One of the most intriguing things about language is its
redeployment to accomplish a multiplicity of functions by different
people in different places at different times. One of such functions of
language is humour- making. People often make use of humour in social,
political and cultural interactions through the skillful manipulation of
diverse structures of language. Underlining the manipulative skills of a
speaker or language user are peculiar and unique choices that are made.
These choices are explainable by studying the linguistic style of the
language user. To do this, stylistics, therefore, is an instrument with
which style can be effectively studied. As a result, this research sets
out to examine how and whether syntactic items can be used stylistically
to achieve humour. Since analysis must be based on a particular
linguistic theoretical construct, this study adopts functional
linguistics as a theoretical mainstay for analysis. Since this theory
offers a broad spectrum for analysis, the study further narrows down
specifically to transitivity as presented in Halliday (1985).
Terminologies such as “participants, processes, circumstances” and
their sub-types are used in classifying syntactic items. At the end of
the analysis, it is discovered that interactants make a predominant use
of “processes- the material process” to create humour. This is because
an entity has to do something on another for humour to be possible.
“processes”, which usually contain “participants”, are complimented
by different “circumstances” to contextualise the utterance for humour.
The completeness of the humour lies with the relationship between
shared knowledge and the lexical choices of interactants. This shared
knowledge connects the syntactic choices a speaker makes to context,
resulting into humour.
1.0 Background to the Study
Natural language contains systematic variations on all levels of its structure, such as
phonology, morphology, lexicology and syntax. These variations
offer the widest possibilities of language use to fulfill different
communicative functions in various contexts. To identify, describe and
analyse special and unique linguistic expressive means lies at the core
of stylistics. This implies that certain language units bear stylistic
markers, as they appear in particular contexts of human linguistic
Humour represents perhaps one of the most genuine and universal
speech acts within human interaction. People often make use of humour in
social and cultural interactions through the skillful manipulation of
language. This manipulation is at diverse linguistic levels, such as
lexis, phonology and syntax. In order to investigate these linguistic
levels and other perceived extralinguistic factors at work in humour,
stylistics is a useful tool. This is because this social activity uses
the expressive means of language. Lawal (Olusegun and Adebayo 2008:66)
recognises not just the various categories of language but also their
use and usage in social functions. To him, “variety and variability are
inevitable features of language which is a unique human attribute
employed in widely differing circumstances for performing multiplicity
of social functions”.