Laughter: Its Basic Nature and Its Background of Equivocal Impression

  • Yutaka Tani
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 5447)


When we look at laughters uttered in conversation, we can easily realize that the traditional incongruity theory has not a general validity. Moreover, laughter is often uttered in a situation where there is no playful tone. Analyzing not only speakers’ but also recipients’ laughter, I will point out that any laugher laughs when he is not what he is presenting or has presented as self x and is leaking a minimum hint for the others to negatively qualify his ongoing self in such a manner, i.e. he is non (x). Therefore I would define laughter as a collaborative metacommunication to avoid mutual misunderstandg about the participation stance of self. Nevertheless the message \(\textless\)now he is not x\(\textgreater\) does not specify \(\textless\)what he is now\(\textgreater\). The equivocality of laughter derives from the basic nature of its message, the surrounding context and the availability of relevant informations.


Basic Nature Shocking Experience Playful Interaction Playful Situation Double Meaning 
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    Milner, G.B.: Homo Ridens: Towards a semiotic theory of humour and laughter. Semiotica 5(1), 1–30 (1972)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Bateson, G.: A theory of play and fantasy. In: Step to an Ecology of Mind, pp. 177–193. Ballantine Books (1972)Google Scholar
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    Goffman, E.: Forms of Talk, pp. 70–71. University of Pennsylvania Press (1981)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yutaka Tani
    • 1
  1. 1.Professor EmeritusKyoto UniversityJapan

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