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Mechanisms of Humor

  • By: Christian F. Hempelmann
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

Mechanisms of humor are specific semantic constellations used in humorous stimuli intended to achieve what many theories call the resolution of incongruity. These mechanisms are conceptualized as textual structures of a symbolic stimulus that are paralleled by cognitive structures on the part of the consumer of that stimulus. They motivate the incongruous parts of the text so that two opposing scripts can overlap. This motivation of the overlap, or masking of the contrast, is done in a logical manner that is ultimately flawed, or paralogical, which is crucial to the humorousness of the stimulus. This entry discusses theories of how these mechanisms of humor function.

An early discussion of the general concept of a mechanism of wit—humorous but also nonhumorous—by Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski does not yet ...

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