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Getting the joke

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Getting the joke Powered By Docstoc
					  Getting the joke:
 Humor, Cognitive grammar,
encyclopedic meaning and the
    semantics/pragmatics
         interface

         David Tuggy
         SIL-Mexico
    “Existence proofs” from humor
   Humor often involves somewhat extreme
    uses of language.
   This makes certain aspects of the nature
    of meaning more obvious or difficult to
    ignore.
   Many jokes use “indirection.”
   I.e., the speaker purposefully avoids
    mentioning crucial meaning, because it is
    funnier if people “tumble to” that meaning
    themselves.
   Such jokes give an “existence proof” for
    encyclopedic meaning.
         E.g. The Chicken Joke
   The animals are arguing over which one is
    the biggest, baddest and scariest of them
    all.




   “I just growl, and all the animals in the
            The Chicken Joke




   “I roar, and the whole savannah trembles
    with fear.”
The Chicken Joke

          “Ha,  that’s
           nothing. All I
           do is cough,
           and the whole
           world freaks
           out!”
    “Existence proofs” from humor

                        BIRD
                        FLU



          ˈtʃɪ                         ɔf
   Meaning evoked by chicken includes (though it is
    never mentioned explicitly) BIRD FLU.
   Meaning evoked by cough includes BIRD FLU as
    well.
   Unless you get the connection to BIRD FLU you
    “Existence proofs” from humor

                         BIRD
                         FLU



          ˈtʃɪ                           ɔf

   Of course BIRD FLU is not a central specification
    of either chicken or cough.
    “Existence proofs” from humor

                        BIRD
                        FLU



          ˈtʃɪ                         ɔf

   But any theory of meaning that does not allow
    for the existence and availability of such
    peripheral meanings has to be wrong.
    Not why, but how is it funny?
   At issue here is not why (or if, or to what
    degree) a joke like the chicken joke is
    funny.
   We will concentrate on how it is funny, i.e.
    what does it take to get the joke.
   You can get the joke and not find it funny,
    of course.
   But if you don’t get the joke and still find it
    funny, you are in fact laughing at a
    different joke.
                    Still …

   Note how much less funny the chicken
    joke would be if the chicken said “People
    are so afraid of bird flu that when I cough
    they think I have it and they freak out.”
   Skillful indirection is among the things we
    find funny, thus a good ingredient for
    jokes.
    Language and Culture-bound
              humor
   Clearly much humor is culture-bound.
   Some is, in addition, language-bound
       ∃ puns and other form-based word-play. You
        expect that to be language-bound.
    Language and Culture-bound
              humor
   Much meaning-based humor is still
    language- and/or culture-bound.
       The chicken joke is fairly translatable (e.g. to
        Spanish or Russian) and “works” in those
        modern cultures.
            (Though it worked better a couple of years ago!)
     You could not expect it to work in the
      Yanomamo or Sumerian cultures.
     If they heard it and thought it funny, it would
      quite certainly be because of other
      connections.
     It would be a different joke, in fact.
     What does it take to “get the
               joke”?
   (Traditionally) Meaning = semantics +
    pragmatics.
   Much humor plays around on the
    pragmatics/semantics interface.
   Semantics is largely culture-specific. Many
    assume pragmatics is not.
   Cognitive Grammar (= CG, Langacker
    1987, 1991, 2004) has, I think, some
    interesting things to say in this regard.
        Inclusion = Connection
       (the Container metaphor)
   Under CG, meanings consist of cognitive
    (mental) structures activated through
    (associative) mental linkages.
   Representing such linked structures as
    “contents” via the “Container Metaphor” is
    not illegitimate, but it must not be pressed
    to hard.
           Inclusion = Connection
          (the Container metaphor)

                          BIRD
                           BIRD
                           FLU
                          FLU


             ˈtʃɪ                          ɔf
   We used oval “shells” in the diagram to represent
    BIRD FLU as “included” in the meanings of chicken and
    cough. These, like the phrase “the meaning”, are high-
    level reifications.
         Inclusion = Connection
        (the Container metaphor)
                                                                                              usually
                            beak, feathers,                                                  repeated
                     eggs     wings, etc.
                                                virus           etc.                                  often
                                                                               sore throat         involuntary
                                                        BIRD
                                                        BIRD                                            air emerges
                                                                                                        from mouth
          run,
        rarely fly
                                  etc.
                                              SCIENTISTS
                                                        FLU
                                                         FLU
                                               predicted                                                  etc.
                                                           widespread
                                                                         chest/diaphragm
                                               epidemic       fear
                                                                        contracts suddenly




