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N°17 – Humor, creativity and lexical creation

Deadline for sending in final version of papers: 1st January 2021

The e-journal Lexis is planning to publish its 17th issue devoted to “Humor, creativity and lexical creation” in 2021.

Co-editors: Lucile Bordet (University of Lyon (Jean Moulin Lyon 3)) & Frédérique Brisset (University of Lille).

Humor, creativity and lexical creation

One of the main problems when defining humor lies in the difficulty in drawing its limits, which explains why many researchers define it by default. It will be apprehended here in its wider acceptation, including for instance comedy, irony, satire, parody, sarcasm, to name but a few (see bibliography). For the purpose of the present issue, we expect it be treated via the paradigm of lexical creation meant as a tool to provoke laughter. Indeed, humorists enjoy playing on words, but also playing with words, which implies a taste for lexical creativity, whether willingly or not, as stated by Freud in his famous essay. The former class of wordplay encompasses all figures and tropes devised to manipulate lexemes and syntagms, as reminders of a subtext operating in absentia or in praesentia, sometimes even involuntarily (e.g. spoonerisms or liaison errors), or accidentally (e.g. lapsus linguae).

How are such effects achieved with the lexicon? Derivation, or compounding and blending mechanisms, phoneme or letter inversion processes, paronymic neologisms and so many other lexicogenic operations show the great creativity of their producers, but they also obey lexical and morphological rules: without following these rules, they wouldn’t work, be efficient and / or understood by their addressees.

Consequently, slang is another field where lexical creativity can give rise to humor: such cryptic jargons are sometimes based on very rigid constraints (see verlan, ‘javanese’ and louchebem cants in French, or rhyming slang in English); they may also play on metonymy, borrowing, truncation or acronym, and so on. In the field of fiction, such processes can even be chosen to characterise protagonists, whose humorous speeches thus become a recognisable trait, prone to imitation (as shown in the many analyses of the Slayer Slang in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for instance, or in those dealing with the argot spoken by the characters of the Série Noire novels).

It is via this two-fold approach that humor, creativity and lexical creations will be dealt with in the 17th issue of Lexis. Other approaches will also be considered.

We welcome contributions dealing with the following themes involved in the construction of humor through the use of various word-formation processes:

  • Are some word-formation processes preferred channels of humor? How is humor conveyed knowing that all lexical creations do not always convey humor?;

  • The rules underlying lexical creation, the part played by creativity in lexical creation;

  • Puns, plays on words, spoonerisms, rhyming slang, tongue twisters, etc.;

  • Can humorous lexical creation lexicalise and become part of language like other non-humorous lexical creations? If so, under which circumstances / according to which criteria?;

  • Humor and surnames, notably the creativity at work in the creation of nicknames;

  • Intensifying devices as vehicles of humor;

  • Lexical creation / creativity and insults / verbal abuse;

  • Contrastive approaches (English & French – or another language), in particular in translations requiring creativity / lexical creation;

  • The different semantic domains likely to resort to humorous lexical creation (literature, surnames, medicine & health, journalism, music, politics, philosophy, religion, rhetoric, etc. (see Nilsen & Nilsen [2019]).

Other issues may also be addressed and all propositions will be examined. Analyses may rely on various domains of linguistics, such as semantics, phonology, lexicography, morphology, stylistics, etc. All theoretical frameworks are welcome.

Possible corpora: literature, conversation, adverts, rap music (and more generally songs), theatre, stand-up comedy, skits, cinema, TV series, press, comics, etc.

How to submit

Please clearly indicate the title of the paper and include an abstract of no more than 5,000 characters as well as a list of relevant keywords and references. All abstract and paper submissions will be anonymously peer-reviewed (double-blind peer reviewing) by an international scientific committee composed of specialists in their fields. Papers will be written preferably in English or occasionally in French.

Manuscripts may be rejected, accepted subject to revision, or accepted as such. There is no limit to the number of pages.

