Pun Strategies Across Joke Schemata: A Corpus-Based Study

In the linguistic study of humor, research has largely been centered around the formulation of models and theories or the dissecting and categorization of jokes. Because of the often difficult-to-categorize aspects of verbal jokes, much time has been spent trying to create taxonomies for humor types and mechanisms. Linguists such as Raskin and Attardo have sought to categorize all verbal humor according to various functional elements (Attardo & Raskin, 1991). Such elements include, but are not limited to, the logical mechanism that drives the humor in the joke or the situation where the joke takes place. These categorizations are helpful in understanding the potential components of a given joke. However, relatively few studies have sought to quantify and qualify the distribution of these components across real-world data. This study seeks to understand the distribution of some of these categorizations laid out by Raskin and Attardo across joke topics, namely pun wordplay and narrative strategy. To do this, an original 100,000 word joke corpus was designed and compiled consisting of four joke topics: Marriage, Politics, Animals, and Food. Through some manual sorting and Python programming, jokes were labeled according to wordplay strategy and narrative structure. A subsequent statistical analysis was carried out to determine whether there exists a pattern of specific joke strategies when dealing with children’s humor versus adult humor.

Thesis Author: Robert Nishan Crapo

Year Completed: 2018

Thesis Chair: Dallin D. Oaks


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