Edited by Eva Ogiermann
[Pragmatics and Society 14:2] 2023
► pp. 236–256
This paper deals with the pragmatic functions of verbal and visual humor in Covid-19 related directive signs. Within the framework of material and social semiotics, I analyze humorous directive signs from the Berlin district Friedrichshain communicating hygiene rules and proper social behavior during the re- opening phase of local businesses after the first lockdown in 2020. The interplay of multilingual, graphic and intertextual features in the signs reveals two pragmatic functions: On the one hand, they express hygienic measures; on the other hand, the signs do relational work and foster community-building aimed at both general and very specific audiences. This is done by drawing humorously on community-specific intertextuality requiring cultural literacies based on community-specific knowledge. The signs are, thus, not limited to mere instructions for action addressed to a general audience, but are designed for specific groups of addressees thereby showing the socially and spatially fragmented diversity of Berlin’s public sphere.