Conversational humour in initial interactions in Japanese

31 May 2024
Room D1

Conversational humour in initial interactions in Japanese

Conversational humour is claimed to be a useful skill in social interactions, which may be deployed in accomplishing various social actions. Previous research has shown that the use of conversational humour is influenced by the interactional settings, the interpersonal relationships between the interactants, as well as the underlying cultural tendencies (Dynel & Sinkeviciute, 2021). While an increasing number of researchers have identified its significant roles in initial interactions between interactants who are previously unacquainted, this body of research has predominantly focused on English speaking contexts (e.g. Haugh, 2011). Moreover, scarce attention has been paid to the use of conversational humour in initial interactional settings in Japanese contexts, due to the common assumption about humour being a restricted activity that is only employed between interactants with close relationships. To fill this gap, this study examines the use of conversational humour in initial interactions between previously unacquainted Japanese interactants. The dataset of 20 face-to-face initial interactions (6.5 hours of audio-recordings) was retrieved from BTSJ – Japanese Natural Conversation Corpus with Transcripts and Recordings (Usami, 2022). Candidate humour episodes were analysed using the framework of interactional pragmatics, focusing on the design and response features, as well as the overall trajectory of each episode. The preliminary results indicated the prevalence of various types of conversational humour in Japanese initial interactions, undermining the common assumption about humour being a restricted activity in Japanese contexts. While Japanese initial interactants are claimed to have a tendency of maintaining the boundary (Miyake, 1994), interactants in the current study deployed conversational humour in achieving various interactional goals and developing relational connections.



Dynel, M., & Sinkeviciute, V. (2021). Approaching conversational humour culturally: A survey of the emerging area of investigation. Language & Communication, 55, 1–9.

Haugh, M. (2011). Humour, face and im/politeness in getting acquainted. In B. L. Davies, M. Haugh & A. J. Merrison (Eds.), Situated politeness (pp. 165–184). Continuum.

Miyake, K. (1994). Nihonjin no gengo kōdō patān: uchi, soto, yoso ishiki [Patterns of Japanese linguistic behaviour: uchi, soto and yoso as a conceptual framework]. Tsukuba daigaku ryūgakusei sentā nihongo kyōiku ronshū, 9, 29–39.

Usami, M. (2022). BTSJ-Japanese natural conversation corpus with transcripts and recordings, NINJAL institute-based projects: Multiple approaches to analysing the communication of Japanese language learners.