Edited by Leonor Ruiz-Gurillo
[IVITRA Research in Linguistics and Literature 14] 2016
► pp. 11–34
In this paper I focus on the evaluative content of humor, an aspect which –to date and to my knowledge– has been dealt with only in a peripheral manner by research both on humor and on evaluation. Linguistic evaluation is viewed herein as a dynamical subsystem of language (as discussed in Alba-Juez & Alba-Juez 2012), and it is argued that it should be studied and analyzed as an important element in any theory of humor performance. A corpus of 100 psychology jokes in English and Spanish found on jokes websites was used as data, whose evaluative content was examined taking into account the findings of previous research on stance and evaluative language (e.g. Hunston & Thompson 2000; Martin & White 2005; Englebretson 2007; Bednarek 2006, 2008a, 2008b, 2009a & b; Thompson & Alba-Juez 2014) and the evaluative function of irony (e.g. Partington 2007, 2011; Alba-Juez & Attardo 2014).
Evaluation is treated herein as a pragmatic and cognitive phenomenon which is a function of a number of variables that interact with one another. Thus, a methodology and procedure to analyze the stance taken by the jokester (and transmitted through the jokes) is proposed, by means of which the evaluative content of the jokes is scrutinized in order to assign the corresponding qualitative values to each one of these interacting variables. This methodology is applied not only to the analysis of jokes in isolation, but also to the comparison of the evaluative equations of different jokes, or of similar jokes in different languages (English and Spanish, in this particular case). Likewise, it is suggested that this procedure can prove valid for the analysis of the evaluative content of any other discourse type, although genres other than humor are beyond the scope of this paper.
Thus, this study has two main aims: On the one hand, it is proposed that evaluation be included in humor theories as one of its ‘knowledge resources’, and for this purpose Ruiz Gurillos’s Revised General Theory of Verbal Humor (2013) is taken as a point of departure. On the other hand, the six main variables or ‘knowledge resources’ of evaluation (found as the result of previous research on the topic) are explained, discussed and exemplified within the specific genre of psychology jokes. Evaluation is viewed as a function of these resources, the relationship between them being therefore a functional relationship.
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