The role of syllables and morphemes as mechanisms in humorous pun formation

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Central to the pragmatic study of puns are their underlying linguistic mechanisms which enable the ambiguity of meaning. This study explores the role of syllabic and morphological mechanisms in humorous pun formation. While traditional approaches to humorous ambiguity formation focus on the sound, word, or syntactic levels, this study pays tribute to mechanisms at syllabic and morphological levels as an alternative method for phonological, lexical, and syntactic ambiguity distinction and pun making strategies. Given that nearly half of the data set (43%, 106) relies on syllabic/morphological mechanisms for ambiguity to be realized, a need for revision in existing approaches to categorization is identified. Several reasons for mismatches in other researchers’ findings are indicated. By exploring the role of syllables and morphemes in the creation of ambiguity and humorous puns, this study proposes a five-tier matrix for categorizing instances of humorous linguistic ambiguity, including those that depend on sub-word level components (i.e. syllables and morphemes).


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