Childlore discussed in the framework of linguistic humour theory

A literary tradition based on oral sayings

The article discusses the funny statements sent in to the all-Estonian contest (October 2010 – January 2011) of collecting kindergarten lore. The resulting corpus of child jokes or child humour is analysed from folkloristic and humour theoretical aspects.

The main focus is on child jokes observed in kindergarten, and the teacher’s perspective. In many kindergarten groups the teachers have started a tradition of noting down the children’s cool and witty statements on a running basis. Sometimes, opportunity permitting and good will not far away, such notes have been collected and published as group tradition to be enjoyed by everyone involved as long as they care to remember. The records analysed fall into two categories – (1) texts born occasionally in the course of everyday activities and interaction, and (2) texts produced in response to the teacher’s deliberate questions and expectations (possibly the teacher’s records of a discussion on a given topic, such as happiness, for example). Note that at the point of recording the statements look funny to adults, and thus their analysis should be based on an interdisciplinary approach. In the present article child jokes are mainly placed in the focus of linguistic humour theories. The key questions are (1) What kind of statements have been perceived as funny enough to be taken down by the teachers? (2) What is the humour theoretical (mainly linguistic) basis of the jokes? (3) What universal regularities should be placed at the foundation of a viable system of child jokes?