Understanding Humor Based on the Incongruity Theory and the Cooperative Principle



Humor plays a crucial role in social interactions; sometimes it is even named as social coping mechanism. People have been working on humor since Plato and Aristotle times and different theories have thus come into being, among which the incongruity theory is considered most influential. This article combines the incongruity theory and a pragmatic principle — the Cooperative Principle (CP) set by H. P. Grice, to explain how humor is generated and perceived in certain context. The analysis shows that people produce humor not just for humor’s sake. Mostly, they want to express an additional message or implicature in Grice’s term. Following Grice’s particularized conversational implicatures generated when conversational maxims of the CP are flouted by participants to convey extra information, the paper terms humor out of exploiting maxims as particularized conversational humor. Detailed analyses of examples of humor have been conducted to elucidate how humor is generated through flouting conversational maxims of the CP and what implicature is put across.

Key words: Humor; Cooperative Principle; Incongruity theory


Humor; Cooperative Principle; Incongruity theory

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3968%2Fj.sll.1923156320120402.3521


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