Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Comics and jokes are serious teaching tools for linguists

Date:
January 5, 2012
Source:
University of South Carolina
Summary:
A professor discovers the key to helping students understand complex linguistic principles is through the funny bone.

Below is an example of dialogue from a "Wizard of Id" syndicated cartoon strip.

Related Articles


Spook [the prisoner]: Have you ever eaten squid fried?

Turnkey [the guard]: Yes.

Spook: How was it?

Turnkey: Better than when I was sober.

The study of linguistics is not a laughing matter -- unless you happen to have Stan Dubinsky as your professor. The University of South Carolina linguist has been sharing jokes and puns and cartoons with students for more than 20 years as a way of helping them understand complex concepts about the science of language.

Using cartoons like the one above, which features the ambiguous use of the word "fried" (referring either to Turnkey's having been drunk or to a way of cooking squid), Dubinsky is able to clearly explain how the structure of a sentence can alter its meaning. Seeing students' amusement and satisfaction when they get the joke and the concept has kept him clipping cartoons for decades.

Dubinsky is particularly enamored of humor that involves play on words, sounds or grammar. Over the course of years teaching undergraduate linguistics he came to realize that the comic strips and panels he enjoyed so much were a wonderful teaching tool for a subject that he says can "sometimes rival physics or chemistry in detail and difficulty."

"Cartoons and jokes are very useful as a teaching tool," Dubinsky said. "Students love it when you present them with something amusing that also illustrates a main point in the lecture. In this respect, language-based humor turns out to be a great way to illustrate difficult-to-grasp linguistic concepts."

Once he realized that cartoons offered such linguistic gems, Dubinsky began perusing newspaper cartoon sections.

"I became an obsessive cartoon reader," said Dubinsky. "I perused the cartoon section of The State newspaper every day on the chance that there might be a cartoon I could use. Sometimes I would find two cartoons in a one day or sometimes not find one cartoon in two weeks. Gradually, though, my cartoon collection became enormous, and part of my regular teaching preparation was picking out the comic strips that would work in class."

Dubinsky said some of his best finds came from the comic strips Shoe, Dilbert, Mother Goose and Grimm, B.C. and, of course, The Wizard of Id.

Cambridge Press thought Dubinsky's approach to explaining the workings of language through humor was an idea worth sharing. As a result, linguistic students and lovers of language everywhere can benefit from Dubinsky's favorite cartoons and his humor-inspired teaching techniques, without taking his class.

With research assistance from Hannah Peace, a USC Honors College alumna, Dubinsky and USC rhetoric professor Christopher Holcombe, co-wrote the book, "Understanding Language through Humor," which was released by Cambridge late last fall.

Much like Dubinsky's use of cartoons to supplement his lectures, the book provides students with entertaining examples in very plain language to supplement linguistic textbooks. Each chapter begins with an illustrated cartoon and features more than a dozen jokes, many from comic strips. They also use carefully selected bits of humor to explain a particular aspect of linguistics, such that a reader can come out with a fairly comprehensive understanding of the field.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of South Carolina. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of South Carolina. "Comics and jokes are serious teaching tools for linguists." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120105161746.htm>.
University of South Carolina. (2012, January 5). Comics and jokes are serious teaching tools for linguists. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 25, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120105161746.htm
University of South Carolina. "Comics and jokes are serious teaching tools for linguists." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120105161746.htm (accessed January 25, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 23, 2015) — A Boston start-up is developing a wristband they say will help users break bad habits by jolting them with an electric shock. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

RightThisMinute (Jan. 23, 2015) — Not only is Kathy seeing her newborn son for the first time, but this is actually the first time she has ever seen a baby. Kathy and her sister, Yvonne, have been legally blind since childhood, but thanks to an amazing new technology, eSight glasses, which gives those who are legally blind the ability to see, she got the chance to see the birth of her son. It&apos;s an incredible moment and an even better story. Video provided by RightThisMinute
Powered by NewsLook.com
One Dose, Then Surgery to Test Tumor Drugs Fast

One Dose, Then Surgery to Test Tumor Drugs Fast

AP (Jan. 23, 2015) — A Phoenix hospital is experimenting with a faster way to test much needed medications for deadly brain tumors. Patients get a single dose of a potential drug, and hours later have their tumor removed to see if the drug had any affect. (Jan. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Bedtime Rituals For a Good Night's Sleep

The Best Bedtime Rituals For a Good Night's Sleep

Buzz60 (Jan. 22, 2015) — What you do before bed can effect how well you sleep. TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) has bedtime rituals to induce the best night&apos;s sleep. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins