Prosodic enhancers of humorous effect in political speeches

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Oral delivery remains one of the crucial factors determining the final effect of a potentially humorous remark. Nevertheless, there is almost no research on the prosodic features of humor used in public speaking. In order to understand what kind of prosodic arrangement makes a potentially humorous message funny, the author conducted a communicative-pragmatic and experimental-phonetic analysis of the original recordings of six political addresses delivered by British and American leaders. The research results show that specific changes in tempo-rhythm, pauses, and expressive intonation can serve as enhancers of humorous effect in speech. The findings also support the hypothesis about the dominant role of timing in using humor effectively. Prosodic marking of humorous remarks, however, depends upon their type and function in the argumentative structure of the whole speech.


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