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Ulas Basar Gezgin - The Pragmatics Of Cartoons

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The Pragmatics Of Cartoons PDF Print E-mail

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Written by Ulas Basar Gezgin   
Çarşamba, 04 Mayıs 2005

The Pragmatics Of Cartoons:
The Interaction Of Bystander Humorosity Vs. Agent-Patient Humorosity

2nd Postgraduate Conference in Linguistics and Language Teaching (METU-PSTGRD),

24 & 25 September 2004, Middle East Technical University

Abstract
The pragmatic analysis of cartoons poses numerous difficulties for theoretical pragmatics as well as applied areas. There have been theoretical, pragmatic and experimental studies to uncover the quality of humors, but there is neither a theory specifically designed to account for the source and degree of humorosity in cartoons nor a general theory applicable to the domain of cartoons. Yet three models are prevalent in humor research: the first model (the script-based semantic theory of humor; SSTH) addresses what makes a text humorous and a cognitivistic account mobilizing the notion of scripts and script opposition. The second model (Setup, Incongruity, Resolution; SIR) which dovetails with the former and the third one concerns the stages involved in humor comprehension: three stages are proposed. Finally the third model (the general theory of verbal humor; GTVH) addresses the issue of what makes a text humorous again in a seemingly comprehensive way though it fails to account the nature of cartoons since it is a theory of verbal humors only and since cartoons are not necessarily based on verbal humors to be humorous. In this study, Piyale Madra’s cartoon band ‘Ademler ve Havvalar’ is taken to be cases to investigate. The cartoons that had published at the newspaper ‘Radikal’ since Oct. 1st up until Dec. 17th 2001 are selected for closer scrutiny. Based on the bits and pieces of these cartoons a general overview of a theory of cartoons is presented though such a theory needs cross-validation transcending the idiosyncrasies of a single cartoonist. That is, in order to construct a theory, further studies are necessary in which cartoons by cartoonists of extremely different mentalities are necessary. This is one of the major limitations of this study.





1. Humor and the models for humor
Ambiguity is inherent in language but most of the time it is avoided by rules of disambiguation or cues accruing from the context. But there are certain areas in which ambiguation is the norm (Vaid et al. 2003, p.1431). Accordingly, the major areas in which the ambiguation principle operates are jokes and cartoons. It has been proposed that the funniness of jokes comes from at least two internally consistent but externally incongruent understanding.
Raskin (1998) has a prominent place in academic circles investigating humor since he has provided a cognitivistic account of humor by applying the schema theory to humorous cases (Norrick, 2003, p.1334). Quoting from his former works, he presents the script-based semantic theory of humor (SSTH). According to SSTH, a text is funny if and only if two conditions are met:
(1)   The text is compatible fully or in part, with two distinct scripts.
(2)    The two distinct scripts are opposite in a special predefined sense.
Raskin (1998) provides another contribution by classifying people into two: people with sense of humor and those without it. The former “switches easily and readily from the bona-fide mode of communication to the joke-telling mode, have more scripts available for oppositeness interaction, and have more oppositeness relations between scripts relations” while the latter “refuses to switch from the bona-fide mode of communication to the joke-telling mode, have fewer scripts available for oppositeness interaction”, and finally “have fewer oppositeness relations between scripts available” (Raskin, 1998, p.97).
A third point by Raskin (1998) is that there are four aspects of the sense of humor. The cognitive aspect refers to the ability of the person to operate scripts and identify oppositions. It is claimed that all people has this ability unless they have language disorders. The communicative aspect refers to level of familiarity of the person to different modes of communication (factual, jocular, oratory, phatic etc.). The experiential aspect refers to the experiences of the person associated with the scripts and oppositions. These three aspects constitute the sense of humor which can be considered to be a single module while the final aspect (the volitional aspect) refers to the decision by the person to activate or not to activate the sense of humor module for a given situation. For example suppose that a cartoon that stigmatizes homosexuals is considered. A person against such a stigmatization would understand the punchline but s/he would not laugh and even not find it funny. On the other hand, another person who is not sensitive to such stigmatization instances would find the cartoon funny and laugh.
A fourth contribution of Raskin (1998) is theoretical. He claims that Grice’s cooperative principle with four maxims is an idealization and bona-fide (BD) skewed. That is, Gricean framework presupposes that “the speaker is absolutely and unexceptionally committed to the truth of what is being said” (Raskin, 1998, p.99). This BD skewness is only observed in technical manuals. Even very serious speech is interrupted by jokes, fictional anecdotes so and so forth. Humorous texts are in NBD (non-bona-fide) mode. NBD mode is cooperative while the four maxims are subordinated to a single principle: the principle of humor. Everything is mobilized to make the narrative funny.
A fifth contribution of Raskin (1998) is the notion of cooperativeness scale despite of its flaws and incompleteness. Table 1 presents current author’s reclassification. A criticism of Raskin’s conceptualization is due.
Table 1. The interaction of mode of communication and cooperativeness.


