The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 1, No 2 (2013)

Relevance Theory and political advertising. A case study

Maria Jesús Pinar Sanz


This paper aims to apply Sperber & Wilson’s Relevance Theory (1986; 1995; 1987) and the two stage incongruity-resolution theory of humour (Attardo 1994) to explain how humorous interpretations are produced in a corpus of political billboards published by the Labour Party in the 1997, 2001 and 2005 British election campaigns. The intersemiosis (O’Halloran 2008) between the verbal and the visual will be taken into account in order to decode the meanings transmitted. It will be suggested that the viewers’ access to background beliefs and assumptions in order to form a context against which new incoming information can be processed is also essential in order to decode meaning. The extraction of strongly or weakly implicated information is a good source of humorous effects. It will also be suggested that the interpretation depends on the viewer’s ideology, as “relevance is always relevance to an individual” (Sperber & Wilson 1986: 142).


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