The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 7, No 4 (2019)

Metapragmatic stereotypes and humour: interpreting and perceiving linguistic homogeneity in mass culture texts

Vasia Tsami


The present study concentrates on the potential of mass culture texts to impose specific metapragmatic stereotypes (Agha 2007) through humour on the wider audience. Metapragmatic stereotypes constitute speakers’ internal models of how language should or should not be used; such models guide speakers’ own language use and enable them to make evaluations about their own language behaviour or that of others. In this context, I explore the dominant metapragmatic stereotypes for humorous mass culture texts’ interpretation and perception. To this end, I analyse a humorous Greek TV advertisement of a telecommunications company. Drawing upon Coupland’s (2007) conceptualization of style and the General Theory of Verbal Humour (Attardo 2001), I intend to show that humour reflects, sustains, and reproduces the dominant metapragmatic stereotypes of linguistic homogenization and monolingualism (Blommaert & Rampton 2011). Then, I explore how the audience perceives the representation of stylistic choices in mass culture texts and more specifically in the analysed advertisement. My informants were 96 students of the last two grades of elementary school. The recipients’ responses show that their metapragmatic stereotypes are aligned with the dominant ones: they approach stylistic choices as strictly-defined systems used in specific social contexts and they expect the alignment of TV fictional characters with linguistic homogeneity. My findings suggest that humour stigmatises specific styles as well as that the audience perceives the respective (and reinforced through humour) metapragmatic stereotypes as guidelines for “correct” stylistic use. Furthermore, it seems that through humour such stereotypes usually go unnoticed in mass culture texts and may even become naturalised, as they are framed in a “trivial” and “non-serious” manner.


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