The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 7, No 4 (2019)

Conceptual blending in English and Serbian question-and-answer jokes: cultural transfer issues

Predrag Niketić


This paper analyzes English and Serbian question-and-answer jokes using the cognitive linguistic theoretical framework of conceptual blending, which relies on mental spaces as cognitive packets of information used to interpret the world around us and within us. The analysis is used to illustrate how culture influences humour, specifically how the Anglo-American culture, the dominant and best-known foreign culture in Serbia, is used as a basis of jokes in English as well as Serbian. It is shown that the jokes in English can work on a non-English-speaking Serbian recipient culturally, but only if not impeded by linguistic obstacles, such as untranslatable puns. The selected Serbian jokes illustrate intercultural merging, as they use elements from both Anglophone and Serbian pop-cultures to create humour that is difficult to transfer back to Anglophone audiences, but now due to linguistic as well as cultural transfer issues. These issues revolve around humour translation, which is made difficult by linguistic aspects, cultural aspects, or both. Conceptual blending and the mental spaces involved provide a useful tool for adapting cultural/linguistic barriers to obtain more or less workable joke translations.


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