Debra Aarons

Senior Lecturer

Debra Aarons currently specialises in the linguistic analysis of humour, focusing on the formal grammatical properties, as well as the pragmatics, of humour. She is interested in what jokes can reveal about our tacit knowledge of language, and how play with language taps into that knowledge. In the past she has conducted research in signed language linguistics, from syntactic and sociolinguistic perspectives. Her most recent work includes an examination into cryptic crosswords, referential peculiarity in humorous utterances, and language play in signed languages.


Aarons D, 2012, Jokes and the Linguistic Mind, Routledge, New York/UK,
Book Chapters
Aarons D; Mierowsky M, 2019, 'Obscenity, Dirtiness and Licence in Jewish Comedy', in Wilkie I (ed.), The Routledge Comedy Studies Reader, Routledge, London,
Aarons D, 2017, 'Puns and Tacit Linguistic Knowledge', in Attardo S (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of the Linguistics of Humor, Routledge, London, pp. 80 - 94,
Aarons D; Aarons D; Reynolds, L , 2003, 'South African SIgn Language: Changing Policies and Practice', in Monaghan L; Turner G; Nakamura K; Schmaling C (ed.), Many Ways to be Deaf, Gallaudet University Press, pp. 194 - 210
Aarons D; Aarons D; Akach P, 2002, 'South African Sign Language--one or many?', in Mesthrie R (ed.), Language in South Africa, Cambridge University Press, pp. 127 - 147
Aarons D; Neidle C; Kegl J; Bahan B, 1997, 'Rightward wh-movement in American Sign Language', in Beerman D; LeBlanc D; Riemsdijk HC V (ed.), Rightward Movement, John Benjamins Publishing, pp. 247 - 278
Aarons D; Aarons, Bahan, Kegl, Neidle , 1995, 'Lexical Tense Markers in American Sign Language', in Emmorey K; Reilly JS (ed.), Language, Gesture, and Space, Psychology Press
Aarons D; Aarons D; Bahan B; Kegl J; Neidle C, 1994, 'Subjects and Agreement in American Sign Language', in Ahlgren I; Bergman B; Brennan M; Ahlgren I; Bergman B; Brennan M (ed.), Perspectives on Sign Language Structure, ISLA, pp. 13 - 28
Journal articles
Aarons D; MIEROWSKY M, 2021, 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: an alternative history of standup.', Comedy Studies, vol. 12
Aarons D; Mierowsky M, 2017, 'How to do things with jokes: Speech acts in standup comedy', European Journal of Humour Research, vol. 5, pp. 158 - 168,
Aarons D; Mierowsky M, 2017, 'Public conscience of ‘the chosen people’: Sarah Silverman in the Wake of Lenny Bruce', Comedy Studies, vol. 8, pp. 154 - 166,
Aarons DL, 2015, 'Following Orders: Playing Fast and Loose with Language and Letters', Australian Journal of Linguistics, vol. 35, pp. 351 - 380,
Aarons D; Mierowsky M, 2014, 'Obscenity, dirtiness and licence in Jewish comedy', Comedy Studies, vol. 5, pp. 165 - 177,
Aarons D, 2006, 'Language development and learning to read: the scientific study of how language development affects reading skills', Educational Review, vol. 58, pp. 499 - 501,
Aarons D; Morgan RZ, 2003, 'Classifier Predicates and the Creation of Multiple Perspectives in South African Sign Language', Sign Language Studies, vol. 3, pp. 125 - 156,
Aarons D; Aarons D; Akach P, 2002, 'Inclusion and the deaf child in South African education', Perspectives in Education : Many Languages in Education : Special Issue 1, vol. 20, pp. 153 - 170
Aarons D; Bahan B; Kegl J; Neidle C, 1992, 'Clausal Structure and a Tier for Grammatical Marking in American Sign Language', Nordic Journal of Linguistics, vol. 15, pp. 103 - 142,
Aarons D; Lawrence P, 2007, Unrepresented Accused and the Language of the Magistrates' Court, Centre for Law and Society, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Theses / Dissertations
Aarons D; Aarons D, 1994, Aspects of American Sign Language Syntax, Boston University