Publication details [#57281]

Publication type
Article in book
Publication language
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins


In this paper conversational humor is understood as a discourse modality actively contextualized by speakers in order to indicate that an utterance is not meant seriously. The paper focuses on the contextualization cue (Gumperz 1982) of animated speech which is accounted for in terms of shifted footing (Goffman 1992), i.e. instances when speakers lend their voice to another character and stage utterances attributed to this character. Using the example of data from Russian face-to-face conversations, it is shown that animated speech plays a crucial role in establishing several forms of humor such as parody, irony or teasing. Staging an utterance, speakers humorously detach themselves from a rendered discourse and convey the meta-message ‘This is play’ while at the same time playing a role. It is therefore argued that animated speech can be regarded as a ‘natural’ contextualization cue, where the indexed meaning is iconically motivated.