Lexical and syntactic ambiguity as a source of humor: The case of newspaper headlines

Lexical and syntactic ambiguity as a source of humor: The case of newspaper headlines The paper analyzes some forms of linguistic ambiguity in English in a specific register, i.e. newspaper headlines. In particular, the focus of the research is on examples of lexical and syntactic ambiguity that result in sources of voluntary or involuntary humor. The study is based on a corpus of 135 verbally ambiguous headlines found on web sites presenting humorous bits of information. The linguistic phenomena that contribute to create this kind of semantic confusion in headlines will be analyzed and divided into the three main categories of lexical, syntactic, and phonological ambiguity, and examples from the corpus will be discussed for each category. The main results of the study were that, firstly, contrary to the findings of previous research on jokes, syntactically ambiguous headlines were found in good percentage in the corpus and that this might point to di¤erences in genre. Secondly, two new configurations for the processing of the disjunctor/connector order were found. In the first of these configurations the disjunctor appears before the connector, instead of being placed after or coinciding with the ambiguous element, while in the second one two ambiguous elements are present, each of which functions both as a connector and a disjunctor. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Humor: International Journal of Humor Research de Gruyter

Lexical and syntactic ambiguity as a source of humor: The case of newspaper headlines

Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, Volume 17 (3) – Jun 16, 2004

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Publisher
de Gruyter
Copyright
Copyright © 2004 by the
ISSN
0933-1719
eISSN
1613-3722
D.O.I.
10.1515/humr.2004.013
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The paper analyzes some forms of linguistic ambiguity in English in a specific register, i.e. newspaper headlines. In particular, the focus of the research is on examples of lexical and syntactic ambiguity that result in sources of voluntary or involuntary humor. The study is based on a corpus of 135 verbally ambiguous headlines found on web sites presenting humorous bits of information. The linguistic phenomena that contribute to create this kind of semantic confusion in headlines will be analyzed and divided into the three main categories of lexical, syntactic, and phonological ambiguity, and examples from the corpus will be discussed for each category. The main results of the study were that, firstly, contrary to the findings of previous research on jokes, syntactically ambiguous headlines were found in good percentage in the corpus and that this might point to di¤erences in genre. Secondly, two new configurations for the processing of the disjunctor/connector order were found. In the first of these configurations the disjunctor appears before the connector, instead of being placed after or coinciding with the ambiguous element, while in the second one two ambiguous elements are present, each of which functions both as a connector and a disjunctor.

Journal

Humor: International Journal of Humor Researchde Gruyter

Published: Jun 16, 2004

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