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Speech Play

  • By: Joel Sherzer
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

Speech play is the playful manipulation of elements and components of language, in relation to one another, in relation to the social and cultural contexts of language use, and against the backdrop of other verbal possibilities in which speech play is not foregrounded. The elements manipulated can be at any level of language, from sound patterns to syntax, semantics, and discourse; they can include the various languages used in multilingual situations, and relations between verbal and nonverbal communication. Speech play can be conscious or unconscious, noticed or not noticed, purposeful or nonpurposeful, and humorous or serious. Nonetheless, given the focus on manipulation, speech play typically involves a degree of selection and consciousness beyond that of ordinary language use.

While speech play is present to some degree ...

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