Journal of Intercultural Communication, issue 12, August 2006

Mohammed Farghal

Accidental Humor in International Public Notices Displayed in English

Abstract

This paper examines accidental humor as it manifests itself in international public notices displayed in English. It shows that accidental humor, just like intentional humor, essentially stems from script opposition and script overlap (Raskin, 1985). However, it lacks intentionality, which plays a key role in contrived humor. In this way, accidental humor is based on the interaction between the text and the receiver, apart from the producer. In particular, accidental humor in interlingual communication is the output of the producer's language incompetence in the target language, whereas it is the result of the producer's landing in unintended ambiguity in intralingual communication. In such humor, therefore, the initiator infringes one or more maxims of conversation (Grice, 1975), unlike intentional humor, where the joke teller exploits conversational maxims for communicative purposes, in order to generate conversational implicature and, subsequently, laughter. Keywords: accidental humor; intentionality; implicature; script opposition; flouting a maxim; infringing a maxim; interlingual communication.


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