A linguistic analysis of humor: A look at Seinfeld

Elizabeth Magnotta, Alexandra Strohl


Using the Incongruity Theory of humor (Attardo, 2001; Morreall, 1983; Schwarz, 2010) and the Interactional Sociolinguisitic Methodology of discourse analysis, we examine the incongruous elements, such as moral short-comings, ignorance, and impersonation used in Seinfeld to set up a situation conducive to humor. We analyze the contextualization cues used to support these incongruities, such as genre change, footing alteration, exaggeration, prosody, intonation, marked lexical choices. We present an examination of two scenes taken from the episodes, “The Marine Biologist” and “The Red Dot”. We identify the specific incongruities, and then formulate an in-depth analysis of the contextualization cues and how they are implemented, resulting in humor. Our research provides an original contribution to the field of linguistic studies of humor not only by using a new corpus of data, but by providing an analysis of the contextualization cues implemented to create humor, contributing to the linguistic field of research on humor.

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Working Papers of the Linguistics Circle

EISSN: 1920-440X
ISSN: 1200-3344

University of Victoria