The Study of Linguistics and Humor

Linguistics and Humor

Linguistics is the study of language, its sounds, grammar and meaning. It is a multidisciplinary field that intersects with many other fields, including the humanities and social sciences. Its focus is on the role of language in human thought and behavior.

The linguistic humor theories discussed in this article are classified into three families. Each has its own specific characteristics. These include incongruity, hostility and release theories.

Incongruity theories

Some scholars have argued that humor involves a form of play with words. This theory is based on the notion that a joke has a set-up and a punch line. The set-up creates expectations and the punch line violates these expectations. The resulting dissonance can make the audience laugh.

These theories are not without their critics, but they do provide a useful framework for understanding the nature of humor. They also support recent neuroscience research, which suggests that areas of the brain involved in higher level cognitive thought are active during humor processing.

Linguists can use a variety of texts to examine humor, including Raskin’s primer of humor research and the Oxford Bibliographies Online. The latter provides a comprehensive collection of sources in multiple disciplines, such as psychology, anthropology, and communication. It also includes sections on linguistics, computational humor, and rhetoric. It also features a search function that allows users to look up specific terms and thinkers.

Hostility theories

When asked what traits they value in their spouses, many couples mention a sense of humor. Yet philosophers have said little about humor, and what they have said has been critical. This is surprising, since people everywhere seem to find humor amusing. Understanding the benefits of humor can help counter traditional objections to it, such as the Irrationality Objection. These theories focus on the cognitive aspects of humor and set aside social and emotional elements. They also assume that something malicious and potentially harmful must be involved in a joke for it to be humorous.

In contrast, hostility theories consider the effects of a joke on an individual’s emotional state. Jokes that ridicule members of a particular group are often seen as offensive, and may be appreciated for their incongruity or perceived as aggression. However, there is a “sweet spot” in which humor can be understood as playful and not aggressive. The challenge is to recognize that the jest is a joke before it causes an aggression response.

Release theories

Although humor is primarily studied by psychologists and social scientists, linguists also have an interest in it. One of the first studies of humor as an autonomous area of research was Victor Raskin’s Semantic Script Theory of Humor, published in 1985. His theory differentiates itself from incongruity theories and hostility theories by focusing on the linguistic characteristics of humor.

He argues that humor involves a twist of perspective. This shift allows us to see things differently than they really are. He argues that this occurs because of the use of semantic metaphors and metonymies in humorous texts.

Spencer’s hydraulic theory of laughter argues that nervous excitement and mental agitation generate energy that must be expended in some way. Laughter is an expressive outlet for this energy and relieves stress. This theory also explains why some people find certain things funny, even if they don’t share the same cultural context.

Computational models

Since the mid-1970s, humor research has been a recognized academic discipline with its own journals and conferences. While psychologists, sociologists, and literary scholars have long been concerned with the topic, linguistic approaches to humor are relatively new. Victor Raskin’s Semantic Mechanisms of Humor (1985) standardized the field by dividing humor theories into three families: incongruity, hostility, and release.

A computational approach to humor involves understanding the language and structure of humorous stimuli and generating humor accordingly. It has the advantage of being scalable to large corpora and allowing for more robust performance than manual methods. However, achieving a true computational sense of humor remains an AI-complete problem.

To improve humor detection, researchers have tried to include prosodic and multimodal features in their models. For example, the UR-FUNNY data set includes laughter markers and allows for the evaluation of humor in both spoken and written text. Moreover, a denoising autoencoding based pretraining has improved results compared to standard autoregressive training.

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Linux: A Free and Open-Source Operating System

The Linux Kernel – The Foundation of a Large Variety of Free Software

The Linux kernel is the foundation of a large variety of free software. The system also includes traditional specific-purpose programming languages targeted at scripting, text processing and system configuration and management in general.

Its modular design allows it to be optimized for particular applications, and its security features make it one of the most secure operating systems available. In addition, it is free to use without paying license fees.

0 linux is an operating system

An operating system manages hardware resources and provides an environment under which application programs can run. It consists of a kernel and other software programs that solve different tasks. It also supports a wide range of devices and applications.

