Pragmatic and sociolinguistic approaches to humour in intercultural communication

Milena Popova

Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”


Abstract: The present paper explores how jokes depend on the social and cultural characteristics of the participants in communication. First, we shed light on the ways in which the teller of the joke influences its interpretation. In particular, we explore how the role of the subject speaker, the communicative intentions and information of the participants and their social characteristics can create a productive ambiguity of the punchline and influence the interpretation of the humorous text. In the second part of the paper we focus on the addressee of the joke. We show that, apart from the linguistic code and the general knowledge of the addressee, the teller of jokes should also take into consideration the social and cultural characteristics of the hearer in order to avoid communicative failures. All in all, from a semiotic point of view, jokes can be regarded as second-level signs, whose connotative potential can be used in different types of persuasive communication, including advertising strategies.

Key words: inferential models of communication, human agency, pragmatic and social approaches to humour, joke types, semiotic potential of jokes.