               ˈtʃɪ
                ˈtʃɪ                                                                          ɔf
   In fact, the “concepts” we connect turn out, when
    examined, to be collections of connections.
   Thus when we “shell” them that also is a
    reification.
   They are notational variants of systems of
          Central/Peripheral meanings
                                                                                                    usually
                                                                                                   repeated
                                  beak, feathers,
                           eggs     wings, etc.
                                                      virus           etc.                                  often
                                                                                     sore throat         involuntary

                                                              BIRD                                            air emerges
                                                                                                              from mouth

                run,
              rarely fly
                                        etc.        SCIENTISTS
                                                               FLU                                              etc.
                                                     predicted   widespread    chest/diaphragm
                                                     epidemic       fear      contracts suddenly




                       ˈtʃɪ                                                                          ɔf
   The difference between central and peripheral
    specifications is a matter of
       How likely it is (to the point of inevitability) that a
        specification gets activated.
       How strongly it (usually) gets activated
       Central / peripheral meanings
                CHICKEN
                                                                                           WHOOPING
               CROSS THE
                                                                                            COUGH
                 ROAD
                                                                                                     usually
                                                  ETC.                       ETC.                   repeated
                                beak, feathers,
                         eggs     wings, etc.
                                                     virus           etc.                                    often
CHICKEN &                                                                             sore throat         involuntary
DUMPLINGS
                                                             BIRD                                              air emerges
                                                                                                               from mouth    COUGH UP
              run,
            rarely fly
                                      etc.         SCIENTISTS
                                                              FLU                                                etc.
                                                                                                                               FOOD
                                                    predicted   widespread      chest/diaphragm
                                                    epidemic       fear        contracts suddenly




                     ˈtʃɪ                                                                             ɔf

      Such collections of central and peripheral
       meanings constitute “encyclopedic meaning”.
      CG, from the beginning, insisted on the legitimacy
       and importance of encyclopedic meaning.
    What is the difference between
     Semantics and Pragmatics?
   CG says that to be part of a language,
    meanings (or other cognitive structures)
    must be not just
       Common: shared by the relevant people (esp.
        interlocutors in a communication situation)
but also
       Conventional(ized): Established as common
        by usage.
    What is the difference between
     Semantics and Pragmatics?

   I will take conventionality/conventionalization
    as a major difference between Semantics and
    Pragmatics
   Conventionality is clearly a matter of degree,
    not a plus-or-minus issue.
    A continuum, not a dichotomy
   We will use a color gradation to represent this.

                      Degree of conventionalization




Highly conventional                                Not yet conventional
    = Semantic                                    = Pragmatic/Constructed


   Yellow = (strongly) established, light blue = not yet
    established, light green = in between
    What is the difference between
     Semantics and Pragmatics?
   Semantic structures are conventionalized.
   Pragmatic structures are not (yet),
   But they often are common
   And if they are not at first, they become so
    during the communication process.
          Constructed meanings
   Many larger-scale meanings are also not yet
    conventionalized, but are not usually considered
    pragmatic.
   These are constructed meanings.
   For instance, in the Chicken joke, the idea of a
    chicken coughing is clearly meant.
   But this notion is not a pre-established part of
    English for most users not familiar with the joke.
   It is constructed through the combination of
    lexical items and syntactic patterns used.
          Constructed meanings
              and blending
   Although it                 BIRD
    is fairly                   FLU
    closely
    controlled,
    it involves   ˈtʃɪ                               ɔf
    a degree of
    “blending”,
    and is not
    entirely
    predictable
    .                    ˈtʃɪ                 ˈ ɔf
                                (sez, ˌajdʒəst)
          Constructed meanings
              and blending
   This blended,               BIRD
    constructed                 FLU
    meaning
    strongly
    activates the ˈtʃɪ                               ɔf
    concept BIRD
    FLU.




