Meaning and Humour

A blog by Andrew Goatly

To what extent is humour a liberating force? According to the theory advanced in Meaning and Humour, humour defeats expectations or introduces incongruities. And, linguistically speaking, this can be analysed as an overriding of lexical priming (Hoey), or as surprising foregrounding (Leech). For example, consider this joke:

“Give a man a fish–feed him for a day. Give a man two fish—feed him for two days”.

 

Internally the second sentence is not foregrounded—it is entirely predictable, to the point of near redundancy. Whereas externally, according to the expectations of this epigrammatic genre, where we anticipate something clever, unpredictable, entropic, the second sentence is foregrounded. The fact that most humour depends upon the overriding of . . . → Read More: Meaning and Humour