While attending a course at the University of Helsinki in 1990, Linus Torvalds began developing the kernel for what would become Linux. He did so because he was frustrated with the restrictive licensing of MINIX, which at the time could only be used for educational purposes.

Linux is an open source operating system, which means it can be modified and distributed by anyone around the world. It is known for its stability and security, and it can be used on a variety of computers, including mainframes. It is also used to support a growing number of wearables and smart home gadgets. Linux variants even power many of today’s most popular gaming systems. In addition, it is used to tie together thousands of PCs into powerful computer clusters for solving large mathematical calculations.

0 linux is free

Stallman and the FSF have often referred to the family of operating systems as GNU/Linux, but other individuals and communities also produce Linux components. The combination of the kernel and these third-party non-GNU components, along with package management software and other infrastructure, is distributed by Linux vendors and communities in the form of Linux distributions.

In many cases, a business may choose to use Linux because it is free. However, even though the operating system is free of charge, it will still cost in other ways, such as staff time, training and hardware.

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Linux provides a wealth of mechanisms to reduce the kernel’s attack surface and improve security, including the NSA-developed SELinux modules and AppArmor. It also supports kernel preemption, which improves responsiveness and is critical for desktop and real-time applications. Most Linux software, such as bash, LibreOffice, gcc, musl, glibc, GTK and Qt, is developed independently of the kernel by separate stand-alone project teams. However, their licenses allow them to be combined into Linux distributions.

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Understanding Language: The Basics of Linguistics

Learn the Basics of Linguistics 20

Learn to understand the world through language study. Our worldviews, thoughts, and behaviors are shaped by language—and understanding its patterns can help you better connect with people.

Overview of comparative method and the phonology, morphology, and syntax of reconstructed Indo-European languages. Prerequisite: LING 200 or ANTH/LING 203 and LING 400.


Phonology studies the sound systems of languages and their constituent sounds. It looks at how these sounds are organized into syllables, sequences and words, and how they relate to other aspects of language, such as morphology, syntax and semantics.

Linguists studying phonology attempt to understand the rules regarding the use of speech that native speakers know (not necessarily consciously). For example, if a word has both a form indicating a number and another form indicating ordinality, the linguistic rule governing how these forms combine ensures that the word ‘tenth’ always follows the number ‘ten’.

Early work in phonology focused on the idea that behind each varying property in a particular token of speech there is some invariant, recurring properties. This led to the positing of sound units called phonemes, each consisting (according to some writers) of a set of distinctive features of contrast. This approach was later rejected in favour of generative phonology, which considers the notion of phonemes as an aspect of speaker knowledge of linguistic structure.


Syntax is the way that words are combined together to form phrases and sentences. Word order, grammatical features and inflections are all examples of syntax. Syntax is important because it allows us to communicate our ideas in a meaningful way. It also allows us to make comparisons and express emotion.

One way that people communicate their meanings is by using adverbs and adjectives. These can be used to describe nouns and verbs or to add a particular mood to a sentence. It is also possible to use syntax to convey a sense of time or place.

Different languages have different rules for arranging words. Some are more restrictive than others, depending on the type of language. For example, English has a strict subject-verb-object sequence, while other languages use different arrangements. Syntax is closely related to diction, which refers to the choice of words in a sentence.


The study of meaning is called semantics. It’s important to distinguish this term from a pejorative sense of the word often heard in the media, when someone complains that their opponent’s argument is “just semantics.”

Linguists who focus on semantics try to understand the rules that native speakers know (but may not always be conscious of) regarding language use. These rules often involve combining linguistic forms into complex structures, at multiple levels of analysis. For example, a word like “tenth” is made up of one linguistic form that indicates number and another that indicates ordinality. Linguists who focus on semantics must determine which grammatical structure to combine these forms in order to express the correct meaning.

Semantics also examines how different cultures have developed their own conceptual categories, and what these might have to do with their traditions, climates, ecologies, religions or politics. For instance, the concept of ownership is not identical across languages, and this is an issue that linguists who focus on semantics investigate.

