26th November 2021

Mining the Comic Verse : How We Tag Humour and Maybe More

Anne-Sophie Bories (University of Basel)

What do verse and jokes have in common? Apparently, nothing. Rather, one would place them at opposite ends of a conventional hierarchy of literary forms. And yet, they often occur together, with even high-brow poets producing humorous, sometimes outrageous pieces, or blending wordplays and other pleasantries within their serious works.

Poetry and humour share a number of features, starting with their departure from a bona fide communication. Instead of aiming for precision, they embrace ambiguity, harness the language’s shortcomings, to produce precisely overlapped meanings. Both tend to use a backdrop of monotony and expectations to stage discordances, counterpoints, hidden meanings. Both carefully build their tempo, often towards a climactic moment that French describes with one word for both domains: la chute, literally the fall.

As part of the SNSF(Swiss National Science Foundation)-funded project Le Rire des vers (Mining the Comic Verse), we are building a large annotated corpus centred on both versification and humour, with three layers of data: an automatic detection of metrical features in collaboration with the CRISCO’s Malherbe programme, a layer of linguistic annotations, and a manual tagging of what we cheekily label jokes, but actually include a number of other stylistic features sharing the same mechanism of incongruity.


The meeting will take place live at Zoom at 1 pm. To participate please fill in the survey: https://forms.gle/4K1MJ7V9JW8MDKmq7 – the link to the meeting will be sent sent to the email address passed in the form.

This meeting will be recorded.