chapter  33
Sociolinguistic Approaches to Humor
ByCatherine E. Davies
Pages 17

Sociolinguistic approaches to humor are concerned not primarily with the linguistic forms of humor—for example, with the structure of a narrative joke, or how a pun is constructed, but rather with how humor as an aspect of language use relates to society. This chapter gives the examples of precursors in related fields such as linguistic anthropology, sociology, ethnomethodology, and even literary studies, which attempted to address the central sociolinguistic question of how particular language usages relate to social organization. Social organization in terms of regionalism and also ethnicity within the United States was reflected in a literature of "dialect humor" in 19th-century America. The major findings to date of sociolinguistic approaches to humor apparently need to be suggested both at a high level of abstraction and also with caution. It appears that humor is a multimodal aspect of interactional style that is learned as part of the socialization process and thus linked to social class, gender, ethnicity, age, and regionality.