Key Terms in the Field of Humor

Authored by: Christian F. Hempelmann

The Routledge Handbook of Language and Humor

Print publication date:  February  2017
Online publication date:  February  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138843066
eBook ISBN: 9781315731162
Adobe ISBN:


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Not only is humor research a multidisciplinary field, but, at least in amateur form, it has been a multilingual endeavor over many centuries, before the field became dominated by English as the lingua franca of research, as in almost all other fields. For a long time before that, until the Middle Ages, it was Latin that served that role. Both sources, varying fields and different languages, have led to several sources of misalignment in key terminologies about humor. As an introduction, the history of the central term in English and many other languages, derived from Latin (h)umor, will serve as an orienting example. The main body of the chapter will summarize various approaches to pinning down and comparing key terms referring to core concepts in the study of language. The main methodological fields here are linguistic semantics, linguistic etymology, and the history and philosophy of science. The main tensions are the transition from the dominance of Latin to the dominance of English and how selected other European languages, like German and Spanish, as well as a few non-Indo-European languages, have contributed, or not, against this background.

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