Abstracts and articles will be sent via email to


October 2020: call for papers

15 June 2020: Deadline for sending in abstracts to Lexis

July-August 2020: Evaluation Committee’s decisions notified to authors

15 November 2020: deadline for sending in papers (Guidelines for submitting articles:

November and December 2020: proofreading of papers by the Evaluation committee

January 2021: authors’ corrections

1st February 2021: deadline for sending in final versions of papers


Aarons Debra, 2012, Jokes and the Linguistic Mind, New York / Abingdon, Routledge.

Antoine Fabrice, 1999, « Verlan français, backslang anglais, etc. », Cahiers de lexicologie, n°74-1, Paris, Garnier, 171-183.

Antoine Fabrice, 2014, « Argots, métaphore et « effet de loupe » », Lexis, n°8 :

Arcand Richard, 2017, Jeux de mots et création verbale. Fonctionnements et illustrations, Paris, Armand Colin.

Attardo Salvatore, 1993, Linguistic Theories of Humor, New York, Mouton De Gruyter.

Attardo Salvatore, 2014, Encyclopedia of Humor Studies, Thousand Oaks, Sage Publication.

Baudelaire Charles, 1855, « De l’essence du rire », in Curiosités esthétiques, Paris, Conard, 1923, 359-387 :

Benayoun Robert, 1984, Les dingues du nonsense, de Lewis Carroll à Woody Allen, Paris, Balland.

Bergson Henri, 1940, Le rire, essai sur la signification du comique, Paris, PUF.

Brisset Frédérique et al. (eds.), 2019, Du jeu dans la langue, traduire le jeu de mots, Villeneuve d’Ascq, Presses Universitaires du Septentrion.

Chiaro Delia, 1992, The Language of Jokes, Analysing Verbal Play, London / New York, Routledge.

Dupriez Bernard, 1984, Gradus, les procédés littéraires, Paris, 10/18.

Freud Sigmund, 1940, Le mot d’esprit et son rapport avec l’inconscient, Paris, PUF.

Henry Jacqueline, 2003, La traduction des jeux de mots, Paris, Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle.

Jankélévitch Vladimir, 1964, L’ironie, Paris, Flammarion.

Jeannerod Dominique, 2014, « Cockney, pseudo-slang et argot de série noire », Argotica 1, n°3, 129-150 :

Jobert Manuel, 2009, « Graphie, phonie et encodage dialectal : le Cockney de Somerset Maugham dans Liza of Lambeth », Lexis, HS n°1 :

Ladjadj Hélène & De Pizzol Vanessa (eds.), 2015, Intraduisible ? Vous voulez rire !, Traduire, n°232 :

Le Breton Albert, 1997, Argotez, argotez, dictionnaire réactualisé, Paris, Vertiges-Carrère.

Leca-Mercier Florence & Paillet Anne-Marie (eds.), 2018, Le sens de l’humour, style, genres, contextes, Paris, L’Harmattan.

Morice Philippe, 2012, « ‘Commerce de singe’ et Signifying Monkey », in Paquet-Deyris A.-M. & Sipière D. (eds.), Le cinéma parle ! Études sur le verbe et la voix dans le cinéma anglophone, Ciclaho, n°6, 309-325.

Munat Judith, 2007, “Lexical creativity as a marker of style in science fiction and children literature”, in Munat Judith (ed.), Lexical Creativity, Texts and Contexts, Amsterdam / Philadelphia, John Benjamins, 163-188.

Nilsen Alleen Pace & Nilsen Don L. F., 2019, The Language of Humor. An Introduction, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Noonan Will (ed.), 2015, Humour : les mots et les choses, Humoresques n°41.

Normand Philippe, 2014, Langue de keufs sauce piquante, Paris, Cherche midi.

Ornstein-Galicia Jacob L., 1989, “Linguistic patterns and devices in American Jewish humorous discourse”, Meta, n°34, 1, 125-127:

Raynaud Jean, 1977, « Des mécanismes du jeu de mots », Revue Française d’Études Américaines, n°4, 21-30.

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