Cooperativeness


Positive
Negative
Mode of communication
Bona-Fide
Factual
Schizoid (?)
Non-Bona-Fide
Humorous/ Fictional
Lying

According to Raskin (1998) both factual and humorous texts are cooperative and bona-fide. It is hard to understand why he classifies humorous texts under the bona-fide category after his proposal that “[p]art of the SSTH is a postulation of joke-telling as a non-bona-fide mode of communication (NBF), i.e., a mode in which the speaker is not committed to the truth of what is being said and the hearer is aware of this non-commitment” (Raskin, 1998, p.99). Probably Raskin (1998) had a hidden agenda that can not be inferable from his work alone.
According to Table 1, when the mode of communication is non-bona-fide and the speech-actor is cooperative, the text is humorous. This is also questionable in the sense that almost all fictional texts share this property. The conceptualization behind Table 1 does not suffice on its own to distinguish humorous and non-humorous fiction.
As to the third category, when the mode of communication is non-bona-fide and the speech-actor is noncooperative, the person is lying (p.99). This seems to be a reasonable account of lying by Raskin (1998).
Albeit that Raskin (1998) has not worked on the fourth cell that is the logical possibility, one may infer that in the fourth case, the speech-actor may be schizophrenic. The mode of communication is bona-fide but the speech-actor is not cooperative. It should be reminded that Table 1 is an idealization and bidirectional moves between BF and NBF frequently occur in real life. Lies are always accompanied with BF components to make the text reasonable and veritable. Likewise an author can move from cooperative to noncooperative mode when s/he delves into the depth of a topic with a complicated syntax and less familiar expressions (Raskin, 1998, p.100).        
What is interesting and not pronounced in the relevant literature is that the funniness is out of the joke or cartoon. It is not an agent-patient funniness but a bystander funniness. As the cases will illustrate, the event depicted is not funny for the characters of the narratives. It is the whole system when considered from outside which is laughed at. Though this point seems to qualify both jokes and cartoons, cartoons can be manipulated to have a different property: the punchline may either implicate or explicate humor. In the first case, less thought will be involved. The receiver will just get the message and laugh. However for cartoons the range of events is ample. They do not always make the receiver laugh. Additionally, the proposal that “there exists both laughter without humor and humor without laughter” (Attardo, 2003, p.1288) complicates the issue further.
            Leaving aside the system humorosity for some time, let us consider the possibility of humorosity in a dialogical text. When the humorous and non-humorous fictional texts are considered, there are four possibilities. Those possibilities are depicted in Table 2.
Table 2. Four possibilities of humorosity in a dialogical text.


According to the SPEAKER, it is


FUNNY
NOT FUNNY
According to the HEARER, it is
FUNNY
Humorous
Fictional but accepted
NOT FUNNY
Humorous but refuted (unsuccessful humor? Insult?)
Fictional

