Accidental Humor in International Public Notices Displayed in English

Mohammed Farghal (1)
(1) Dept. of English Kuwait University, Kuwait


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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Mohammed Farghal (Primary Contact)
Author Biography

Mohammed Farghal, Dept. of English Kuwait University

Mohammed Farghal is Professor of Linguistics and Translation in the Department of English at Kuwait University (Formerly Yarmouk University, Jordan). He has published more than 70 scholarly articles since he graduated with a Ph.D. in General Linguistics (Indiana University, Bloomington, 1986). Journal of Pragmatics, Anthropological Linguistics, Multilingua, IRAL, Text and International Journal of the Sociology of Language are only a few of the outlets for his research.


Farghal, M. (2006). Accidental Humor in International Public Notices Displayed in English. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 6(2), 1–10.

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