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LI Hai-hui


Jinan University, Guangzhou, China


This paper takes an integrative approach to the communication and comprehension of humor from the perspectives of the humorist’s manipulation and the recipient’s vigilance informed by relevance theory. It is proposed that, in order to communicate humor, the humorist manipulates the recipient’s expectation of relevance in the setup and in the punchline in two different but related ways: misleading and guiding. It is also proposed that, in order to comprehend and appreciate humor, the recipient exercises vigilance against his/her own shallow processing in the setup and exercises vigilance for special cognitive effects in the punchline. On this approach, humorous communication and comprehension is viewed as an interaction between manipulation and epistemic vigilance. Strategies of manipulation and vigilance are described, and some essential issues arising from the relevance-theoretic approach to humor are reconsidered with some implications drawn. This paper contributes to enhancing the explanatory power of relevance theory for the communication and comprehension of humor. 


manipulation, epistemic vigilance, strategy, special cognitive effect, humor

Cite this paper

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