Relevance theory, humour, and the narrative structure of humorous novels

Cristina Larkin Galiñanes

Abstract

Recent work on the application of relevance theory to humorous speech-acts (jokes) defines these as being characterised by an increased demand in processing effort for the attainment of maximum contextual effects. This increase, however, is limited to the resolution of incongruities typically presented in this sort of utterance. Humorous novels, because of their greater length, are rather more complex, and base the process of incongruity-resolution largely on an interplay of internal coherence established by the use of strong implicatures in the depiction of character, and external incongruity established on the level of the narrator's appeal to the reader's encyclopaedic knowledge. The use of strong implicatures, which characterises these works and seems necessary for the sustained creation of humour, would probably explain the fact that they are intuitively and almost invariably considered third-class literature, since "good" literature, according to relevance theory, is characterised by a complexity and multiplicity of contextual effects produced fundamentally by the use of weak implicature.

Keywords

Humor; Pragmática; Teoría de la relevancia; Recursos humorísticos; Estructura narrativa; Novela humorística



DOI: https://doi.org/10.14198/raei.2000.13.08

Copyright (c) 2000 Cristina Larkin Galiñanes

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