Jokes and the Linguistic Mind
By Debra Aarons
Routledge – 2012 – 276 pages
Through the lens of cognitive science, Jokes and the Linguistic Mind investigates jokes that play on some aspect of the structure and function of language. In so doing, Debra Aarons shows that these 'linguistic jokes' can evoke our tacit knowledge of the language we use. Analyzing hilarious examples from movies, plays and books, Jokes and the Linguistic Mind demonstrates that tacit linguistic knowledge must become conscious for linguistic jokes to be understood. The book examines jokes that exploit pragmatic, semantic, morphological, phonological and semantic features of language, as well as jokes that use more than one language and jokes that are about language itself. Additionally, the text explores the relationship between cryptic crossword clues and linguistic jokes in order to demonstrate the difference between tacit knowledge of language and rules of language use that are articulated for a particular purpose. With its use of jokes as data and its highly accessible explanations of complex linguistic concepts, this book is an engaging supplementary text for introductory courses in linguistics, psycholinguistics and cognitive science. It will also be of interest to scholars in translation studies, applied linguistics and philosophy of language.
'This book is delightful. Aarons takes us on a whirlwind tour of a wide range of linguistic phenomena—Gricean maxims, deixis, lexical semantics, negative polarity, quantification, morphological reanalysis, phonological assimilation, syntactic ambiguity and recursion, to name just a few—all through the medium of de dicto humor and language play. As she amply illustrates, explaining jokes (or "killing” them by linguistic analysis) is much more complicated than simply “getting” them. But the fact that we do get jokes demonstrates that we are able to call upon some sophisticated yet tacit linguistic knowledge, bringing it momentarily to consciousness via a surprising little disruption of our normal grammatical and communicative routines. I certainly plan to incorporate some of her analyses (and of course, the jokes themselves) into my undergraduate linguistics courses.' – Donna Lardiere, Georgetown University, USA
'Is linguistics boring? Certainly not in this book! Many of the jokes Debra Aarons discusses can easily be turned into enjoyable teaching lessons.' – Janet Bing, Old Dominion University, USA
'Aarons writes in an engaging, accessible style and her use of jokes to reveal tacit language knowledge will be of interest to any applied linguist. Aarons points out that most linguistic phenomena ‘can be illustrated elegantly and memorably through an appropriate joke’ (p.3), something she demonstrates convincingly throughout.' - Catriona Fraser, University of Melbourne, Australia
Chapter 1: Jokes and the Linguistic Mind Chapter 2: Playing with Linguistic Pragmatics Chapter 3: Playing with Semantics Chapter 4: Playing with Morphology and Phonology Chapter 5: Playing with Syntax Chapter 6: A Case Study: Word Association Football Chapter 7: Jokes in More Than One language Chapter 8: Jokes about Language Chapter 9: Cryptic Crossword Puzzles and Linguistic Knowledge
Debra Aarons is Lecturer in Linguistics at the University of New South Wales in Australia.