First Advisor

Jeanette S. DeCarrio

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


Teaching English as a Second Language




English language -- Discourse analysis, Wit and humor -- History and criticism



Physical Description

1 online resource (87 p.)


There are various approaches to the explanation of humor in the field of humor research. Some of these theories, while providing interesting insight into the phenomenon known as humor, remain limited in their ability to account for how humor is recognized. Others do not even address the issue. This thesis compares five different theories in humor research by analyzing the humorous short story "My Watch" by Mark Twain. These theories are: 1. a typological approach to humor, 2. a social- functional model, 3. incongruity theory, 4. Grice's Cooperative Principle taken from linguistic pragmatics, and 5. the General Theory of Verbal Humor devised by V. Raskin and S. Attardo. The comparative analysis, following an extensive review of the literature, first interprets the humor in the short story in the light of each theoretical model. During the course of the analysis, the limitations inherent in each theories' treatment of humor are illustrated and these argue and provide evidence for the adoption of the General Theory of Verbal Humor because of its greater sophistication in building a model of humor recognition. Furthermore, in analyzing Twain's short story this thesis establishes the generalizability of this more sophisticated theory to at least some types of literary humor, specifically the tall tale. Finally, further research implications and general connections between the theoretical approaches discussed in this thesis and the teaching of the English language to non-native speakers highlight the practicality of applying insights from humor research to the field of teaching.


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