It has often been remarked that jokes involve some form of distorted logic, but the details of this joke logic have not been fully explored. We offer a contribution to the methodology of this exploration by clarifying some abstract theoretical distinctions. Firstly, we separate two crucially different notions of “reasoning” which are relevant to joke comprehension: internal logic and audience inference. Internal logic is a system of logical rules, in the traditional sense, which define relationships within the fictional world of the joke, particularly the relation of consequence. Audience inference is a dynamic process which the recipient of a joke undertakes in order to make sense of it. Previous writings on the topic of logic in jokes seem to conflate these two very different concepts. Another distinction which is sometimes overlooked is between internal logic and other joke techniques with different functions, such as strategies for presenting information. We also consider whether the logic of jokes requires a qualitatively different inference mechanism from that of conventional logic, concluding that there is not yet any evidence to suggest this. Finally, we reflect on how we might go on to address the open question of what is possible as pseudo-logic within a joke.
Apter, M. J. (1989). Reversal Theory: Motivation, Emotion and Personality. New York & London: Routledge.
Arieti, S. (1967). The Intrapsychic Self. New York & London: Basic Books.
Attardo, S. (1994). Linguistic Theories of Humor. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Attardo, S. (1997). ‘The semantic foundations of cognitive theories of humor’. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 4 (10), pp. 395–420.
Attardo, S., Hempelmann, C. & Di Maio, S. (2002). ‘Script oppositions and logical mechanisms: Modeling incongruities and their resolutions’. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 15 (1), pp. 3–46.
Attardo, S. & Raskin, V. (1991). ‘Script theory revis(it)ed: Joke similarity and joke representation model’. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 4 (3), pp. 293–347.
Aubouin, E. (1948). Technique et Psychologie du Comique. Marseilles: OFEP.
Brône, G. & Feyaerts, K. (2004). ‘Assessing the SSTH and GTVH: A view from cognitive linguistics’. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 17 (4), pp. 361–372.
Brown, G. & Yule, G. (1983). Discourse Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Davies, C. (2004). ‘Victor Raskin on jokes’. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 17 (4), pp. 373–380.
Dynel, M. (2008). ‘There is method in the humorous speaker’s madness: Humour and Grice’s model’, in Dynel, M. (ed.), Łódź Papers in Pragmatics: Volume 4.1, Łódź, Poland: Łódź University Press, pp. 159–185.
Dynel, M. (2012). ‘Garden paths, red lights and crossroads: On finding our way to understanding the cognitive mechanisms underlying jokes’. Israeli Journal of Humor Research 1 (1), pp. 6–28.
Forabosco, G. (1992). ‘Cognitive aspects of the humor process: the concept of incongruity’. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 5 (1/2), pp. 45–68.
Freud, S. (1966). Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious. Translated by Strachey, J. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Hempelmann, C. (2004). ‘Script opposition and logical mechanism in punning’. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 17 (4), pp. 381–392.
Hempelmann, C. & Attardo, S. (2011). ‘Resolutions and their incongruities: Further thoughts on logical mechanisms’. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 24 (2), pp. 125–149.
Herman, D. (2009). ‘Cognitive Narratology’, in Hühn, P., Pier, J., Schmid, W. & Schönert, J. (eds.), Handbook of Narratology, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, pp. 30–43.
Jurafsky, D. & Martin, J. H. (2000). Speech and Language Processing: An Introduction to Natural Language Processing, Computational Linguistics and Speech Recognition. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
Martin, R. A. (2007). The Psychology of Humor: An Integrative Approach. London: Elsevier Academic Press.
Oring, E. (2011). ‘Still further thoughts on logical mechanisms: A response to Christian F. Hempelmann and Salvatore Attardo’. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 24 (2), pp. 151–158.
Paolillo, J. C. (1998). ‘Gary Larson’s Far Side: Nonsense? Nonsense!’. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 3, pp. 261–290.
Raskin, V. & Attardo, S. (1994). ‘Non-literalness and non-bona-fide in language: Approaches to formal and computational treatments of humor’. Pragmatics and Cognition 2 (1), pp. 31–69.
Ritchie, G. (2004). The Linguistic Analysis of Jokes. London: Routledge.
Rosch, E. (1973). ‘On the internal structure of perceptual and semantic categories’, in Moore, T. E. (ed.), Cognitive Development and the Acquisition of Language, New York: Academic Press, pp. 111–144.
Suls, J. M. (1972). ‘A two-stage model for the appreciation of jokes and cartoons: An information-processing analysis’, in Goldstein, J. H. & McGhee, P. E. (eds.), The Psychology of Humor, New York: Academic Press, pp. 81–100.
Tibballs, G. (ed.) (2000), The Mammoth Book of Jokes. London: Constable & Robinson.
Toolan, M. (2009). ‘Coherence’, in Hühn, P., Pier, J., Schmid, W. & Schönert, J. (eds.), Handbook of Narratology, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, pp. 44–62.
Ziv, A. (1984) Personality and Sense of Humor. New York: Springer.
Zwaan, R. A. & Singer, M. (2003). ‘Text comprehension’, in Graesser, A. C., Gernsbacher, M. A. & Goldman, S. R. (eds.), Handbook of Discourse Processes, Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 83–121.