A dialogical text will be humorous from within the system if and only if it is funny both for the hearer and the speaker. If it is not funny from the speaker’s point of view it should be considered to be fictional given that the mode is NBF. But it may be funny according to the hearer. Such a situation might emerge when the dialogical text has multiple meanings that are funny, yet overlooked by the speaker. The third possibility is that it is funny for the speaker but considered to be otherwise for the hearer. Maybe it is an attempt to narrate a funny thing but it fails because it is not so much sophisticated or it does not fit the scripts of the hearer. In that sense, the failure may be due to the cognitive aspect or the communicative aspect. Furthermore another possibility is that the text may be interpreted as an insult or stigmatization like the case of homosexuality pronounced above. In such cases the incongruence between the speaker’s and the hearer’s interpretations may be due to the volitional aspect. If the hearer would consider the text as an insult s/he would avoid laughing.
            Besides Raskin’s framework, another cognitively oriented account encountered in the literature posits that there are three stages (Setup, Incongruity, Resolution; SIR in brief) in joke comprehension. An initial setup phase triggering a schema is followed by the phase of incongruity discovery in which some aspects of the initial schema is violated. This second stage is alternately followed by the resolution phase in which this violation is resolved by the invocation of a higher level of schema (Vaid, 2003, p.1432).  This model seems to be directly implementable by computational techniques. It reduces joke comprehension to a matter of symbolic manipulation not unlike any kind of problem solving. Thus there are two possibilities to test this three-stage model: the first would involve a computational approach. By employing PROLOG, a computer program may be developed and system’s efficiency might be the triangulation point to weigh the explanatory power of the model. If the program does not exhibit high degrees of Type I error (i.e. mistaking a text as humorous whereas it is not) and Type II error (i.e. mistaking a text as fiction or factual text whereas it is humorous).
            In effect this understanding of humor has paved the way for the emergence of the area of computational humor. Ritchie (2001) provides an elaborate review of this new area. He replies the critiques who object to the computational study of humor due to the cultural variability of humorosity, by making an analogy between humors and language. According to him, that languages have different dialects do not prevent us from developing a theory of language. The cultural variability is not a reason for abandoning the computational study of humor but shows that a possible computational theory of humor should address rather complex challenges than it would seem at first blush.  
The second possibility is empirical. Cases of jokes can be considered to see to what extent this model explains the humorosity of the cases. This methodology will be endorsed in this paper when the cartoons are taken under investigation.    
The most recent theory for humor is the general theory of verbal humor (GTVH) based on Raskin’s earlier work. According to GTVH, humorous texts are shaped by 6 Knowledge Resources (KRs):
“1. Script Opposition (SO)
2. Logical Mechanism (LM): the way in which the two scripts are brought
together.
3. Situation (SI): objects, participants, activities, etc. i.e. the context.
4. Narrative Strategy (NS): narrative organisation of the text, including
adjacency pairs and figures of speech.
5. Target (TA): the ‘‘butt’’ of a joke.
6. Language (LA): information necessary for the verbalisation of the text.”
(Antonopoulou, & Sifianou, 2003, p.745).


            Despite of the halo created by its proponents, GTVH is far from a comprehensive account of humor. It “relies on scripts attached to words, and says nothing of facial expressions, gestures, props, imitations of voices and noises, or other uncoded, non-script behavior. Even the prosody and timing of the oral joke performance remain outside its purview at present” (Norrick, 2003, p.1336).

2. An investigation of the cartoons by Piyale Madra
            The cartoons that had appeared on the newspaper ‘Radikal’ since Oct. 1st up until Dec. 17th 2001 are selected for a closer scrutiny.
 
Cartoon 1. 10/01/2001.
            To analyze Cartoon 1, first of all we should check whether it is funny for the patient (the boy) or the bystanders (the readers of the cartoon, i.e. us). It might be funny for the patient but it seems to be accidental for the general humorosity of Cartoon 1. It is the bystander humorosity which is central to Cartoon 1. Following SSTH, let’s examine whether there are at least two scripts internally compatible but externally in clash. The script of mother-as-an-adult and the script of mother-as-a-young-woman-in-mentality are internally consistent but externally in clash. A register shift where the mother accommodates her speech by use of youngster lexicality (e.g. ‘moruk’) invokes the opposition between the two.
            From a Gricean framework, the mother seems to flout the maxim of quality. She uses a language that is inadmissible for her age group. But this remains as a speculation with this limited amount of information. Maybe she has really adopted a youngster’s life view after the suggestion by her friend. In that case, the mother does not violate the maxim of quality. On the other hand, the former is the more likely alternative and the humorosity accrues from the incongruity based on flouting the maxim of quality. Therefore, in this cartoon, flouting a maxim leads to humorosity.
            Probably, flouting other maxims or a combination of them leads to humorosity too. In a movie, the character who wants to be a movie star is at home after his first set and he starts to ‘speak’ with his friend. His friend has problems but the protagonist starts to narrate his first experience regardless of what the hearer says. It is a whole narration interrupted by the hearer’s short sentences about his problem. The hearer is depressed and feels that nobody minds him and the speaker’s narration confirms his depressive ideas. This is tragical as well as humorous. The dialogue in that movie does not seem to be cooperative but interestingly it seems to be phatic. Only intimate friends can continue their dialogue with their own agendas and relevancies. The hearer’s relevancy is completely different from the speaker’s relevancy but they can still pursue the dialogue for some time.
            Flouting the maxim of relation (relevance) may also be humorous when a patient with formal thought disorder is either hearer or speaker. The relevance for such patients is not semantical relevancy but a phonological relevancy. The transition points in their narration are based on sounds most of the time. Suppose that they are asked their ‘name’. Their answer will probably  revolve on the words ‘game’, ‘same’, ‘fame’ and other phonologically pertinent words (Chaika, 2000, p. 120; Kuperberg, McGuire, & David, 2000; Langdon et al., 2002).
Flouting the maxim of quantity seems not to generate humorosity. It often leads to distress. That is why a cartoon in which the maxim of quantity is flouted would not make any sense.
            Finally, flouting the maxim of manner would obviously lead to humorosity as observed in following cartoons. 


