Internal & External Possessors

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Term Paper
Internal & External Possessors
A Contrastive Analysis of Humorous Aspects in English and German Module:Sprachwissenschaftliche Methoden und Englischunterricht Course: English in Contrast
Mondays, 2 to 4 p.m.
Lecturer: Dr. George Smith

submitted byNadja Degen
born 22 November 1988

major Englisch, MA of Ed.
minor Latein, MA of Ed.

Content

1. Introduction2
2.Hypothesis3
3.Internal & external possessor constructions in English and German4 4.The incongruity theory5
5. Humor and translation6
6. Verbal humor in English possessor constructions7
6.1Verbal humor in internal possessor constructions I7
6.2Verbal humor in internal possessor constructions II9 7. Verbal humor in German possessor constructions11
7.1 Verbal humor and idiomatic expressions11
7.2Verbal humor and the animacy hierarchy13
8.Conclusion15
9.Bibliography16

1. Introduction
Speaking a language is an activity governed by rules and conventions. Many of these are such that they may be violated to a certain degree, often with amusing results. Therefore, studying the resulting incongruities leads to an identification of rules and conventions the existence or influence of which may have passed unnoticed but for attention to their violation (Goldstein 1).

Verbal humor, that is humor “expressed by means of a linguistic system” (Attardo 96), employs diverse strategies. One strategy, which is frequently applied as the above quotation admits, is the violation of linguistic rules as a trigger for humorous aspects. The resulting incongruities emphasize the regulatory framework of the respective language. An analysis of linguistic structures underlying verbal humor can, therefore, deliver deep insights into the workings of a language. This relation between linguistic correctness and humor has further aspects when dealing with contrastive analysis of languages. Each language has its own repertoire of structural means to describe reality. This fact and the dependence of verbal humor on linguistic structures calls into question the translatability of language-based jokes. Aarons (12) for examples assumes: “Since linguistic jokes exploit the linguistic structure of a particular language, it would stand to reason that they would not be directly translatable whilst still maintaining the linguistic point of a joke”. Possible or impossible, the attempt to translate verbal humor seems to be profitable in the context of contrastive language analysis bringing to the surface structural analogies and discrepancies. In this paper language-based jokes in the context of internal and external possessor constructions in English and German will be examined. The scope of this project contains to the following questions: 1. Which specific linguistic structures serve as a basis for verbal humor? 2. Which mechanism trigger humorous effects? 3. Can these language-based jokes be translated into English/German? 4. And what do these findings tell us about the regulatory system of the respective languages? Such an analysis promises fruitful insights as both languages have a concise but not an equal rule system for internal and external possessor constructions. The existence of a precise rule system opens up the possibility of verbal humor by testing or violating linguistic conventions, as the above quotation suggests. The dissimilarity of the rule systems suggests humorous aspects to be found in different respects employing different mechanisms. The paper consists of two parts: The first part serves to provide a theoretical background. A short introduction on internal and external possessor constructions in English and German will be given. A generalized theory of how humor works, the incongruity theory, will be presented as a basis for the discussion of humor mechanisms in language based-jokes....
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