context, e. The unestablished referent was commonly a pronoun, but sometimes it took the form of a noun phrase which had not been identified earlier in the discourse.

Our impression was that in general a non-established referent must represent a key part of the sentence to convey a sense of inappropriacy to the listener. Logical step omitted Where a logical step of the argument or a critical step in the sequence which the child is producing is omitted, the effect is bizarre, and the natural flow of the conversation is interrupted.

The listener is left without a crucial piece of information which would link the now inappropriate utterance to those that have gone before. Too Much Information provided to partner The maxim of quantity may also be violated by the child providing unnecessary information to the listener. Obviously, there are instances where it is appropriate for a person to confirm something just said for instance if the adult had misheard and the child has picked up a non-verbal cue from the adult to indicate that this was the casebut we noted that particular children tended to overuse this as a conversational device to the extent that it was quite conspicuous.

It is possible that in some language-disordered children this may be instilled by speech therapy: Unusual or Socially Inappropriate Content or Style The difference between this category and other types of semantic and pragmatic problem is that the utterances coded here gave the impression that there was something abnormal about the message the child was trying to convey- not just with the way it was conveyed.

Five broad classes of conversational behaviour were identified under this heading. Topic drift A conversation that never progressed would be very dull indeed, and it is entirely appropriate that speakers should develop a topic and then move on to another. However, some children gave the impression of going off at a tangent in an inappropriate way: This example is taken from Damico Unmarked topic shift Some changes in topic were sufficiently unmarked by the child as to appear non-related to the topic in hand.

This stood out as being quite bizarre and abrupt: For example, one boy always responded affirmatively by saying 'oh yes' with a pronounced rise-fall on 'yes'. Inappropriate questioning This was coded when the child asked a question that the adult could not possibly know the answer to, which was not the type of question typically asked about this topic, or to which the child already knew the answer. Sometimes children gave the impression that they did this because they spent much of their time being asked questions by adults, and therefore thought that asking questions was an appropriate conversational strategy.

It is possible that some children have more insight and use a questioning mode as a strategy to avoid being asked more questions which they cannot cope with. This seemed less of a language problem than limited general knowledge and lack of experience. The following types of interaction were not uncommon in the transcripts of our control 4 year olds: Again, this seemed more of a problem with general knowledge than with language.

Results The occurrence of each type of inappropriacy was computed as a percentage of all utterances and logarithmically transformed to maintain homogeneity of variance. Reliability Table 2 shows reliability indices for each subtype of inappropriacy. Correlations obtained in phase 2 of the study. One unexpected finding was that there was a highly significant test-retest correlation for the category of 'expressive syntax semantics', although inter-rater reliability had been low for this category.

This suggests that the two raters were each adopting specific but different criteria for this category, so that although they did not agree with one another, each rater was self-consistent. Few of the indices were stable over a 9-month interval, although the category of 'too much information' gave impressively high correlations. Comparison of normal and language-impaired children Three groups of children were compared: Older control children were excluded from consideration because they had very low rates of inappropriacy.

Results are shown in Figure 2. It is apparent from inspection that the two language-impaired groups have different profiles both from one another and from the control children.

The 'other' language-impaired group was also characterised by relatively low rates of comprehension problems, both for literal comprehension and comprehension in context. Discussion As can be seen from the data in Table 2, the extent to which raters agreed on categorisation was variable from one category to another, with some showing excellent agreement, others more modest correlations and some non-significant. There appeared to be two factors that determined whether or not an expressive problem gave a sense of inappropriacy.

The first was the degree of mismatch between the child's overall level of expressive development and ability to convey meaning with precision.

If a 3 year old speaking in three-word utterances uses the wrong verb or preposition, the listener will usually make allowance for this, because his or her expectations are geared to the child's overall language level. If, however, the same error is made by an older child using long and complex sentences, then this sounds odd. A further factor is whether the child conveys a broader meaning than intended overextensionor a more specific one.

Use of a general rather than a specific term or construction seldom gives rise to a sense of oddness unless the meaning is so imprecise as to make the listener uncertain of what the child intends. However, use of a term with a specific but wrong meaning is much more disruptive for the listener.

For instance, many young children use 'and' as a general purpose connective, when more precise terms such as 'because', 'but' and 'so' could be used.

Conversational Characteristics in Semantic-Pragmatic Disorder 2

This may sound immature, but seldom bizarre. However, the converse, use of 'because' when 'and' is appropriate, can sound very odd indeed see example 1.

Consider also example 2, where the child who is asked why he went to the doctor says 'I used to have a headache'. If the child had said instead 'I have headache', this would be detected as grammatically immature because a past tense is required in this contextbut would be less likely to be regarded as inappropriate, unless the child was otherwise syntactically sophisticated. Furthermore, those indices that characterised the semantic-pragmatic group tended to be those that also gave good inter-rater and test-retest agreement.

The most striking case was the category of 'too much information', which seemed to reflect a highly stable conversational characteristic of children with semantic-pragmatic disorder that distinguished them not only from other language-impaired and control children of the same age, but also from younger normal children with similar overall levels of inappropriacy. This study confirms and extends this finding, by showing that such children have several conversational characteristics, that may be subsumed under the heading of providing too much information for the listener.

The classification of subtypes of inappropriacy lends support to the view that children with semantic-pragmatic disorder are not just immature in their conversational behaviour but also show persistent conversational features that are not normal at any age, at least above 4 years old. Adams and Bishop p. The impression of verbosity seems to reflect the unusual content of their utterances, in which they produce unnecessary repetitions, assert or deny what is already known, or give over-precise and over-elaborate information.

