Children’s humour development: A linguistic perspective


  • Giulia Baker Freelance researcher & Teacher
  • Michelle Aldridge Cardiff University


By applying findings from an investigation into English-speaking children’s ability to comprehend verbal riddles, this paper advances an established model of children’s humour development by expanding stage 5 to include four sub-stages: (a) lexical and phonological ambiguities; (b) morphological ambiguities; (c) syntactic ambiguities and (d) idiomatic ambiguities. Sixty children equally divided from three British school Year Groups: Year 2 (aged 6-7), Year 4 (8-9) and Year 6 (10-11) participated. Their understanding of riddles was measured (a) receptively through a multiple-choice task in which they were required to identify an ambiguous punchline and (b) productively through a verbal explanation task in which they were required to explain their understanding of a riddle containing an ambiguous word/phrase. Responses were analyzed using a linguistically based classification system and explanations are offered as to why some ambiguity types are easier/harder for young children to comprehend.



How to Cite

Baker, G. ., & Aldridge, M. (2022). Children’s humour development: A linguistic perspective. Journal of Child Language Acquisition and Development-JCLAD, 572–600. Retrieved from



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