Pragmatics of Humour in a Nigerian University's Departmental Chat Rooms

Pragmatics of Humour in a Nigerian University's Departmental Chat Rooms

Onwu Inya (Federal University of Technology Akure, Nigeria)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0338-5.ch011


This chapter develops an elaborated Pragmatic Act Model (ePAM) and applies it to humorous interactions in students' text chats in a Nigerian university. The model draws insights from Giora's Graded Salience Hypothesis (GSH), Mey's Pragmatic Act theory and incorporates current issues in pragmatic theorising such as the dialectics between a priori and co-constructed, emergent intention. The data for the study is got from three departmental chat room interactions in Federal University of Technology, Akure. Four humour types are analysed: canned jokes, punning/wordplay, question and answer jokes, and hyperbole/overstatement. Similarly, five pragmatic acts are performed in the identified humour types, namely, satirising, eliciting laughter, electioneering, teasing and overstating. In each of the humour types, the pragmatic mechanism drawn upon to comprehend the joke and to perform the pragmatic acts is indicated. Overall, the chapter argues that the effective appreciation of any humour act would require a pragmatically and culturally enriched context.
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This chapter is on the pragmatics of humour in students’ interaction in a Nigerian University to the extent that it seeks to ‘describe chosen types, functions and mechanisms of humour as a communicative phenomenon’ (Dynel, 2011, p. 2). The basic pragmatics of humour is the claim that it is a violation of Grice’s (1975) Cooperative Principle (Attardo, 1993, 1994). Attardo (2001) argues that humour is an actual violation of the CP and not a mere flout, as the CP is violated ‘without an intention to let H [hearer] arrive at an implicature’ (Attardo, 2001, p. 168). In other words, CP violation in humour is unlike other violations, for instance in lying, because the goal of humour is a socially accepted phenomenon (Attardo, 2001). However, Gricean pragmatics has been critiqued for being too individualistic and its focus on intention as the a priori mental state of the speaker and on communication as recipient design and intention recognition by the hearer has come under fire (see Kecskes, 2014 for details). The critique against this approach could have implications for its application to humour analysis. An alternative perspective is the context-based, socio-cultural-interactional line, which construes intention as ‘a post factum construct that is jointly achieved through the dynamic emergence of meaning in conversation’ (Kecskes, 2014, p. 6). Since intention is co-constructed, this perspective underscores the importance of societal factors in the communication process, albeit to an almost hyperbolic degree. As Kecskes (2014) notes in his Socio-cognitive approach (SCA), a balanced perspective is that which brings the individual and the social in a dialectical relationship. This is because ‘the ideal individual lives in a social world with opportunities and limitations that have bearings on their intention’ (Inya, 2012, p. 2017). Therefore, the pragmatic model for analysing humour, as pursued in this chapter, toes the middle ground between the strictly cognitive and the strictly social perspectives to pragmatics.

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