                         ˈtʃɪ                 ˈ ɔf
                                (sez, ˌajdʒəst)
    What is the difference between
     Semantics and Pragmatics?
   As the “mental leaps” needed to achieve the
    proper blend become less and less overtly
    constrained, people tend to talk of pragmatic
    “inferences”.
   Again, the difference between them and
    constructed meanings is one of degree—degree of
    coercion or control over what meanings are to be
    achieved.
       With semantic or constructed meanings you tell people
        what to think of.
       With pragmatic meanings you hope they will think of the
        right thing.
     Deictic Pragmatic concepts
   Some pragmatic structures I will call
    “deictic pragmatic”.
   They consist of concepts that are common
    to the interlocutors from the immediate
    context of speech, which have not yet
    been conventionalized by usage.
    Deictic Pragmatic concepts

 I purposely did us
  This allowed
  notidentify who
  to mention
  the bear and
  was speaking.
  the lion by
 But it didn’t tell
  name, but
  you linguistically
  showing their
  who it was.
  pictures made
  the salient
 Most deictic
  concept of
  pragmatic
  them common
  concepts are
  to us as a
  even less
  group.
Different kinds of meanings
       Closely controlled/                    Pragmatic
       specified meaning:                      meaning


          Semantic                     Deictic Meaning:
          Meaning:                          Meaning common to the
                                          interlocutors in the specific
                                                                            Meaning
    Meaning already established                                               that is
                                      situation but not (yet) established
    in the linguistic system and                                             already
                                      by usage as part of their common
        evoked by signifiant
                                         linguistic system. Linked to,      common
      (phonological) or other
                                       rather than evoked by, semantic
         semantic structures
                                                   meanings.

          Constructed                        Inferred
           Meaning:                          Meaning:
       Non-established meaning a                                              Meaning
                                        Meaning a speaker intends
      speaker intends and a hearer
                                        and a hearer puts together,
                                                                            that becomes
      puts together, closely guided
        by linguistic convention,         only loosely guided by             common as
         (using mostly semantic        linguistic convention, using           you talk
           resources, including          both semantic and deictic
       established constructional                resources.
               meanings).
         Different kinds of meanings
                    Closely controlled/                    Pragmatic
                    specified meaning:                      meaning
   The
    categorie                                       Deictic Meaning:
                        Semantic
                      Semantic                               Meaning:
                                                    Deicticcommon to the
    s fade or           Meaning:                     Meaning
                      Meaning:                           Meaning common to the
                                                        interlocutors in the specific     Meaning
    blend into     Meaning already established
                           already system and
                 Meaninglinguistic established
                   in the
                                                    situation but not in theestablished
                                                       interlocutors (yet) specific
                                                   situation butpart of their common
                                                    by usage as not (yet) established
                                                                                            that is
                 in the linguistic system and                                              already
    each          evoked by signifiant (phonol.)
                     evoked by signifiant
                       structures or by other
                                                       linguistic system. Linked to,
                                                   by usage as part of their common
                                                     rather than evoked by, semantic
                                                      linguistic system. Linked to,       common
                   (phonological) or other
    other.              semantic structures
                      semantic structures
                                                    rather than meanings. semantic
                                                                 evoked by,
                                                               meanings.
                      Constructed                         Inferred
                      Constructed
                       Meaning:                          Inferred
                        Meaning:                         Meaning:
                    Non-established meaning a
                    Non-established meaning a
                                                        Meaning:
                                                     Meaning a speaker intends              Meaning
                   speaker intends and a hearer      Meaning a speaker intends
                                                      and a hearer puts together,
                   puts together, and a hearer
                   speaker intendsclosely guided
                                                        only loosely guided by
                                                     and a hearer puts together,
                                                                                          that becomes
                   puts together, closely guided
                     by linguistic convention,
                     by linguistic convention,       linguistic convention, using
                                                       only loosely guided by              common as
                      (using mostly semantic           both semantic and deictic
                      (using mostlyincluding
                        resources, semantic         linguistic convention, using            you talk
                        resources, including                   resources.
                                                      both semantic and deictic
                    established constructional
                    established constructional                resources.
                             meanings).
                           meanings).
    From common to conventional
   The meanings we are talking about are
    common, if not conventional, by the end of the
    conversation.
       We’ll see later an example of meaning that doesn’t
        become common. It’s worth talking about too.
   Communication is commonication: The whole
    point of it is to make information (meaning)
    common.
   Communication is usage that establishes
    commonality.
   It is thus *automatically* and *inevitably* a step
    towards conventionalization (i.e. towards being
    established by usage.)
         Semantic or pragmatic
            connections?
   As we saw already, jokes often involve
    connections through encyclopedic meaning.
   Is that encyclopedic meaning semantic, or
    pragmatic? Or constructed? or what?
   Typically, it is a mixture.
         The Chicken Joke (again)
       There are two questions here:
   Is the concept BIRD FLU semantic
    (conventional, established by usage)?
       Yes, clearly.
   Are the connections to it from chicken and
    from cough semantic?
                              The Chicken joke
                            beak, feathers,
                     eggs     wings, etc.
                                                virus           etc.