History of Linguistics

At the beginning of the 20th century, attention shifted away from language change and towards language structure-in other words, how words and sentences are put together. This was the period of’structural linguistics’, which had its roots in the work of Ferdinand de Saussure.

Over the past two decades, linguists have come to realize that most of the world’s languages are related in very deep ways. This has been a result of careful research into the way that all languages share certain basic features.

The study of how language works is a multifaceted and rich field. It complements studies in anthropology, biology, psychology, philosophy, computer science, history and the social sciences. The work of linguists has wide applications, and has been cited in fields as diverse as philosophy, literature and theology. Linguistics is a natural science, and its theories are grounded in rigorous empirical investigation. It is one of the few disciplines that can claim an indisputable objectivity.

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The Scientific Study of the Chinese Language and its Features

Linguistics in Chinese

Linguistics in chinese is the scientific study of the sounds, words, phrases and sentences of the Chinese language. This includes phonology, morphology, semantics and grammar.

Like all languages, Chinese has undergone a great deal of change over time. It now divides into different branches, and many of these varieties are mutually unintelligible (e.g., New Xiang with Southwestern Mandarin and Xuanzhou Wu Chinese with Lower Yangtze Mandarin).


As in English, Chinese is a head-final language, with modifiers coming before the words they modify. However, like other East Asian languages, it also employs coverbs (, jie ci) which function somewhat differently from English prepositions.

Chinese has a number of homonyms, but it is possible to disambiguate them using classifiers, which are used with all countable nouns. Additionally, the language has a system of tones that distinguishes different words. This is an essential aspect of the language for its speakers.


The morphological structure of Chinese words is dominated by compounding. It is estimated that 75-80% of all words in contemporary Chinese are composed of two or more lexical morphemes.

Unlike most Indo-European languages, Chinese does not have inflectional morphology or word classes. This has implications for how morphological processes are represented in the mental lexicon and for neural processing of these processes.

The linguistic study of Chinese also examines derivational affixes, which are bound morphemes (though some can function as free forms) prefixed or suffixed to a base to create new words and constructions.


Chinese is a tonal language and features a complex system of phonology. There are several branches of Chinese, each exhibiting limited mutual intelligibility with others: Mandarin, Wu, Yue and Hakka.

All Chinese monosyllables carry one of four tones and may be stressed or neutral. A number of them also have alternative disyllabic forms with almost identical meanings. This creates a strong contrast between full and weak syllables. The latter are considered ‘neutral’ and lack stress. This allows a certain degree of word order variation within compound words.


All varieties of Chinese use tone to distinguish words. Some, like Shanghainese, have as few as three tones while others, such as Southern Min, have as many as 12 tones.

The phonology of Old and Middle Chinese can be reconstructed from a combination of oracle bone inscriptions, rime dictionaries and patterns of rhyming in ancient poetry.

A system of tone is reconstructed that draws on historical, typological and synchronic evidence, arguing that it is autosegmental with a set of features organized into two hierarchies.


Vocabulary is the foundation for all other learning and practice activities. Without sufficient vocabulary, you can’t learn grammar patterns, idioms, reading, or even basic conversational skills. It’s therefore vital to devote at least ten minutes per day to growing your Chinese vocabulary.

Chinese words are composed of syllables, word elements and radicals that work together to carry meaning. As a result, despite the fact that some characters have the same pronunciation (e.g., in Wade-Giles and in Pinyin), they do not correlate orthographically.


It can seem as though Chinese has no grammar, as the language does not follow the grammar paradigms of Western languages. However, a deeper look at the language shows that there are structures and vocabulary usages in place that make up its grammar.

These include the use of classifiers and question/exclamation particles. These change the purpose and tone of a sentence by adding a nuance. The language also has a fluid word order. All of this makes Chinese a more flexible language than many other ones.


Studies on semantics of Chinese characters aim to address the limitations of traditional letter-processing models. They explore how the semantic and phonetic characteristics of a character affect the process of decoding and recognition.

