Dissertation > Language, writing > Linguistics > Writing and Rhetoric

A Study of Presupposition-Propelled Jokes

Author HanMi
Tutor HuangHao
School University of Foreign Trade and Economic
Course Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Keywords presupposition joke humor script
Type Master's thesis
Year 2004
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People hear, read and make jokes and laugh at them almost every day. An exploration of jokes will unfold many factors in joke texts that trigger laughter, such as the tones of joke-telling, circumstances where jokes occur, and the language of the texts. This thesis, however, confines its research scope to verbal jokes only, and pinpoints one linguistic phenomenon, i.e., presupposition, which produces the joking effect.This thesis gives a detailed analysis of the functions of presuppositions in jokes to demonstrate that presuppositions can trigger the humorous effect of the jokes where they are entailed. The analysis is carried out under the structure of a "script model" designed especially for this purpose.The "script" model borrows the basic concept of "script" from the book Semantic Mechanism of Humor by Victor Raskin, where a "semantic script" is applied in dissecting jokes and humor. Through an interaction with theories of both semantic presupposition and pragmatic presupposition reviewed in the first half of the thesis, the notion of "script" is developed into a "presupposition script" (PS) and further on, an analytical model. This model, together with its two sub-models designed for semantic and pragmatic presuppositions respectively, is then put onto joke cases coming from either real life or the Internet, to test its explanatory feasibility. Meanwhile, humor theories are also introduced to help with the analysis process.The research of this thesis is aimed at proving that presuppositions in jokes are functioning in creating humor effect in an explainable, systematic way, rather than randomly and haphazardly. In addition, this thesis is also a tentative exploration to combine linguistics and humor psychology, and hopefully this attempt can be valuable for future in-depth study in this interdisciplinary field.

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