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FYI: 3rd European Workshop: Humor Studies

Author: Delia Chiaro

Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis

FYI Body: 3rd European Workshop in Humour Studies:Humour, Language, Culture and Conversation (HLCC2005)

Date: 26-May-2005 - 28-May-2005
Location: Bertinoro (Bologna), Italy
Contact: Delia Chiaro
Contact Email:
Meeting URL:

Everyday conversation thrives on word play, irony, anecdotes and jokes. An account of joking will be a fundamental part of any complete description of conversation. At the same time, conversation is the natural home of punning, allusion and joking. We understand these forms of humor only if we can explain their integration into everyday talk and their functioning in it.

Humor influences the organization of conversation on all levels. Joking helps us negotiate greetings, fill uncomfortable silences and change topics without offending anyone-thus humor greases the gears of everyday talk and keeps our interactions working smoothly. Nevertheless, punning and joking may also disrupt the customary sequence and flow of turn-by-turn talk, and distract us from the normal business of conversation. Indeed, for some conversationalists, the play portion of any talk may remain quite high even
during business transactions.

Due either to an individual joking style of conversation or to a habit of joking with certain friends or colleagues, some speakers treat much of their talk as an ongoing competition to out-joke the other participants or at least a certain group of them. Humor has often been associated with aggression, but in everyday conversational interaction we often find humor in the role of the peace-maker.

Conversational joking allows us to test for common ground and create rapport in an indirect and entertaining fashion. In poking fun at undesirable behavior patterns of outsiders and lapses among insiders, mocking and sarcasm serve as a control on in-group behavior. Indeed, joking works to circumscribe language behavior in particular, helping
conversationalists evolve a common code and enforcing a way of speaking for the particular interaction, for the group and, ultimately, for the linguistic community at large.

Jokes and personal anecdotes are important narrative resources for conversational humor. The internal structures of jokes and funny stories bear considerable interest in themselves, but we must not forget the contextual aspects of the joke telling performance, listener response, heckling, by-play, and competitive joke telling sessions. Jokes develop
cohesively out of serious topical talk or word play; they segue back into serious talk about the content, quality or performance of the joke itself-or they suggest further jokes of similar or different types and on related or unrelated topics. Effective joke telling requires a careful choice of material, accommodation to the audience, and a range of
performance strategies, all describable in structural and sociolinguistic terms.

On line application form:
Enrollment by end of April 2005

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