The Dynamics of Wordplay

Scientific Network WI 3826/1-1 "The Dynamics of Wordplay: Language Contact, Linguistic Innovation, Speaker-Hearer-Interaction"

Our academic network has its main emphasis on Linguistics, with participation from Literary Studies, Cultural Studies, Media Studies, Comparative Literature, German Medieval Studies, Theater Studies, English, German and Romance Studies.

Direction: Prof. Dr. Esme Winter-Froemel

Wordplay can be considered as an important manifestation of linguistic dynamics: by establishing or recalling surprising, but at the same time motivated links between elements of the language and by inviting the hearer or reader to dwell on language itself, it expresses the speaker’s creativity as well as metalinguistic reflection.
Wordplay is determined by the structure of the (specific) language, but it also has the potential to cross the boundaries of language by means of linguistic innovation and – in the case of multilingual punning – through the blending of different languages, which may impact upon the structure of the language(s) involved.
It is our objective to analyze the dynamic tendencies that can be seen in wordplay from an interdisciplinary perspective. Language contact, linguistic innovation and creativity, and speaker-hearer interaction represent three central directions of our reflections. We particularly aim to highlight links between linguistics and literary studies; cultural and media studies’ perspectives are additionally taken into account. The analyses of wordplay in both everyday language and literary communication, in different epochs, communicative situations, genres, discourse traditions and contexts of use, reveal the wide range and importance of the phenomenon.


The network is funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.