Cartoon 2. 10/03/2001.
            In Cartoon 2, the script of my-wife-as-my-mother is violated and then restored. This is the butt of the humorosity of Cartoon 2. But there is a hint here: if we consider the woman as the man’s wife, this is clearly a presupposition. There is no explicature that points out that she is his wife. Maybe she is his aunt or sister. Also, maybe they are not married. But we infer that they are wife and husband since this may be a prototypical situation in some of the marriages. It should be reminded that the humorosity of Cartoon 2 comes from the bystanders again. For the agent and patient of the Cartoon 2, the event is not funny. It is probably their ordinary talk.
Cartoon 2 flouts the maxim of quality in the way Cartoon 1 does. The last frame confers that he does not believe in his statements and does not act in accordance with them.    

Cartoon 3. 10/05/2001.
            Cartoon 3 is an illustration of therapeutic talk. The counselee performs a face threatening act. This is not humorous by itself. The humorosity comes from the counselor’s response as well as his act of hitting on the table by his fist –which is a ritual accompanying the utterance of “God forbid” in Turkish culture. The counselor too performs a face threatening act. He has violated the felicity condition as well as the counselor-as-the soother script. 
 
Cartoon 4. 11/06/2001.
            In Cartoon 4, the punchline concerns an implicature. The father’s response implies that he would not buy a computer for his son. But he states it indirectly in order not to lose face and engage in an argument that would probably end up with crying of the son. The scripts in clash correspond to the be-realistic maxim and remove-unrealistic-moves-from-your-set-of-action maxim.
    
Cartoon 5. 12/07/2001.
In Cartoon 5, the punchline has the implicature that the man is reluctant to marry with the woman regardless of their intimacy. Thus he tries to shift the topic of the dialogue to an astronomical one. An alternative explanation would be that the punchline may be a case of metaphor where the flight of a shooting star resembles marriage and the provided definition renders marriage to a burning meteor. In both of the interpretations, the scripts in opposition are same. The frames invoke the script of a-romantic-time-most-appropriate-to-talk-about-marriage script while the man provides the script of better-without-marriage. The facial expressions of the man in the first three frames implies that he would fit into the first script whereas the fourth frame initiates the stage of incongruity just to move on to the stage of resolution in the last frame. 

Cartoon 6. 10/09/2001.
In Cartoon 6, two marriage scripts are in clash. Ideal-marriage-in-a-child-play is pursued up until the last frame. The incongruity and resolution stages are merged in the last frame. The implicature of the mother’s utterance is probably that they do not enjoy such an ideal marriage nowadays but they used to enjoy it in the first days of their marriage. The experiential aspect may be important in processing Cartoon 6. A reader with serious marriage problems would be unmoved by the puncline or be oversensitive to the butt of the cartoon. Alternatively, the experiential state might influence the volitional aspect. The reader might comprehend the punchline but refuse to laugh. Same holds for the fifth cartoon.
 
Cartoon 7. 12/09/2001.
In Cartoon 7, the script of I-want-go-far-ahead-soon is offered in the first two frames. The third frame corresponds to the incongruity stage. The last frame settles down the issue. The person wants to go but is hesitant to leave his mother and maybe his family in general. Implicatures and presuppositions are involved in the last frame. But now again, it is not only an agent-patient implicature, but a partially bystander implicature. We as readers are engaged in the implicature as well as the patient of the cartoon. The musical note implies that the mother’s utterance has a certain intonation reminiscent of those encountered in our lives.

