FIGURE-GROUND DUALITY IN HUMOUR: A MULTI-MODAL PERSPECTIVE
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Creativity with words or pictures is not simply a matter of communicating a message, but of communicating it 'well', in a way that is effective, original and which defies convention. Effectiveness here pertains to the pragmatic goals of the communicator, and the extent to which these are achieved, while originality pertains to the manner in which the message is framed. Language, for instance, provides a wealth of conventions for framing a message; indeed, the vast part of language is a solidified body of culturally received conventions, which fix the meaning of words and phrases and determine the contextual appropriateness of specific terms, topics and conversational strategies. To frame a message in a novel manner that stretches or even subverts these conventions, a communicator must imbue the elements of communication - whether words, gestures or pictorial elements - with additional meanings. This duality of meaning is not arbitrary, however, or communication cannot succeed. Rather, a creative communicator must draw out secondary meanings that are already implicit in the stock elements of communication, in a way that the audience can understand, appreciate and replicate. Duality thus lies at the heart of creative communication, allowing a communicator to say one thing and simultaneously convey another, secondary message that may augment or subvert the overt content of the communication. This mechanism, which draws out and gives prominence to that which is normally unseen or implicit, is 'Figure-Ground Reversal'.
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