Chierchia (1998) argues that the diverse interpretations of bare nouns in Chinese are largely due to their being construed as kind-denoting, existential, or definite. He also suggests that the greater N400 magnitude evoked by a character with a semantic radical may reflect impeded processing of that semantic relationship.


The Chinese linguistics community has a long history of research in a variety of areas. These include synchronic and diachronic comparative studies between Chinese and other languages, particularly in the fields of syntax, semantics, morphology, phonetics, and phonology.

All modern Sinitic languages have a maximum syllable structure of consonant-semivowel-consonant and employ a tone system that distinguishes words or syllables that would otherwise be identical in sound. Some dialects have as few as four tones, while others use up to six or more.

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The Impact of Famous Linguists in Language Study

Famous Linguists

There are a number of famous linguists who have helped advance the study of language. These include Noam Chomsky who is known for his generative grammar theory and the idea that some aspects of language are innate.

Roman Jakobson is also a well-known linguist that changed the way we look at phonology and morphology. He is also known for his work on structuralist linguistics.

Noam Chomsky

Chomsky is one of the most famous living linguists and is well known for his political activism. He has written many books and articles on politics and linguistics, and he is often a controversial speaker. He holds three university degrees, including a BA, MA, and PhD in linguistics. He began his academic career by teaching Hebrew at the University of Pennsylvania, but later he moved to Harvard to pursue a doctorate in theoretical linguistics. There he studied under the famous linguist Zeilig Harris and learned more about formal systems theory.

He developed the transformational grammar theory, which revolutionized the field of linguistics. It was based on the idea that language is a cognitive capacity. Chomsky also criticized the notion that humans are born as blank slates when it comes to language, and instead he believed that the human brain contains the necessary range of rules for creating grammar.

Donna Jo Napoli

Donna Jo Napoli has authored over 50 books for young readers. Her work for younger audiences can be broadly divided into two types: contemporary realistic novels and fairy-tale retellings. In her book Alligator Bayou, set in the Louisiana swamps of the 1860s, Napoli draws on historical facts to construct a powerful story with compelling characters and a believable plot.

Her research originally focused on theoretical syntax, specifically Italian and other Romance languages. But after motherhood and a visit to a school for the deaf, her interests turned to literacy and sign language studies.

Napoli has collaborated with others to produce bimodal bilingual e-books for hearing parents to read to their deaf children. This involves reading a book that is simultaneously conveyed in oral language and sign language on a video. She has also contributed to linguistic analysis of sign languages around the world.


One of the most famous linguists ever was Aristotle, who wrote about philosophy, ethics and politics. He also made many advances in linguistics, including the theory that language shapes thought and culture.

He was born in Stagira, Macedonia and moved to Athens to study at Plato’s Academy. There he wrote many philosophical works, which often crossed the boundaries between different disciplines.

He also wrote about physics, biology and metaphysics. His work in the natural sciences was particularly influential. Aristotle argued that human knowledge is not simply based on observation, but is also based on reasoning. He was the founder of the Lyceum, a group of students who met to discuss various issues. His theories were influential in the development of logical thinking and philosophy.

Ferdinand de Saussure

De Saussure is credited with establishing modern linguistics. His book Cours de linguistique générale, published posthumously in 1916, became the foundation for structuralism. He argued that language is a system of signs with conventional relationships between the signified and the significant. He also introduced the distinction between langue and parole, which was used by Claude Levi-Strauss in his analysis of myths.

While studying Indo-European philology, de Saussure developed his theory of Proto-Indo-European vowels. This led him to describe the unusual forms of word roots as a result of lost phonemes. Later, scholars like Jerzy Kurylowicz discovered Hittite texts that confirmed this theory, now known as the laryngeal theory. De Saussure’s work inspired a number of linguists, including Roman Jakobson. Structuralism has since spread into other disciplines, such as semiotics and literary criticism.

Paul Grice

A key figure in twentieth-century philosophy, Grice’s work touched on a wide variety of topics including the metaphysics of personal identity, logical paradoxes, philosophical psychology, and ethics. However, his most influential writings were on the philosophy of language and conversation.