  Cartoon 8. 11/10/2001.
In Cartoon 8, the first three frames correspond to the stage of setup. The script of intellectuals-as-wiseacres is invoked and the curiosity lies in the expected response from the intellectuals. The final frame indicates that the woman’s ideas are verified. Thus this is an interesting cartoon. It does not switch the initial frame but restitutes it and the essence of humorosity accrues from this restitution.

Cartoon 9. 12/11/2001.
In Cartoon 9, the utterances by the ‘artist’ tap the script of I-produced-popular-works-due-to-economic-reasons-but-now-I-am-economically-OK. The implication of this script by default is that since the ‘artist’ has not lost his essence of making good art and did the kitsch work due to external reasons and he has no economical problems now, he would make good art. The second script is I-produced-popular-works-and-this-process-transformed-me-to-be-a-kitsch-artist which seems to be less likely. But the last frame points out that the less likely alternative wins. That is why the cartoon is humorous. If the cartoon would have ended up with the more likely script, it would not have been humorous. 

Cartoon 10. 09/14/2001
In Cartoon 10, the agent woman has a script of sexual life which is in clash with that of the patient woman. But we as readers and the agent woman are not aware that the patient woman has a different script of sexual life. The first woman is promiscuous while the second woman is not. The stages of incongruity and resolution are merged in the final frame.

Cartoon 11. 12/14/2001.
In Cartoon 11, the initial script is introduced very lately –in the fifth frame. The first four frames can be considered to be presequences. Again the stages of incongruity and resolution are merged in the final frame. Indeed the facial expression of the first girl in the fifth frame hints that a second script is evoked. The first girl interprets the second girl’s proposed letter as a sign that the second girl knows the first girl’s boyfriend and maybe had fallen in love with the boy. This interpretation is generated by the bystander implicatures of the final utterance.

     Cartoon 12. 10/15/2001.
In Cartoon 12, the first two frames are presequences for the third and the last frames. The utterance in the third frame has another implicature other than the didactic one which is captured by the second man in the last frame. The same content and implicature ambiguity will be observed in Cartoon 17.    

Cartoon 13. 11/15/2001.
In Cartoon 13, the setting is an alcohol setting and the expectation is that one of the men should have some problems and alcohol talk functions as the major cathartic channel. But the initial script is a no-problem one. Thus without the last frame, the three frames are incongruent with the alcoholic setting. The last frame is anticipated. In brief, no-problem and problem scripts are in opposition in Cartoon 13.

Cartoon 14. 11/16/2001.
In Cartoon 14, the first three frames are presequences for the fourth frame. They correspond to the stage of setup. The posture of the first man throughout the cartoon signals that he is a sober-minded person. Thus the default script is me-the-sober-minded-man. However when the content of his utterance is considered, his explosion seems to be imminent. That is why the second man wants to leave him as soon as possible. The last utterance implies that the second man got the message.
From a non-verbal communication view, Cartoon 14 is interesting because the opposition is due to the clash of the script invoked by the man’s nonverbal features especially posture vs. the verbal content. The second man prefers to take the verbal script as his guide though it is always the reverse in everyday life (Argyle, 1988, pp.91-92; Feyereisen, & de Lannoy, 1991; pp.66-67).    
From a Gricean point of view, the second man thinks that the first man does not flout the maxim of quality. That is why he leaves the room.

 
Cartoon 15. 09/17/2001.
Cartoon 15 starts with an NBF mode. A nonliteral use of the ownership (of the nature) is employed. But at the end, the woman shifts NBF mode to BF. The humorosity accordingly accrues from the clash of the modes NBF and BF.
 