Humor in Language

It may seem paradoxical that this group of children also scored highly on the category of 'too little information'. High scores on both indices often coexisted in the same child. Clearly the problem is not just one of stating too much or too little, but rather in matching conversation to the needs of the conversational partner.

On some of the inappropriacy measures, children with semantic-pragmatic disorder were abnormal for their age, but did not differ from younger control children.

These behaviours, then, could reasonably be regarded as immaturities. Under this heading came violations of exchange structure failure to respond at all or ignoring of an initiationand failure to understand the literal or implicit meaning of an adult utterance. At the time this categorisation of inappropriacy was being devised, we were unfamiliar with Damico's clinical discourse analysis.

This procedure had similar aims to ours, in that it did not use a predefined set of linguistic categories, but rather set out to classify 'trouble spots' that impeded children's functional discourse. Damico devised his analysis through the study of conversations with 38 individuals aged from 6 to 22 years who were characterised by language impairment, low academic attainment and poor social stills.

Conversely, our scheme neglects non-fluency, gaps or mazes as sources of discourse failure, and did not include categories for non-verbal behaviours such as abnormal gazemessage inaccuracy or failure to ask relevant questions. However, in other respects, there is considerable overlap between the two schemes, although the terminology is quite different. Thus Damico includes categories corresponding to failure to understand literal meaning, violation of exchange structure, too much and too little information, and abnormal content.

This convergence of two independently devised coding schemes offers some support for the validity of these categories. Damico emphasised that his scheme was descriptive and was not designed for quantification. We would argue, however, that these abnormal behaviours can and should be quantified in order to identify when their occurrence is so frequent as to be abnormal.

There was no single explanation for utterances that were judged inappropriate; peculiarities of semantics, syntax and pragmatics could all lead to a sense of oddness.

A question that frequently crops up when discussing inappropriate language is how far the problem is linguistic and how far it is cognitive. Although this distinction is very hard to make in practice, it is not empty.

Johnston raised this point when discussing the language of a child whose use of reference was abnormal, so definite terms were used when the referent was unclear to the listener. She noted two possible explanations. Either the child understood the relationship between definiteness and old information, but miscalculated his listener's need to know i.

relationship between syntactic semantics and pragmatics of humor

The same sorts of arguments can be applied to many of our categories of inappropriacy. Consider example 1, where a child says 'We went on a bus because Lee was sick out of the window'.

One possibility is that the child has a distorted concept of causality, i. We cannot know which explanation is correct simply from observing such utterances, but it makes sense to explore the child's appreciation of linguistic distinctions in such cases.

Professionals who are not familiar with language disorders often interpret children's utterances at their face value, particularly if the child uses fluent, complex language, and we find that examples such as example 1 can be treated as ostensive evidence that the child is thought disordered or psychotic. A less extreme interpretation in terms of semantic overextension is compatible with at least some instances of 'inappropriate language'.

However, some types of inappropriacy do not seem explicable in linguistic terms. Under the heading of unusual content or style were categorised utterances where the abnormal language appeared to be the vehicle in which disturbances of cognition were made manifest.

The abnormality was not in how the message was conveyed, but in the message itself. All the behaviours listed under this heading have been described in autistic children, and our impression was that children who produced utterances of this kind tended to have other autistic features. Johnston noted that the literature on conversational skills in language-impaired children had not yielded impressive results. This analysis suggests that a further reason may be that, in relying on analytical procedures derived from linguistic analysis of normal conversation, investigators may be missing those behaviours that can make children's conversation seem inappropriate.

Most research to date has restricted consideration to topic shift, turntaking and repairs, which are features that accounted for only a small proportion of conversational abnormalities observed in our study.

Clearly, more work is needed to specify and define the variety of conversational difficulties that lead to a sense of inappropriacy. The subcategorisation reported here represents a preliminary attempt at this exercise that can undoubtedly be improved upon, but which does demonstrate the feasibility of this approach.

Although some subcategories could not be identified reliably by independent raters, others could, and these included some categories that characterised the utterances of children with semantic-pragmatic disorders and were not found with any frequency in the transcripts of younger normal children.

For clinical use, we have produced a pilot version of an analysis based on the experimental procedures described in these two papers, entitled Analysis of Language Impaired Children's Conversation ALICC. This can be used in two ways. First, it can provide a measure of conversational exchange structure, cohesion, turntaking, repairs and appropriacy which can be interpreted relative to data from normal children of different ages.

This approach can be useful in research studies where it might be necessary to have a quantitative index of conversational ability in order to, for example, compare subgroups of children, look at correlates of conversational disability or consider how conversational competence varies across different settings. Secondly, the procedure provides a basis for a detailed analysis of the nature of inappropriacy which may help the speech therapist identify specific areas of difficulty to work on in remediation.

It will undoubtedly be necessary to revise and improve this analysis, but it is hoped that in its current form it will provide a useful first step for others interested in analysing conversational problems in more detail and that it may stimulate therapists to develop approaches to the sorts of impairments seen in children with semantic-pragmatic disorders.

Especial thinks are due to Mrs Hazel Roddam for assisting with our reliability checking, and to speech therapists at Dawn House School who collected additional conversations for phase 2 of the study. Classification of childhood language disorders. Rutter Eds Language Development and Disorders.

relationship between syntactic semantics and pragmatics of humor

Clinics in Developmental Medicine.