Speech Prosody 2010

Chicago, IL, USA
May 10-14, 2010

“Minor Third, Who?”: The Intonation of the Knock-Knock Joke

Jeremy Day-O'Connell

Department of Music, Knox College, Galesburg, IL, USA

In an effort to examine the intonational phenomenon of stylized intonation, knock-knock jokes were collected and phonetically analyzed. Results showed intonation that varied considerably from subject to subject but which was nevertheless constrained in a way that supports a hitherto unexamined supposition among musicologists and linguists: that stylized intonation is defined by the musical interval of a minor third. Results showed a preference for intervals approximating a minor third, as well as an unexpected “boundary” role for the minor third itself, which is interpreted as a consequence of physiology.

Index terms: intonation; stylized fall; calling contour; music and language; minor third; jokes; knock-knock joke

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Day-O'Connell, Jeremy (2010): "“minor third, who?”: the intonation of the knock-knock joke", In SP-2010, paper 990.