                                                        BIRD
          run,                                SCIENTISTS
                                                         FLU
                                  etc.
        rarely fly                             predicted   widespread
                                               epidemic       fear




                 ˈtʃɪ                             ˈtʃɪ ˌflu
                                                  ∵
   The connection from chicken to BIRD FLU is
    certainly semantic.
       We have all heard (usage) that chickens carry it, and
        that where it is found flocks of chickens are killed to
        stop it.
                            The Chicken joke
                                                                      FLU                    usually
                                                                                            repeated
                          beak, feathers,
                   eggs     wings, etc.
                                              virus           etc.                                   often
                                                                              sore throat         involuntary

                                                      BIRD                                             air emerges
                                                                                                       from mouth

        run,                                SCIENTISTS
                                                       FLU
                                etc.                                                                     etc.
      rarely fly                             predicted   widespread
                                             epidemic                   chest/diaphragm
                                                            fear
                                                                       contracts suddenly




               ˈtʃɪ                                                                           ɔf
   The (resultative/symptomatic) connection from
    cough to FLU is also certainly semantic.
   So too the (elaborative) connection from FLU to
    BIRD FLU.
                            The Chicken joke
                                                                      FLU                    usually
                                                                                            repeated
                          beak, feathers,
                   eggs     wings, etc.
                                              virus           etc.                                   often
                                                                              sore throat         involuntary

                                                      BIRD                                             air emerges
                                                                                                       from mouth

        run,                                SCIENTISTS
                                                       FLU
                                etc.                                                                     etc.
      rarely fly                             predicted   widespread
                                             epidemic                   chest/diaphragm
                                                            fear
                                                                       contracts suddenly




               ˈtʃɪ                                                                           ɔf
   However, the combination of these two links is
    probably not semantic for most speakers.
   I.e., most of us have not heard usage linking
    coughing with BIRD FLU.
                              The Chicken joke
                                                                        FLU                    usually
                                                                                              repeated
                            beak, feathers,
                     eggs     wings, etc.
                                                virus           etc.                                   often
                                                                                sore throat         involuntary

                                                        BIRD                                             air emerges
                                                                                                         from mouth

          run,                                SCIENTISTS
                                                         FLU
                                  etc.                                                                     etc.
        rarely fly                             predicted   widespread
                                               epidemic                   chest/diaphragm
                                                              fear
                                                                         contracts suddenly




                 ˈtʃɪ                                                                           ɔf

   This is, in fact, a (relatively mild) example of
    pragmatic inferencing.
                              The Chicken joke
                                                                        FLU                    usually
                                                                                              repeated
                            beak, feathers,
                     eggs     wings, etc.
                                                virus           etc.                                   often
                                                                                sore throat         involuntary

                                                        BIRD                                             air emerges
                                                                                                         from mouth

          run,                                SCIENTISTS
                                                         FLU
                                  etc.                                                                     etc.
        rarely fly                             predicted   widespread
                                               epidemic                   chest/diaphragm
                                                              fear
                                                                         contracts suddenly




                 ˈtʃɪ                                                                           ɔf
   Overall, then, we can consider that the linkage is
    pragmatic, even though it is composed of a
    combination of (pre-established) semantic links.
                              The Chicken joke
                                                                        FLU                    usually
                                                                                              repeated
                            beak, feathers,
                     eggs     wings, etc.
                                                virus           etc.                                   often
                                                                                sore throat         involuntary

                                                        BIRD                                             air emerges
                                                                                                         from mouth

          run,                                SCIENTISTS
                                                         FLU
                                  etc.                                                                     etc.
        rarely fly                             predicted   widespread
                                               epidemic                   chest/diaphragm
                                                              fear
                                                                         contracts suddenly




                 ˈtʃɪ                                                                           ɔf
   This is so common as to be typical of pragmatic
    connections:
   they are composed largely of pre-established,
    semantic links, combined in a novel way.
             Constructed meanings
                                                                                                              usually

                 and blending         beak, feathers,
                                        wings, etc.
                                                                                                             repeated

                                                                                                                      often
                               eggs                                                            sore throat         involuntary
                                                               virus               etc.
   The connection                                                                                                      air emerg

    from the                                                        BIRD                                                from mou



    constructed     run,                                  SCIENTISTS
                                                                     FLU                                                  etc.
                                            etc.                                         chest/diaphragm
                  rarely fly                               predicted          widespread
    chicken…cough
                                                                                        contracts suddenly
                                                           epidemic              fear



    to BIRD FLU is,
    as previously    ˈtʃɪ                                                                                      ɔf
    represented,
    non-
    established, and
    pragmatic.

