Metalinguistic activity, humor and social competence in classroom discourse

David Poveda

Abstract

This paper examines the role that humor plays during an episode of classroom interaction. Using concepts derived from the ethnography of communication and interactional sociolinguistics, it analyzes activity during a metalinguistic event in a kindergarten classroom and argues that verbal humor, in itself a form of metalinguistic activity, plays a crucial role in the modulation of children’s face demands. The analysis also shows how humor is the result of the shared history of participants. The findings highlight the importance of considering emergent and improvised goals during classroom discourse that go beyond the prescribed curriculum.

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