When do we laugh?

Abstract : Studies on laughter in dialogue have proposed resolving what laughter is about by looking at what laughter follows or is adjacent to, even though this assumption has not been tested. Our paper investigates the sequential relation between the laughter and the laughable. We propose a semantic/pragmatic account in which laughter is treated as a gestural event anaphor referring to a laughable. The laughable is a described , metalinguistic or exophoric event which, upon appraisal, triggers a positive psychological shift in the laugher. We analysed a natural dialogue corpus of French and Chinese, and found that the time alignment between laughter and laughable is rather free. Only 30% of laugh-ters immediately follow the laughable. Laughter can occur (long) before, during, or (long) after the laughable; laughter overlapping with speech may not be about the co-occurring speech. Our results falsifies the assumption that what laughter follows is what it is about, and thus questions claims which rely on this assumption.
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Ye Tian, Chiara Mazzocchoni, Jonathan Ginzburg. When do we laugh?. 17th Annual Meeting of the Special Interest Group on Discourse and Dialogue, Sep 2016, Los Angeles, United States. ⟨hal-01371157⟩

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