                                                        ˈtʃɪ           (sez, ˌajdʒəst)ˈ ɔf
             Constructed meanings
                                                                                                         usually

                 and blending          beak, feathers,
                                                                                                        repeated

                                                                                                                 often
                                         wings, etc.                                      sore throat         involuntary
                                eggs                       virus           etc.

                                                                                                                   air emerg
                                                                   BIRD                                            from mou
   The connection
                                                                    FLU                                              etc.
    from the         run,
                   rarely fly
                                             etc.        SCIENTISTS
                                                          predicted
                                                          epidemic
                                                                      widespread
                                                                                    chest/diaphragm
                                                                                   contracts suddenly
                                                                         fear
    constructed the
    whole world
    freaks out to     ˈtʃɪ                                                                                ɔf
    the notion of
    world-wide fear                                       PANIC ON A
                                                         GLOBAL SCALE
    and panic over
    bird-flu, is also
    non-
                                                    ðəˌ olˈw ldfɹi saʷt
    established.
              Constructed meanings
                                                                                                        usually



   What it enhances,
                      and blending                                                                     repeated

                                                                                                                often
                                        beak, feathers,                                  sore throat         involuntary
                                          wings, etc.
    namely the notion            eggs                       virus          etc.
                                                                                                                  air emerg
                                                                                                                  from mou
    of widespread                                                   BIRD
    fear connected to run,                                SCIENTISTS
                                                                     FLU           chest/diaphragm
                                                                                                                    etc.

                    rarely fly
                                              etc.
                                                                       widespread
    BIRD FLU, is                                           predicted
                                                           epidemic
                                                                       widespread
                                                                          fear
                                                                             fear
                                                                                  contracts suddenly


    semantic, already
    part of BIRD FLU.
                      ˈtʃɪ                                                                               ɔf
   This (again)
    enhances the
    whole notion of                                        PANIC ON A
    BIRD FLU, making                                      GLOBAL SCALE
    it clear that is
    what is really
    being talked                                      ðəˌ olˈw ldfɹi saʷt
    about.
                   The Chicken joke
   (Somewhat incidentally:)
   Note the usage of the (in the purely
    linguistic version of this joke). It is
    significant and typical for many jokes:
       The bear, the lion, and the chicken are
        marked as stereotypical participants in a
        conventional “script”.
            (also as representatives of their species)
   This “script” (which helps make this joke
    work/be easy to understand) is a
    schematic construction defining this type
                 The Chicken joke
   In the script
       several agonists (typically three) vie for some sort of
        supremacy
       the first ones (typically two) establish a trend for the
        manner of demonstrating supremacy
       the last one (the eschatagonist? ) violates that trend
        and establishes supremacy in an unexpected way
       it may in fact be surprising (as in this case) that the
        eschatagonist is a participant at all
   In a language which lacks this script, the joke
    will probably not work as well.
   The next joke was told by a friend of mine.
   I will first give you the punch line, then
    supply some context.
              The Beard Joke




   “You can tell which end of his face he uses
    the most.”
              The Beard Joke
   This is a rather widely
    translatable joke (English,
    Spanish, Nahuatl, others?)
   That is because the metonymic
    connections involved, though
    actually quite complex, are
    established (semantic) in many
    cultures.
   I’ve tried to represent some of
    these in the following diagram
                  The Beard Joke
                                            HAIR
                CRANIUM     HEAD                   WHITE
                            HAIR                   HAIR

                    BRAIN
                            THINK
                              THINK
                                                         AGE
                                                     STRESS

                     JAW                              (Hard)
                                    BEARD             USAGE

                       MOUTH

                                   TALK
                                   TALK
ˈɛndəv ɪzˈ fejs           EAT
                                                        ˈjuz
    Once you’ve gotten to the point where the
     opposition THINK/TALK is strongly activated, you
     have pretty much understood the joke.
                  The Beard Joke
                                            HAIR
                CRANIUM     HEAD                   WHITE
                            HAIR                   HAIR

