The sequential organisation of humour interactions in ELF workplaces

31 May 2024
Room D1

The sequential organisation of humour interactions in ELF workplaces

Research into conversational humour has found that it is a significant strategy for fostering relationships and challenging power between colleagues in the workplace, but to date, only a limited body of studies have investigated the sequential development of conversational humour (e.g., Cheng, 2003; Haugh & Weinglass, 2018). Furthermore, there has so far been little research into the sequential analysis of conversational humour in English as a lingua franca context (e.g., Matsumoto, 2014). ELF offers a great context to investigate how conversational humour is shaped. Conversational humour is a dynamic, interactive activity that is continually being constructed as the interaction progresses. Conversational humour in Asian ELF interactions frequently occurs in response to a stimulus (Walkinshaw, 2016). To address this gap, this study attempts to describe a conversational humour sequence, designed to evoke a response characterised by the amusement or the appraisal that something is laughable from colleagues in the context of ELF workplace interactions. Preliminary results indicated the occurrence of jocular criticisms, jocular complaints, jocular fantasising, and mock requests. This study investigates, thus, how conversational humour sequences are co-constructed and sequentially organised in ELF workplace interactions using the framework of interactional pragmatics. The dataset for this empirical study is approximately 10 hours of audio recordings of face-to-face encounters between colleagues retrieved from the ACE corpus (ACE, 2020). An instance of conversational humour was identified based on three criteria: presence of incongruity in the text, metalinguistic comments made by the speakers regarding non-serious intention, and/or markers indexing enjoyment of the humour or expression of non-seriousness. Through careful sequential analysis, a conversational humour sequence consists of the sequence of a tripartite structure with four alternative actions in the third position: (1) an opportunity to a humorous social action, (2) the humorous social action, and then (3) reciprocation, elaboration, going along, and no attention.



ACE. (2020). The Asian Corpus of English. Director: Andy Kirkpatrick; Researchers: Wang Lixun, John Patkin, Sophiann Subhan. (14 November 2023).

Cheng, W. (2003). Humor in intercultural conversations. Semiotica, 146, 287 – 306.

Haugh, M. & Weinglass, L. (2018). Divided by a common language? Jocular quips and (non-) affiliative responses in initial interactions among American and Australian speakers of English. Intercultural Pragmatics, 15(4), 533 – 562.

Matsumoto, Y. (2014). Collaborative co-construction of humorous interaction among ELF speakers. Journal of English as a Lingua Franca, 3(1), 81 – 107.

Walkinshaw, I. (2016). Teasing in informal contexts in English as an Asian lingua franca. Journal of English as a Lingua Franca, 5(2), 249 – 271.