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Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security

Paronomasic Puns: Target Recoverability towards Automatic Generation


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Christian F. Hempelmann

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CERIAS TR 2003-25

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The aim of this dissertation is to create a theory to model the factors, prominently, but not exclusively the phonological similarity, important in imperfect punning and to outline the implementation of this measure for the evaluation of possible imperfect puns given an input word and a set of possible target words. Imperfect, heterophonic, or paronomasic, puns differ from perfect, homophonic puns in that the target is different in sound from the pun. While homophonic puns are interesting for the linguist primarily with respect to their semantics, heterophonic puns present a research issue also to the phonologist, because they use one of two similar sound sequences to stand for both meanings associated with them, for example, bang to denote a noise as well as a financial institution. The specific question here is, how much contrast is possible between the pun and its target to make the latter recoverable, in terms of the semantics, phonology, and syntax of the pun-target pair and its context. The theoretical framework for the phonological part of this project is inspired by a recent version of Optimality Theory (OT), adopted in phonology, because it is able to describe the occurrence of related forms through a selection process from among possible candidate forms more appropriately than derivational approaches can by way of rules operating on one input form and yielding one output form. Taking more parameters




2003 – 08 – 08


Purdue University

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Purdue University


Linguistics Program and CERIAS

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ABSTRACT viii 1. INTRODUCTION 1 1.1 Outline 1 1.2 Main Hypotheses 4 1.3 General Linguistic Parameters of Punning 9 1.4 Conventionality of Punning Similarity 17 2. LINGUISTIC HUMOR THEORY 20 2.1 Semantic Mechanisms of Humor 20 2.2 The Illogical Logic of Puns: Cratylism 23 2.3 Pseudopunning Wordplay 31 3. PHONETIC DISTANCE IN TERMS OF DISTINCTIVE FEATURES 34 3.1 Vitz and Winkler 1973 35 3.2 Zwicky 1976 37 3.3 Zwicky and Zwicky 1986 39 3.4 Sobkowiak 1991 43 3.5 Summary 44 4. TARGET-PUN DISSIMILARITY AS OUTPUT-OUTPUT CONSTRAINT VIOLATIONS 46 4.1 Optimality Theory 46 4.2 Correspondence (McCarthy and Prince 1995) 51 4.3 Output-output Correspondence (Benua 1997) 52 Page 4.4 Perceived Similarity and Correspondence Environments (Steriade 2001) 56 4.4.1 Theoretical Note 56 4.4.2 The P-map 58 4.4.3 Correspondence Domains: Rhymes and Puns 59 4.4.4 The C-Constraint: Multiple Survivors 61 4.5 Onset Correspondence in English Imperfect Puns (Fleischhacker 2002) 64 4.5.1 Perceptual Similarity vs. Simplification 64 4.5.2 Again: Punning Similarity is more than Acoustic Similarity 66 4.5.3 More Frequent Violations = More Similar Puns? 67 4.5.4 More Similar Puns = Better Puns? 68 4.5.5 Onset Difference in Heterophonic Puns 69 4.5.6 Not CONT, but MAX (and DEP) 71 4.6 Similarity of Personal Names (Lutz and Greene 2001) 73 5. PUNNING CORRESPONDENCE CONSTRAINTS 81 5.1 Overview of Previous Results 81 5.2 Asymmetrical OO-Correspondence in Punning 84 5.3 Constraints on Punning OO-Correspondence 86 5.3.1 Phoneme Classes 88 5.3.2 Acoustic Feature Tree 89 5.3.3 Vowel Space 93 5.3.4 Environment of Constraint Violations 96 5.4 Suprasegmental Constraints 97 5.5 Cumulative Cost of Constraint Violation 98 5.6 Evaluation of Punning Output-Output Correspondence 100 5.7 Implemented Edit Distance Computation 101 5.8 Overcoming the Infinity Problem of OT 103 6. RECOVERABILITY BEYOND PHONOLOGY 105 6.1 Introduction: Interaction of Phonological, Syntactic, and Semantic Factors 105 6.2 Quasi-punning non-phonological Recoverability 108 Page 6.3 Intermediate Level: Morphology 109 6.4 Superlexemic, Multiple-Word Domain Punning 111 6.5 The Context as Torso 112 6.6 Idiomatic Expressions: Semantic-Syntactic Interface 115 6.7 Word Classes and Syntactic Functions: Lexico-Semantic Interface 121 6.8 Recoverability through Ungrammaticality 127 6.9 Syntactic Ambiguity 130 6.10 Definition Puns: Less Semantics, Less Joke 132 7. SUMMARY AND OUTLOOK 134 BIBLIOGRAPHY 136 APPENDICES 146 Appendix A: CLAWS Tag Set 146 Appendix B: Syntactic Function Tag Set 149 Appendix C: Consonant Distributions and Frequency 150 Appendix D: Non-Corresponding Segments 152 Appendix E: Main Corpus of Target-Pun Pairs 166 Appendix F: Intrusion Frequency Table 186 Appendix G: Cost Table 187 VITA 188

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