Characteristics of Chinese Humour

Alexander B. Alexiev, Professor of Chinese Philology and Head of the Chinese Studies Program, Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, Bulgaria, gives a lecture on the Characteristics of Chinese Humour.

The lecture will take place on Wednesday 9 March in room 102 in Gimli at the University of Iceland. All are welcome.

Since in 1872 Charles Darwin wrote that “humour is a hardwired characteristic of the human species” the study of humour has gradually developed into a full-grown science discipline through the 20-th and into the 21-st century. Science has shown that humour is a biological phenomenon correlated to cognitive development, that children recognize humour better as they develop cognitively, and that we should distinguish between humour and laughter. Research of humour has been used in different areas, such as medicine, education, and analyzed on the biological, psychological, social and cultural level, as well as within the context of different perspectives, such as the cognitive theory. Chinese humour is culture-specific as it springs from the three most important philosophical schools in China and Chinese culture - Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, and is characterized by an overall moderate response. Reasons for the latter could be attributed to the Confucian puritanism, the introverted disposition of the Chinese people, and their intrinsic realism and practicality, combined with the ubiquitous concept of “saving face”. A specific characteristic of Chinese humour is the abundance of puns, - a function of the Chinese Wordplay Culture: phenomena that are brought about by the structure of the Chinese language itself, - its grammatical and phonological system.

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