He developed a sophisticated theory of how nonliteral aspects of meaning are generated and recovered through the exploitation of general principles of rational cooperation as adapted to conversational contexts. This theory became the basis of Gricean pragmatics, a branch of linguistics.

Grice also argued against Quine’s characterization of the analytic/synthetic distinction in his classic paper “In Defense of a Dogma”. A number of philosophers have been influenced by his ideas, such as Bach 2011, Horn 2006, and LePore and Stone 2015.

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Unlocking the Secrets of French Linguistics

What is Linguistics in French?

Linguistics is the study of language. It includes an investigation of the formal structures of language (sound system, internal word structure and representations of meaning), as well as language universals, variation across languages, and historical language change.

Students majoring in French & Linguistics typically satisfy some or all of the BU Hub requirements through coursework for the major and cocurricular activities. Learn more about the Hub requirements here.

Language Structure

A lot of people think they can learn a new language simply by accumulating vocabulary and conjugating verbs. But it is also important to understand the way a sentence is built. For example, French sentences are usually structured in the following way: Subject + Verb + Complement. There are some exceptions but this is the general rule.

In addition, there are some things unique to french that might not be obvious in english – for example, the fact that French nouns have a grammatical gender, and that these grammatical genders determine how adjectives end (e.g., a male singer is un chanteur, while a female singer is une chanteuse).

The course will introduce you to structure 3 and show you how easy it is to manipulate this structure and create your own sentences. The lessons are designed in three minute chunks so that you can work through them easily despite your busy schedule. You will be able to practise your newly acquired structures as often as you wish, to help you progress to fluency and become a natural speaker without having to think about it.

Language Variation

The linguistic variable under study here is variation in the French rhotic, which varies from one form to another in different communities. We use a program called GoldVarbII (Rand and Sankoff 1990) to conduct a multivariate analysis of data, which allows us to determine which extra-linguistic and linguistic factors are most strongly correlated with the variant in question.

This data set, collected in 2012 in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighborhood of Montreal, complements previous corpora on sociolinguistic variation, making it possible to compare community trends spanning over four decades. It also allows for the investigation of intra-individual variation over time, a dimension that has received little attention in studies of French varieties.

Similarly, we have used GoldVarbII to examine the variation within each of our students, comparing their use of formal variants such as on and nous with that of their L1 Canadian French-speaking peers in semi-directed interviews. We have found that, unlike their L1 counterparts, our immersion students do not automatically acquire the linguistic constraints observed by their peers.

Language Change

In the 17th and 18th centuries the French standardized their language, which largely replaced regional dialects. Standard French is used around the world today, including by 49 million people in Francophone Africa and Canada.

Language change can occur for a variety of reasons. It may be a result of social differentiation (the development of distinct slang or jargon), a consequence of contact with other languages (e.g. through borrowing), or through natural processes in usage.

Some of these changes are not immediately noticeable, but can have a long-term impact on the way the language is spoken. For example, the loss of the sound /r/ in words such as “roue” (wheel) has led to a lengthening of vowels before this consonant. Similarly, the disappearance of the circumflex accent has led to the word for picnic becoming simply “picnic”. This is all part of the ongoing process of language change. Although this can often be frustrating, it is a natural part of human language evolution.

Language Acquisition

Our faculty members conduct research in a wide variety of topics including syntax, semantics, phonology and morphology, history of language, sociolinguistics, dialectology, creoles and second language acquisition. The French lab supports a variety of research methodologies including moving window silent reading experiments, cross-modal priming experiments and word monitory.

One interesting observation that has emerged from these studies is that cL2 learners do not rely on systemic knowledge of grammatical gender, even after more than 24 months of exposure. Some, like Sara and Marika, do provide determiners consistently as soon as they start using them (although not yet at 10 ME), but others exhibit considerable variability. Jana, for instance, omits many determiners at ME 16/15 but then produces more of them in later recordings; and Ludwig combines masculine and feminine forms when marking his/her own name and others.

Similarly, cL2 children do not succeed in reliably attributing gender to nouns using their phonological or morphological properties. Rather, formal properties seem to override semantic ones when the two offer conflicting evidence.

