Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
No Cover Image

Speech Play and Verbal Art

  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Speech Play and Verbal Art
    Book Description:

    Puns, jokes, proverbs, riddles, play languages, verbal dueling, parallelism, metaphor, grammatical stretching and manipulation in poetry and song- people around the world enjoy these forms of speech play and verbal artistry which form an intrinsic part of the fabric of their lives. Verbal playfulness is not a frivolous pursuit. Often indicative of people's deepest values and worldview, speech play is a significant site of intersection among language, culture, society, and individual expression.

    In this book, Joel Sherzer examines many kinds of speech play from places as diverse as the United States, France, Italy, Bali, and Latin America to offer the first full-scale study of speech play and verbal art. He brings together various speech-play forms and processes and shows what they have in common and how they overlap. He also demonstrates that speech play explores and indeed flirts with the boundaries of the socially, culturally, and linguistically possible and appropriate, thus making it relevant for anthropological and linguistic theory and practice, as well as for folklore and literary criticism.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79669-0
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    This book is about speech play, and particularly the significance of speech play in the intersection of language, culture, and society and in relation to verbal art. It is intended to be exploratory, suggestive, provocative, and fun(ny). My argument is that play, especially speech play, which has been marginalized and trivialized in the disciplines of anthropology and linguistics, among others, should actually be central to these disciplines, both theoretically and methodologically. Speech play provides implicit and explicit metacommentary—in the form of both the praxis of everyday life and artistic performance—on systems and structure, social and cultural as well...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Grammar of Play and the Play of Grammar
    (pp. 12-25)

    Language in general and languages in particular are structured as open systems, flexible and creative. Every element of language and, especially, the relations between elements provide potentials for forms, processes, and patterns of speech play and verbal art. These are exploited in communities around the world as part of the give-and-take of everyday verbal interaction as well as in focused and highlighted performances.

    Speech play and verbal art are both inherent and potential in language because of certain features of language that have long been noticed by linguists but rarely interpreted as I interpret them here.

    In general, language is...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Forms of Speech Play in Context
    (pp. 26-69)

    Play languages, puns, jokes, put-ons, proverbs, riddles, and verbal dueling are extremely widespread in the world. They are often recognized, named, codified, and evaluated. While collections of these forms abound and can be found in libraries, bookstores, and on the internet, my approach to them is unique in several ways. In addition to describing their formal verbal properties and organization, I place them in both ethnographic and interactional contexts, examining their social and cultural roles in different societies, as well as their strategic use in face-to-face dialogues and conversations. I also focus on their relationship to one another and to...

  7. CHAPTER 4 From Speech Play to Verbal Art
    (pp. 70-122)

    This chapter further develops a view of language structure and language use as creative, adaptive, and emergent, in which grammar and the sociolinguistic situation provide potentials which are actualized and exploited in discourse, especially verbally playful and verbally artistic discourse. The boundaries between speech play and verbal art are hard to delimit and are cultural as well as linguistic. At the same time, there are certain verbal forms where the relationship between the two is particularly salient and where it is quite clear that forms of speech play constitute the building blocks of verbal art. These include most particularly the...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Contexts for Speech Play
    (pp. 123-156)

    There are many ways to conclude this exploration of speech play and verbal art. I have decided to do so by examining the contexts for speech play in locations from which I have drawn examples for this book: the United States, France, Latin America, Panama (among the Kuna), and Bali, Indonesia. BycontextI mean both the immediate and concrete situations and settings in which speech play occurs, including the social-interactional strategies involved, and the general assumptions and ideologies underlying the practice of speech play. Through an examination of these places and contexts, and the significance of speech play in...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 157-166)
  10. References
    (pp. 167-178)
  11. Credits
    (pp. 179-180)
  12. Index
    (pp. 181-186)