                   BRAIN
                            THINK
                              THINK
                                                         AGE
                                                     STRESS

                     JAW                              (Hard)
                                    BEARD             USAGE

                      MOUTH

                                   TALK
                                   TALK
ˈɛndəv ɪzˈ fejs           EAT
                                                       ˈjuz
    My friend was saying, in essence, “David talks
     more than he thinks.”
                    The Beard Joke
                                              HAIR
                  CRANIUM     HEAD                     WHITE
                              HAIR                     HAIR

                     BRAIN
                              THINK
                                THINK
                                                                AGE
                                                            STRESS

                       JAW                                  (Hard)
                                      BEARD                 USAGE

                         MOUTH

                                     TALK
                                     TALK
ˈɛndəv ɪzˈ fejs             EAT
                                                             ˈjuz
    Note how pragmatic and semantic connections are
     interwoven with each other logically (and presumably
     temporally to some extent.)
                 The Beard Joke
                                            HAIR
                CRANIUM     HEAD                   WHITE
                            HAIR                   HAIR

                   BRAIN
                            THINK
                              THINK
                                                         AGE
                                                     STRESS
                                                      (Hard)
                     JAW                              USAGE
                                    BEARD

                      MOUTH

                                   TALK
                                   TALK
ˈɛndəv ɪzˈ fejs           EAT
                                                       ˈjuz
    It would not work at all well to try to do all the
     semantics first, then all the pragmatics, or v.v.
                  The Beard Joke
                                            HAIR
                CRANIUM     HEAD                   WHITE
                            HAIR                   HAIR

                    BRAIN
                            THINK
                              THINK
                                                         AGE
                                                     STRESS

                      JAW                             (Hard)
                                    BEARD             USAGE

                       MOUTH

                                   TALK
                                   TALK
ˈɛndəv ɪzˈ fejs           EAT
                                                       ˈjuz
    There’s enough common semantic material in most
     languages that the pragmatic connections (deictic
     & inferential) can be trusted to go on similar lines.
                  The Beard Joke
                                            HAIR
                CRANIUM     HEAD                   WHITE
                            HAIR                   HAIR

                   BRAIN
                            THINK
                              THINK
                                                         AGE
                                                     STRESS

                     JAW                              (Hard)
                                    BEARD             USAGE

                      MOUTH

                                   TALK
                                   TALK
ˈɛndəv ɪzˈ fejs           EAT
                                                       ˈjuz

    That’s what makes the joke so translatable.
                 The Beard Joke
                                           HAIR
               CRANIUM     HEAD                   WHITE
                           HAIR                   HAIR

                  BRAIN
                           THINK
                             THINK
                                                        AGE
                                                    STRESS
                                                     (Hard)
                    JAW                              USAGE
                                   BEARD

                     MOUTH

                                  TALK
                                  TALK
ˈɛndəv ɪzˈ fejs          EAT
                                                      ˈjuz
    Of course, it may not be *funny* in all cultures,
     even if they *get* it. (e.g. maybe a serious
                The Beard Joke
   If you’ve seen the picture
    before you hear the joke, and
    noted the relevant details, the
    picture is giving you Deictic
    Pragmatic information.
   But it also works seeing the
    picture later (as I showed it to
    you.)
   Or you might see it first, but
    notice the relevant details later.
               The Beard Joke
   If you hear someone tell the
    story, describing the essence of
    the picture (more normal joke
    format)— then it’s semantic.
   (In the original context,
    someone had commented on
    my beard being whiter than my
    head hair.)
   Many of the connections would
    still be pragmatic, however.
               The Beard Joke
   Bottom line:
   It doesn’t really matter whether
    the information is pragmatic or
    semantic, as long as it’s
    common, readily/already
    activated when the punch line
    comes.
                The Beard Joke


   Finally, it isn’t clear that
    there is any special joke
    script (schema) at work in
    this case.
   It is relevant to the joke’s
    translatability that no such
    script is necessary.
            The Pigeon Joke




                                     verbum lorem ipsum etc. verbum lorem
                                   ipsum etc.verbum lorem ipsum etc.verbum
                                      lorem ipsum etc.verbum lorem ipsum
                                   etc.verbum lorem ipsum etc.verbum lorem
                                                  ipsum etc.




