Jokes and the Linguistic Mind
I favour any book that applies the logic of Wittgenstein to quotes from the Goon Show. (Often in linguistics the reverse is true.) So I was delighted to have the opportunity to talk to Debra Aarons (University of New South Wales) about her book Jokes and the Linguistic Mind (Routledge, 2011).
Rather than being a work of ‘humour studies’, Jokes and the Linguistic Mind is essentially a broad and accessible introduction to modern linguistics. Debra Aarons has drawn upon her experience of teaching linguistics and her love of wordplay to present a multitude of examples that are both entertaining and illustrative of a vast range of linguistic topics, ranging from pragmatics to syntax to translation studies.
In this interview, we discuss the potential insights that humour offers us into how we process language, and how we can exploit this in research. We also consider the language abilities of humorists, and how we create and enjoy jokes without analysis. Finally, we touch upon the tension between wordplay and ‘proper’ linguistics, and I learn what linguists don’t like about crosswords.