Cartoon 16. 10/23/2001.
In Cartoon 16, the man uses a highly ornate language upon the marriage proposal. For the first five frames, the readers get the impression that the floridity of his language is a general phenomenon. Thus the initial script is the-floridity-of-the-man’s-language-is-generic. The alternative script is the-floridity-of-the-man’s-language-is-due-to-the-register which is less likely to happen. The final frame corresponds to the stage of resolution.  
The interpretation of Cartoon 16 necessitates a revision in Gricean framework. The man flouts the maxim of quality and the maxim of manner. He flouts the latter since he is not brief and orderly in his proposal while he flouts the former since he uses a language which he does not use in general. This may be interpreted as a sublanguage shift rather than a flouting of the maxim of quality. Nevertheless the idea that it concerns a sublanguage shift will be a challenge again for Gricean framework on the grounds that that framework considers language as a homogeneous entity lacking sublinguistic components. Ottoman Turkish as well as the pure Turkish vocabulary is used for purposes of humorosity in everyday conversations in Turkish culture. This use of Ottoman Turkish and pure Turkish vocabulary can be merged in cartoons to generate extremely humorous cartoons accompanied by clothes or even uniforms and gowns that are incongruent with the (sub)language used. One example for manipulation of the Ottoman Turkish in cartoons is the cartoon by Günbilen entitled Hokoz in the youngest newspaper of Turkey: ‘Birgün’. The title of the band is always accompanied by the date in the old calendar.
Another linguistic shift in Turkish language concerns the Turkic languages. After the demise of the Soviet Union, a cultural bridge has been constructed between Turkey and Turkic states and the cultural exchange has prevailed. The TV programs of Turkic states (especially Azeris since Azeri language is the most comprehensible to the ears of Turkey) have become a continuous source of fun and enjoyment. The presequence patterns of Turkic languages became one of the most preferred joke components for the people of Turkey. For example, Azeri’s greeting ‘helallik’ (hello) when heard from Brad Pitt in a movie broadcasted on the Azeri channel has not been laughed for less than a year in many occasions. The humorosity based on the manipulation of Turkic languages in that way seems not to be explained by Gricean framework but can be considered to be meta-deixes and explained by a resort to the distinction between bona fide and non-bona fide modes pronounced before.
     
 
Cartoon 17. 09/24/2001.
Cartoon 17 resembles Cartoon 12 in terms of the scripts and the opposition employed for the sake of humorosity. The first three frames invoke the script-of-life-goes-on and that of you-are-unimportant-in-the-complexity-of-life. But it seems that there is no resolution in Cartoon 17. One of the opposing scripts is not favored over another. Both of the scripts are still active. The resolution would have been observed in the next frame which is intentionally not included. The humorosity in this cartoon is neither an agent nor a patient humorosity. That is why it is interesting.
            From a psychotherapeutic point of view, the boy’s responses combined with the non-verbal signals are disturbing since they sound to be general responses to any utterances. He does not consider the peculiarities of the girl’s problems.
 
 
Cartoon 18. 09/25/2001.
Cartoon 18 resembles Cartoon 3. A face threatening act is involved in the fifth frame. From the very beginning the theme of death-is-a-natural-occurrence leads to two plausible scripts: death-is-a-natural-occurrence-for-people vs. death-is-a-natural-occurrence-for-people-except-me. The latter cannot be anticipated up until its introduction in the last frame. The humorosity of this cartoon comes right from this unexpectedness.     

Cartoon 19. 09/28/2001.
It seems that SIR theory can not provide a reasonable account for the humorosity of Cartoon 19. It seems to be a case of inference rather than implicature or presupposition.
Besides that, from a speech act perspective, the utterances in the cartoon as a whole constitute a directive in the Searlean sense. But these utterances as a whole are not direct. Thus they should be called as ‘indirect directives’. Another point is that they are unintentional as the facial expressions of the first couple in the last frame confer. Since the speakers and hearers of the Searlean universe are intentional agents under the idea of shared intentionality (Dascal, 1992, p.52; Holdcroft, 1992, p.63; Jucker, 1992, pp.88-89; Roulet, 1992, p.93), it is hard to interpret Cartoon 19 by staying within the boundaries of that universe. Other cases in which decoding is unintentional may pose other threats for Searlean understanding of speech acts. It should be added that Gricean framework is not immune to such problems (Jaszczolt, 2002, p.831).  
Searle’s claim further extends the postulation that the speakers and the hearers are intentional in conversation. He claims that “they [conversations] involve shared intentionality. Conversations are a paradigm of collective behavior” (Searle, 1992, p.21). Such a position is doomed to failure upon considering the cases such as Cartoon 19.  


