Wordplay and Metalinguistic Reflection – New Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
International Conference
7-8 March 2013

Organised by:

Dr. Esme Winter-Froemel (Romance Linguistics, University of Tübingen / Linguistique des langues romanes, Université de Tübingen)

Dr. Angelika Zirker (English Literary Studies, University of Tübingen / Littérature anglaise, Université de Tübingen)

Call for Papers


Wordplay is a specific case of language use that can be found both in everyday communication and in literary texts. It can fulfil a range of functions: it can be entertaining and comical, it can conceal taboo (in double entendre, for instance), and in literary texts it also influences and supports figural characterisation. On yet another level, however, in these contexts of usage, wordplay also serves as a means to reflect on language and communication. Wordplay thus reveals surprising alternative readings – e.g., Two hunters meet. Both dead. / Tout auteur dramatique est responsable de ses actes. – and emphasises the phonetic similarity of linguistic signs that also points towards relations on the level of content (e.g. Don’t just book it. Thomas Cook it. / Knorr, j’adore). In this way, wordplay reflects on language itself; it is therefore one means of displaying linguistic awareness.

The metalinguistic reflection of wordplay is hence directed both at the recipient and, simultaneously, expresses this kind of reflection on the speaker’s side. The production of unexpected relations between linguistic units often has a comical effect and can be read as a sign of wit, e.g. in advertisements. In literary texts wordplay furthermore illustrates double communication – within the text but also between author and recipient – and does so more effectively than many other stylistic devices in that it breaks through mimesis and becomes auto-referential. Because of its artistic character and its function of metalinguistic reflection, wordplay is a genuine interface phenomenon that reveals characteristics of literary language in everyday communication and that also opens up the possibility to analyse literary texts from a linguistic perspective.

Based on these reflections and an interdisciplinary project on wordplay that combines linguistics and literary studies, this conference aims at the study of wordplay from an interdisciplinary perspective that involves linguistics, literary studies, rhetoric and media studies in different languages, philologies and contexts.

We would like to look at wordplay in everyday communication and in aesthetic / literary texts. Fields of research may include:

  • wordplay and metalinguistic reflection
  • a systematic approach to wordplay, its forms and functions
  • roles of wordplay in different genres
  • wordplay in various periods
  • wordplay in the works of specific authors
  • wordplay and translation
  • multilingual wordplay
  • multimedial wordplay

Papers will be 25 minutes plus 25 minutes discussion and are to be presented in English or French.

The conference will be preceded by a workshop on Wednesday afternoon, involving both students and academics (in German). Participants of the conference are invited to join the workshop as well. Throughout the workshop and the conference, participants from practical contexts of wordplay, i.e. comedians, authors, etc. will present their work and be interviewed.

We plan to publish selected papers presented at the workshop and at the conference with an international publisher.

Please send an abstract of 250 to 300 words in English or French to esme.winter-froemel@uni-tuebingen.de and angelika.zirker@uni-tuebingen.de by April 30, 2012.

Important Dates

  • 30 April 2012: Submission deadline for abstracts
  • 31 May 2012: Notification of acceptance
  • 6 March 2013: Workshop
  • 7-8 March 2013: Conference
  • 31 October 2013: Submission deadline for full papers

Review Committee

Heidi Aschenberg (Universität Tübingen), Matthias Bauer (Universität Tübingen), Hans-Martin Gauger (Universität Freiburg), Johannes Kabatek (Universität Tübingen), Peter Koch (Universität Tübingen), Burkhard Niederhoff (Universität Bochum), Margit Peterfy (Universität Mainz), Britta Stolterfoht (Universität Tübingen), Richard Waltereit (University of Newcastle upon Tyne)