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Linguistic humor. Charity Smith-Engelin and Dr. Mary Ann Lowe. Purpose. 42% of students on my case load have difficulty with understanding linguistic humor. Students feel left out being unable to participate in “getting the Joke” and enjoying it with their peers. (Miczo,2004) .

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Linguistic humor l.jpg
Linguistic humor

  • Charity Smith-Engelin and Dr. Mary Ann Lowe


Purpose l.jpg
Purpose

  • 42% of students on my case load have difficulty with understanding linguistic humor.

  • Students feel left out being unable to participate in “getting the Joke” and enjoying it with their peers. (Miczo,2004).


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What is Humor?

  • Incongruity-Resolution Theory

    • The incongruity of a statement is resolved at the end of a joke through a type of problem solving or: “the punch-line is seen to make sense at some level with the earlier information in the joke” (Spector, 1992. Pg 20).

    • Spector (1992), discusses the types of linguistic humor in the following slides.


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Types of Linguistic Humor

  • Phonological Humor--The joke is on the phoneme and is appropriate for ages 6-8 years. (Shumann, 2009).

    • Difference of one phoneme: “What’s a horse’s favorite game?--Stable Tennis” (Dunn, pg 94).

    • Metathesis--sound and word reversals:“What’s the difference between Shrek and a bowl of carrots?--One is a funny beast and the other is bunny feast”(Dunn, Pg 94).

    • Stress Juncture--emphasis on the wrong syllable:“What do you call a dead chicken that likes to scare people?--A Pultrygeist” (Dunn, pg 94).


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Types of Linguistic Humor

  • Morphological Humor-- The joke is on the word and is most appropriate for ages 8-10 (Schumann, 2009).

    • Irregular Morphology--Spelling difference: “What did the rabbit give his girlfriend?--A 24 carrot ring”.(Dunn, pg 81).

    • Morphological--Explores word meaning or semantics: “What kind of animal comes out only on cloudy days?--A reindeer”.(Dunn, pg 63).

    • Exploitation of bound morphemes--A bound morpheme is confused with an independent word. “If an unhappy person is disgruntled, is a happy person gruntled? (answer is “yes”, gruntled is an actual word we don’t use anymore).


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Types of Linguistic Humor

  • Morphological Humor continued

    • Pseudomorphology---”An independent word is confused with a larger word but the sequence is not really a morpheme of the larger word”: What kind of pet makes the best instrument?--A trumpet”.(Spector, 192 pg 21).


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Types of Linguistic Humor

  • Syntactic Humor--The Joke is on the sentence structure and is appropriate for ages 10-14 years (Schumann, 2009).

    • Phrase structure--The sequence of words has more than one syntactic meaning. “Why did the skeleton climb a tree?--Because a dog was after his bones”.(Dunn, pg 90)

    • Metalinguistic--The joke is on the language form and not the meaning. “What two letters of the Alphabet contain nothing?--M. T.”.(Spector, 192 pg 21).


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Skills needed to understand linguistic humor

  • According to Spector (1992), the needed skills are:

    • Large vocabulary base

      • ”What is noisier than a Whooping Crane?--A Trumpeter Swan”(Dunn, pg 90). One needs to know what these birds are and that “whooping” is a sound.

    • World Knowledge

      • “Why does the flamingo stand on one leg?--Because if he lifted that leg off the ground, he would fall down”. (Dunn, pg 55). One needs to know what flamingos are and that they are known to stand on one leg.


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Skills needed to understand linguistic humor

  • More on skills needed to understand linguistic humor.

    • Metalinguistic skills

      • “What two letters of the Alphabet contain nothing?--M. T.”.(Spector, 192 pg 21). One must be able to understand about language and it’s mechanics.

    • Knowledge of figurative language

      • “Why did the owl say ‘tweet, tweet’--Because she didn’t give a hoot”.(Dunn, pg 72). One needs to understand that “Didn’t give a hoot” is an expression about not caring about something.


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Teaching the skills

  • Identify the incongruity

    • Teach students to locate words that are ambiguous, such as words with double meanings.

      • “Why don’t reindeer wear bells?--Because they already have horns”.(Dunn pg 49). One must be able to understand about language and it’s mechanics.

    • Resolve the incongruity

      • Draw the resolution on a wipe-off board. For example draw a picture of the reindeer with antlers on his head, then with trumpets on his head to show the double meaning of horns.


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Teaching the skills

  • The April Fool’s Day Game:

  • A game designed to explore linguistic humor.

  • Uses joke cards for the various ages. -”What’s Wacky”(Super Duper) for the very young concrete thinkers such as Kindergardeners and Knock-Knock Jokes for first and second graders. The semantic jokes begin with third grade and the syntatic jokes are reserved for fifth and sixth graders.

  • The game pieces are dinosaurs and the die is round to add to the concept of incongruity. Finally, the die is multiplied by itself to aid in math skills.


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Teaching the skills

  • Playing the April Fool’s Day Game:


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A Preliminary Study

  • Purpose

  • One of the joys of childhood is humor and while a child might understand visual humor, linguistic humor is more difficult.

  • This is especially challenging for children with semantic language impairments who have more difficulty, then their linguistically typical peers, understanding word meaning.

  • This study endeavors to identify the connection between semantic skills and understanding linguistic humor.

  • The potential benefit in identifying this connection is the ability to help those children who might have difficulty understanding semantic based jokes.


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A Preliminary Study

  • Subjects

  • This study will require two groups consisting of 4 to 6 students each ranging from ages 8-12. It will include both boys and girls, with the primary language being English and will be a mixture of African American, Hispanic and Caucasian subjects.

  • Some children will be language impaired and some will have typical language abilities.

  • The subjects will be selected from the primary investigator’s caseload and Origami Club.


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A Preliminary Study

  • Methods and Procedures

  • The subjects will be given a screening to determine their ability to understand semantic language using the Test Of Language Development Intermediate-4.

  • Those with normal to high scores will be placed in the non-language disordered group and those with scores in the below average range will be placed in the language impaired group.

  • Each group will be exposed to 3 semantic jokes and then given a questionnaire to answer about each joke.


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A Preliminary Study

  • Methods and Procedures continued

  • The jokes will be presented on a card with the joke on one side and the punch-line on the other.

  • The 3 semantic jokes are: “Why don’t reindeer wear bells--because they already have horns”, “Did you hear about the man who opened an origami store--business folded after 6 months”, and “What animal only comes out on cloudy days--a reindeer”.

  • After the presentation of the jokes, the questions will require subjects state whether they found the joke funny, identify the semantic component that made the joke funny, and define the double meaning of the “funny” words in the joke.


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References

  • Dunn, S.,K. (2007). Just Joking: 1,001 Jokes to crack you up. Scholastic Inc., New York.

  • Miczo, N. (2004). Humor ability, unwillingness to communicate, loneliness and perceived stress: Testing a security theory. Proquest Psychology Journals. 55;2.

  • Schumann, N.,V. (2008). What’s so funny? The auditory and verbal skills of humor. The New Jersey Speech-Language Hearing Conference in Atlantic City.

  • Spector, C., C (1992). Remediating humor comprehension deficits in language-impaired students. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 23, 20-27.

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