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Key Figures in Linguistics from Chomsky to Knorozov

Five Key Figures in Linguistics

Linguistics is a broad field with many facets. It is connected to disciplines such as Philosophy, Literature, History, Language Pedagogy and Psychology.

Noam Chomsky took the world of linguistics by storm more than 50 years ago with his theory of universal grammar, which claims that all languages share the same fundamental rules.

Nicolaus Copernicus

The 16th-century Catholic Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (also known as Mikolaj Kopernik) was an example of the Renaissance ideal of being a “Renaissance man.” He fulfilled this role by becoming a mathematician, a renowned astronomer, a church jurist with a doctorate in canon law, a physician, a classics scholar and an artist. He also served as a governor and diplomat.

He published On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, which debunked mythology and relegated Earth to its proper place among the planets. His work sparked a scientific revolution.

Jacques Derrida

Derrida’s work has had a profound influence on a wide range of disciplines, including psychology, literature, cultural studies, sociology, philosophy and anthropology.

His three books from 1967, Of Grammatology, Writing and Difference and Speech and Phenomena, examine the treatment of writing by thinkers ranging from Plato and Rousseau to Ferdinand de Saussure and Claude Levi-Strauss.

Derrida’s first strategy is to deconstruct the opposition between speech and writing, which philosophers as diverse as Kant and Edmund Husserl have upheld. This opposition is based on the assumption that ideas and intentions are present in speech but not in writing.

Friedrich Christian Diez

Ferdinand de Saussure is credited with establishing modern linguistics, which today has various subfields including semantics, syntax, and phonology. He also developed semiology, a study of signs and symbols, which linguists consider an essential foundation for general linguistics.

A contemporary of Saussure, Friedrich Christian Diez contributed to structuralism, an approach that stipulates that all languages are structured in similar ways. He is most famous for his work on Romance philology and etymology. He also influenced pragmatics, the theory of context and meaning.

Michel Foucault

Foucault’s work on the history of linguistics has been especially influential. In this area, he developed an understanding of the way that language and concepts can be transformed without regard to their particular context.

Until the Classical Age, he argues, Western knowledge was a messy mass of different kinds of information, with the work of science being one of cataloguing and categorizing what is visible. Then, a period of rationalization takes hold. Its purpose is to create order.

Jules Gillieron

Gillieron was a Swiss linguist who studied in Paris and founded the science of dialectology. He wrote a dictionary and a dialect grammar and worked on linguistic geography. He published a large linguistic atlas of France with E Edmont.

Adelaide Hahn’s work spanned the period in which diachronic studies of language change gave way to synchronic structural studies. She was particularly interested in how geographical factors might influence etymology. She also contributed to the study of Romance languages.

Jacob Grimm

The Brothers Grimm—Jacob and Wilhelm—were librarians and scholars with a passion for folklore. Their work paved the way for linguistics as a rigorous discipline and kickstarted an entirely new field of study called folkloristics.

They spelled out a series of rules that explain how and why words shift between different languages. These rules are now known as “Grimm’s Law,” which provides a foundation for scholarly research into language change.

The Brothers Grimm are famous for their collection of folk tales, which includes the stories of Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Snow White. Their work also helped pave the way for historical linguistics.

Umberto Eco

Born in Alessandria, Piedmont, Italy, Eco grew up to become a scholar of medieval literature and philosophy. He graduated from the University of Turin in 1954 and began working for RAI, the state broadcaster, where he produced a variety of cultural programming.

He wrote a series of books on linguistics and semiotics that have profoundly influenced the theory of meaning. His work is influenced by structuralism but transcends it. It focuses on narration theory, textual strategies, and encoding and decoding issues.

Yuri Knorozov

After surviving the famine of the 1930s in Soviet Ukraine and being deemed unfit for military service, Knorozov left Kharkiv to continue his undergraduate studies at Moscow State University. He specialised in Egyptology and began research on Egyptian hieroglyphs.

His work showed that early scripts that were previously thought to be ideographic in nature contained phonetic components. His discovery of this led to the decipherment of Maya script. He also made substantial contributions to semiotics.