   Some days you’re the pigeon,
   and some days you’re the
              The Pigeon joke
   Usage of the is similar to that of the
    Chicken joke: it marks the pigeon and the
    statue as fulfilling stereotypical roles in a
    script.
               The Pigeon joke




                          verbum lorem ipsum etc.
                            verbum lorem ipsum
                          etc.verbum lorem ipsum
                              etc.verbum lorem
                                   ipsumc.




   The setting for that script is probably in a park
    (where you are likely to find pigeons and statues
               The Pigeon joke




                          verbum lorem ipsum etc.
                            verbum lorem ipsum
                          etc.verbum lorem ipsum
                              etc.verbum lorem
                                   ipsumc.




   Crucially, the blended conception has the pigeon
    flying over and dropping excrement on the
              The Pigeon joke
   Like the Beard joke, this is not clearly
    dependent on a particular joke-
    construction schema [though it certainly
    makes effective use of a more general
    syntactic schema some(TIME)s X, (and)
    some(TIME)s Y].
              The Pigeon joke
   It is probably reasonably widely
    translatable where ∃ parks with pigeons
    and statues.
   But not (in my experience) as
    effective/easy to get in Spanish as in
    English.
   This is probably because the crucial link is
    more conventional in English than in
    Spanish.
              The Pigeon joke


   I have heard many more (conventional)
    complaints about bird droppings (e.g. on
    cars) in English than in Spanish.
   ∃ widespread knowledge of the couplet
       Birdie, birdie in the sky,
       How I’m glad that cows don’t fly.
                              The Pigeon joke
   There is
    widespread
    knowledge of
    cartoons like
    the following
    (e.g. in The
    Far Side):



    picture ©2007 Christopher Tuggy
                The Pigeon joke
              BIRD
                           DROP
                       EXCREMENT ON
                        SOMETHING               verbum lorem ipsum etc.
                                                  verbum lorem ipsum
                                                etc.verbum lorem ipsum
                                                   etc.verbum lorem
                                                        ipsumc.




                    (English)
                    (Spanish)
       ˈpɪdʒ
      paˈloma                                 ˈstætʃ
                                             esˈtatua
   Thus the connection from pigeon/BIRD,
    especially in a joking context, to the idea of its
    droppings falling on something, is semantic
    (strongly pre-established) in English
   It is much less so in Spanish.
                                   The Pigeon joke
                                      active agonist DO SOMETHING
                                   DISAGREEABLE to passive antagonist




         verbum lorem ipsum etc.
           verbum lorem ipsum
         etc.verbum lorem ipsum
             etc.verbum lorem
                  ipsumc.




   The joke also involves a proverb-like
    abstraction permitting re-specialization
                                   The Pigeon joke
                                      active agonist DO SOMETHING
                                   DISAGREEABLE to passive antagonist



                                           YOU DO            others DO
         verbum lorem ipsum etc.
           verbum lorem ipsum
         etc.verbum lorem ipsum
             etc.verbum lorem
                                         SOMETHING         SOMETHING
                                                          DISAGREEABLE
                  ipsumc.




                                        DISAGREEABLE
                                           to others          TO YOU

   Some days you subject others to
    disagreeable/disgusting/irritating /even
    insulting (but not terribly harmful) behavior,
   and some days they do it to you
            The Blonde joke
                        (Permission
                         granted by
                         Holly Tuggy)


   Q: Why do
    blondes wear
    pony tails?
   A: To hide the
    valve stem.
              The Blonde joke
   This joke is pretty culture specific; not
    widely translatable.
   Indeed not all English speakers get it.
   It is dependent on the constructional
    schemas for:
     Q/A jokes
     Blonde jokes, esp. the “dumb blonde”
      stereotype.
   Note (again) the usage of stereotyping the:
    the valve stem implies “every blonde has
             The Blonde joke             (not literally)
                                 no brains             just air

                 = stupid
                            = stupid




         bland                         ˈeɹˌ
                                       ∵ ɛd

   It helps (almost: you need) to know &
    understand the idiomatic word airhead,
    strongly evoked by stereotypical blonde.
                   The Blonde joke
   Many English
    speakers don’t      inflatable   for putting
    have a clear,                    air into the
                        chamber
                                      chamber
    immediately
    accessible
    meaning for
    “valve stem”.
   Some eventually
    remember or
    figure it out and
    thus get the joke,
    but it’s harder for
              The Blonde joke
   Those who get the
    joke get a strong
    blended picture of
    the blonde with
    the valve stem
    hidden in her
    ponytail.
                    The Blonde joke
   This is not a pre-established concept of
    English.                        for putting

