An exploration of phonological jokes in Maryam Apaokagi's selected comedy skits


phonological jokes
Distinctive Features Theory
Benign Violation Theory
Maryam Apaokagi

How to Cite

Okhuosi, R. E. (2023). An exploration of phonological jokes in Maryam Apaokagi’s selected comedy skits. The European Journal of Humour Research, 10(4), 38–56.


The majority of studies on Nigerian comedy are discourse- and pragmatics-related, despite the impact of phonology on humour creation as seminal studies have shown. These seminal studies describe phonological jokes to mean ambiguous utterances whose humour lies in their multiple phonological interpretations. However, comedy skits from Nigeria show that there are more dimensions to phonological jokes. Therefore, this study investigated the phonological jokes in comedy skits from Maryam Apaokagi, using Chomsky and Halle’s Distinctive Features and McGraw and Warren’s Benign Violation Theory. Twenty skits were purposively selected from the artist’s YouTube channel. Four strategies were identified in the data: minimal pairs, phonological restructuring, phonological ambiguity, and phonological extension. Four instances each of minimal pairs and phonological restructuring were identified; the former replaced phonemes in words, thus, changing their meanings, while the latter re-arranged phoneme sets and syllables to achieve new structures. There were two instances of phonological ambiguity where strings of sounds had multiple meanings; homophony was engaged to achieve rhythm and humour. Phonological extension had twenty-eight instances; it occurred when one character produced a syllable, and another extended it by providing a longer but partially similar word. Four types of phonological extensions were identified, and these were extension into regular words, popular names, concepts and other languages. The jokes portrayed socio-cultural and economic situations in Nigeria like poverty, promiscuity, high living costs, and burglary. Apaokagi used comedy to teach patience and tolerance. The comprehension of these jokes thrived on shared background knowledge between the artist and the audience.


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