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Abstract Feyaerts & Brône

Humor research and cognitive linguistics: the construal of humorous interaction

Cognitive accounts of figurative language have focussed on the processing of metaphor, metonymy and irony in everyday language use. One broad locus of research that has been largely underfranchised in processing models is verbal humour. Although humour plays a central role in discourse and constitutes a major force of linguistic creativity, the study of inferential reasoning in humour interpretation has only very recently received systematic scrutiny (Coulson 2000; Giora et al. 2004; Attardo 2003; Brne, Feyaerts and Veale (in press)). What motivates this new direction in cognitive linguistic research is the belief that (a) creative language variation (like humour) is guided by the very same cognitive mechanisms that underlie everyday language use, which results in the need for linguistic theories claiming a cognitive orientation to cover these cases of expressivity, and (b) insights from the study of humour can shed light on aspects of cognitive processing that extend beyond the perspective of humour research.

This paper reports on an ongoing research project on the cognitive construal of different types of interactional humour (Brône 2006). On a first, theoretical level, it demonstrates the various ways, in which basic cognitive construal mechanisms are exploited (de-automatised) in order to achieve a humorous effect as discourse unfolds. We will discuss several examples, in which these exploitations operate on different levels of linguistic organisation, including phonetics, lexical semantics, syntax, conceptualisation, but also on a more pragmatic level such as the communicative ground or an utterance’s illocutionary force etc. On a methodological level, second, we advocate the application of a genuinely dynamic and multi-dimensional account of meaning in order to be able to achieve an accurate semantic characterisation of this type of language use. For this purpose, we adopt as a starting point Langacker’s extension of Cognitive Grammar to the so-called current discourse space (CDS) model (2001), in which it is argued how Cognitive Grammar and discourse can be integrated, as a matter of principle.



ATTARDO, SALVATORE (ed.) 2003 The Pragmatics of Humor. Special issue of Journal of Pragmatics 35-9.

BRONE, GEERT 2006 Hyper- and misunderstanding in interactional humor. Preprint nr. 242, Dept. of Linguistics, K.U. Leuven, 2006, 49 pp.

BRONE, GEERT, KURT FEYAERTS & TONY VEALE (eds.) In press Cognitive Linguistic Approaches to Humor. Special issue of Humor. International Journal of Humor Research 19-3.

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