                   = stupid
                                    air into the
                                     chamber



                                                                inflatable
                                                                chamber




           bland                                   ˈvælvstɛm


   Rather it is
    constructed
    on-the-fly.
                                                   ˈponiˌteʲl
                  The Blonde joke
   But it is constructed
    (fairly strongly
    coerced) meaning:
    the joke in essence
    tells you that
    blondes have valve
    stems hidden in
    their pony tails.
        Even those who
        don’t know what a
        valve stem is get this
               The Blonde joke
   But there are less
                            inflatable
    closely controlled      chamber
    (inferential) aspects
    to it as well.
   Many construe the
    blonde’s head as the
    inflatable chamber.
                    The Blonde joke
   The crucial (pragmatic) connection in this case
    is from the indirectly evoked notion AIRHEAD.
                                           (not literally)
                                   no brains             just air
                                                                    for putting

                   = stupid
                                                                    air into the
                                                                     chamber

                              = stupid
                                                                                                inflatable
                                                                                                chamber




           bland                                                                   ˈvælvstɛm




                                                        = stupid

                                                                                   ˈponiˌteʲl
              The Blonde joke
   Some get another
    meaning: the          inflatable
                          chamber
    blonde’s whole body
    is the inflatable
    chamber                            inflatable
                                       chamber
                    The Blonde joke
   In this case the crucial connection is from the
    indirectly evoked notion INFLATABLE DOLL.
                               air
                              valve

                                      for putting

                   = stupid
                                      air into the
                                       chamber



                                                                  inflatable
                                                                  chamber




           bland                                     ˈvælvstɛm




                                                     ˈponiˌteʲl
                The Blonde joke
   That’s a somewhat
    different joke; calling
    blondes airheads is
    different from calling
    them inflatable dolls.        inflatable
   The constructed               chamber

    meaning does not
    control which
    construal you get.
                 The Blonde joke
   Many (myself
    included) get an off- inflatable
                          chamber
    the-wall picture of
    the air in airheads’
    heads as under
    pressure, and as
    needing the pressure
    constantly monitored
    and adjusted.
                 The Blonde joke
   But others do not get
    that strongly.         inflatable
                           chamber
   Again, the
    constructed meaning
    does not control this.
   It is all in the realm
    of pragmatic
    inferencing.
   It may not even be
    common between
    the joke-teller and
             Recap/final points
   Indirection, i.e. (purposeful) activation of
    unnamed concepts through peripheral meaning
    specifications, is a crucial ingredient in some
    kinds of humor.
   The distinction between central and peripheral
    specifications is important to conceive of
    properly, and to bear in mind.
   It is useful to distinguish semantic from
    pragmatic meaning by the parameter of
    conventionalization: semantics is
    conventionalized meaning, and pragmatic
    meanings are not (yet) conventionalized.
              Recap/final points
   Some pragmatic meanings are already
    common, though yet not established by
    usage.
       These deictic pragmatic meanings are like
        semantic meanings in being pre-available.
   Other pragmatic meanings are inferential
    connections that the hearer must (or may)
    make between activated meanings of
    whatever sort.
            Recap/final points
   Constructed meanings are also not pre-
    established.
   They are like pragmatic inferences in that
    they require a hearer to make new
    connections.
   But they differ in being more closely
    controlled via schematic constructions.
            Recap/final points
   Pragmatic meanings, semantic and
    constructed meanings grade into each
    other, and are likely to be inextricably
    interleaved in particular meanings such as
    the meanings of particular jokes.
   Much that may seem pragmatic is actually
    at least in some degree semantic (pre-
    established by usage.)
   If certain concepts or connections are not
    semantic for you as hearer, it may be
    harder for you to get the joke.
            Recap/final points
   However, as long as you get the joke, it
    doesn’t much matter if particular concepts
    or connections are pragmatic or semantic.
   Understanding the subtleties of these sorts
    of connections helps us to understand why
    humor tends so strongly to be language-
    or culture-bound.
         Recap/final comments
   It is a very beautiful thing that so many
    people get these quite intricate and
    complex connections so reliably and so
    fast (well under 1 second).
   Jokes work: people get them. And that
    tells us a lot about language.
                     .
Powerpoint available at:
 www.sil.org/~tuggyd

				
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