Conclusion
In the sample of cartoons as well as other cartoons, one of the most striking observations for theoretical reasons is the minimal use of deictic expressions and anaphoras that has a great potential to ambiguate the utterances. This observation seems to refute the theory that proposes that the humorosity of a text or even a single sentence is due to vagueness. A distinction between ambivalence and vagueness should be introduced. The cartoons are not vague but they hold more than one meaning. Thus the humorosity is due to ambivalence in the sense of having multiple values as in the etymological roots of the word rather than vagueness.
Although this alternative proposal is the most reasonable at first blush, it is untenable. This proposal ignores the existence of implicatures and that every sentence can have implied meanings depending on the context. If the idea that “every sentence can have implied meanings depending on the context” is true, every sentence must be humor prone depending on the context. Such a position needs further meditations. 
Furthermore, such a position would have reverberations for understanding the nonliteral language use. Berrendonner (1981) claims that all sentences are irony prone contrary to the idea that factual statements are less irony prone. He contrasts the sentences below and conclude that though the former seems to be less irony prone at first blush, it is possible to imagine a situation in which it is used ironically and other examples conferring the possibility of ironical use of the sentence easily come to mind.
(1)   Je vais rentrer la voiture
(2)   C’est malin (Berrendonner, 1981, pp. 182-183).

Other possibilities are as follows:
1) Performatives maybe more humor prone as compared to nonperformatives.
2) There may be discourse markers of contrast signaling the incongruity phase and in the case of cartoons these markers may be communicated by nonlinguistic ways –i.e. by visual contrasting. One example for visual contrasting maybe a mother with teenager clothes rather than adopting the youngster jargon as exemplified in Cartoon 1.
3) Some of the speech acts as declaratives may be more humor prone.
4) Violation of the maxims can be a necessary but not sufficient condition for humorosity.
5) Each cartoon can be an illocution. That is because each and every cartoon is a declaration just like “I declare that this is a cartoon”. The cartoon has respective perlocutions directed towards the readers.

References
            Antonopoulou, E. & Sifianou, M. (2003). Conversational dynamics of humour:
the telephone game in Greek. Journal of Pragmatics, 35, 745-769.

Argyle, M. (1988). Bodily communication. Madison, Connecticut: International Universities Press, Inc.

            Attardo, S. (2003). Introduction: the pragmatics of humor. Journal of Pragmatics, 35, 1287-1294.
           
            Berrendonner, A. (1981). Éléments de pragmatique linguistique. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit.

            Chaika, E. (2000). Linguistics, pragmatics and psychotherapy: a guide for therapists. London and Philadelphia: Whurr Publishers.

            Dascal, M. (1992). Conversation: structure or process. In J. R. Searle et al. (On) Searle on conversation (pp. 35-56). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.  

Feyereisen, P., & de Lannoy, J.-D. (1991). Gestures and speech: psychological investigations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

            Holdcroft, D. (1992). Conversation and structure. In J. R. Searle et al. (On) Searle on conversation (pp. 57-76). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.  

            Jaszczolt, K. M. (2002). Against ambiguity and underspecification: evidence from presupposition as anaphora. Journal of Pragmatics, 34, 829-849.

            Jucker, A. H. (1992). Conversation: structure or process. In J. R. Searle et al. (On) Searle on conversation (pp. 77-90). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.  

            Kuperberg, G. R., McGuire, P. K., & David, A. S. (2000). Sensitivity to linguistic anomalies in spoken sentences: a case study approach to understanding thought disorder in schizophrenia. Psychological Medicine, 30, 345-357. 

Langdon, R., Coltheart, M., Ward, P. B., Catts, S. V. (2002). Disturbed communication in schizophrenia: the role of poor pragmatics and poor mind-reading. Psychological Medicine, 32, 1273-1284. 

            Norrick, N. R. (2003). Issues in conversational joking. Journal of Pragmatics, 35, 1333-1359.

            Raskin, V. (1998). The sense of humor and the truth. In W. Ruch (Ed.). The sense of humor: explorations of a personality characteristics (pp. 95-108). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.  

            Ritchie, G. (2001). Current directions in computational humour. Artificial Intelligence Review, 16, 119-135.

Roulet, E. (1992). Conversation. In J. R. Searle et al. (On) Searle on conversation (pp. 91-99). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Searle, J. R. (1992). Conversation. In J. R. Searle et al. (On) Searle on conversation (pp. 7-29). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Vaid, J., Hull, R., Heredia, R., Gerkens, D., Martinez, F. (2003). Getting a joke: the time course of meaning activation in verbal humor. Journal of Pragmatics, 35, 1431-1449.    
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