Inference and Schema Resolution

A Relevance Theoretic Study of Humour in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy


  • Zohra Fatima Department of English, Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi
  • Sarwet Rasul Department of English, Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi


Schema disruption, humour, relevance theory, inference


By adopting a relevance theoretic framework of inferential communication, this paper aims to highlight the role of inference in schema resolution in literary humour. Schema disruption is a cognitive tool used by writers to elicit humour that works by subverting the existing notions associated with objects, people, and entities. This process partakes a false causation mechanism that includes association of novel qualities and concepts to pre-existing schemata – known as schema disruption. Apart from disrupting existing notions, in some instances the writers of literary humour present entirely opposing concepts in relation to particular phenomenathus presenting opposing schemata. In this study we have analysed instances from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series to explicate the process of schema resolution on the part of readers; which plays a crucial part in understanding or getting humour. We argue that the writer creates cognitive dissonance by incorporating disrupted schemata in the text and in order to recognize and resolve this disruption and in some cases opposition, readers draw on false causality that leads them to arrive at the intended humourous interpretation of particular instances in the text and the novel in general.