Edited by Elly Ifantidou, Louis de Saussure and Tim Wharton
[Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 324] 2021
► pp. 119–132
Drawing on the observation that speakers may use jokes as stylistic devices to communicate propositional meanings, this paper offers a relevance-theoretic account of pragmatic mechanisms involved in this kind of communication, dubbed ‘meaningful jokes.’ First, I argue that the comprehension of any joke not only relies on the hearer’s background knowledge, but may also lead to the modification of beliefs. Then I explore selected forms of expression which potentially bear affinity to meaningful jokes, such as fiction, metaphors, allegories, and irony. Finally, I postulate that meaningful jokes rely on a unique propositional attitude and emergent implicatures resulting from the incongruity between the joke’s scenario and a real-life situation in which it was intended to be relevant.