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.
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