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Monday, 14 Jan 1991

Disc: Linguistic Humor

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  1. "don l. f. nilsen", Taxonomies of Linguistic Humor

Message 1: Taxonomies of Linguistic Humor

Date: Sat, 12 Jan 91 07:10:40 MST
From: "don l. f. nilsen" <ATDFN%ASUACAD.BITNETCUNYVM.CUNY.EDU>
Subject: Taxonomies of Linguistic Humor
Date: Sat, 12 Jan 91 07:10:40 MST
From: "don l. f. nilsen" <ATDFN%ASUACAD.BITNETCUNYVM.CUNY.EDU>
Subject: Taxonomies of Linguistic Humor

 Susan Ervin Tripp asks an interesting question. At the present
stage in the development of linguistic epistemology, is it possible
to be talking about taxonomies of linguistic humor? I think that
the answer is firmly in the positive. I can tell you about MY research
on the subject. Victor Raskin, Willibald Ruch, and other humor
scholars will have to tell you about THEIR research.
 Historically, humor scholars have proposed nine (more or less)
mutually exclusive humor theories, as follows: 1). The Biological, Instinctual
and Evolutionary Theories as proposed by the Institute for the Advancement
of Human Behavior at Stanford University, 2). The Humor-is-good-for-you theorie
s, as proposed by Norman Cousins and others, 3). The Superiority Theories as
proposed by Aristotle, Plato, Thomas Hobbes, and Henri Bergson, 4). The
Incongruity Theories, as proposed by Immanuel Kant, Arthur Shopenhauer,
and Paul McGhee, 5). The Surprise Theories, as proposed by Rene Descartes
and others, 6). The Ambivalence Theories which stress feelings and emotions,
as proposed by Socrates and others, 7). The Configurational Theories, based
on gestalt recognition and resultant sudden insight, as proposed by G. W.
Fl Hegel and others, 8). The Psychoanalytic Theories, as proposed by
Sigmund Freud and others (note, these stress the distinction between
tendentious and innocent humor), and 9). The Release and Relief Theories, as
proposed by Harvey Mindess and his colleagues at Antioch University.
 The main problem with these theories is that they are frequently
viewed as mutually exclusive, and a humor scholar therefore chooses
one of these theories, and then spends the rest of his life defending
his choice.
 In order to demonstrate that these theories are NOT mutually
exclusive, I have divided the theories into three categories--1). those
dealing with the FEATURES of humor, 2). those dealing with the FUNCTIONS
of humor, and 3). those dealing with the SUBJECTS of humor. These
three categories are further subdivided according to the outline
below:
I. FEATURES OF HUMOR
 A. Incongruity and Incongruity Resolution
 1. Resolved
 2. Unresolved
 B. Surprise
 1. That which leads the audience down the garden path
 2. Epiphanal
 3. Mild
 C. Tension and Relief
II. FUNCTIONS OF HUMOR
 A. Psychological Functions
 1. Arousal
 2. Social Control
 3. Establishment of Superiority
 4. Relief and Release
 5. Ego Defense, Coping, and Saving Face
 6. Gaining Status
 7. Healing (Psychological and Physical)
 8. Testing Limits
 B. Educational Functions
 1. Teaching and Learning
 2. Arguing and Persuading
 C. Social Functions
 1. In-Bonding and Out-Bonding
 2. Promoting Social Stability and Control
 3. Promoting Social Change
III. SUBJECTS OF HUMOR (NOTE: THIS ALSO RELATES TO TENSION AND RELIEF)
 A. Ethnic Identification
 B. Politics
 C. Sexual Roles and Scatology
 D. Occupations
 E. Religion and Belief Systems
NOTE TO LINGUISTS: I would appreciate receiving any reactions you might
have.
Don L. F. Nilsen, ATDFN  ASUACAD
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