Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton June 27, 2019

The use of humor in Spanish and English compliment responses: A cross-cultural analysis

Montserrat Mir

Montserrat Mir is Professor of Spanish and applied linguistics and the Language Coordinator at Illinois State University (United States). Her area of research and publication includes Spanish L1/L2 pragmatics and language teaching and learning. Email: montserratmir@ilstu.edu

EMAIL logo
and Josep Maria Cots

Josep Maria Cots is Professor of English and applied linguistics at the University of Lleida (Catalonia, Spain). In his research, he adopts a discourse-analytic perspective to study multilingualism and interculturality as individual and social/institutional processes. Email: jmcots@dal.udl.cat

From the journal HUMOR

Abstract

Compliments and compliment responses (CRs) are face threatening acts which may jeopardize the interlocutor’s positive and negative face. Compliment responses are especially challenging because of the need to balance accepting the compliment with saving face for not sounding arrogant. The use of humor in responding to a compliment can serve as a mitigating factor to respond to a compliment gracefully but with amusement to balance out the loss of face. The present study seeks to analyze humorous CRs in Spanish and English in order to establish cross-cultural comparisons. The results suggest some distinct cultural tendencies. American English speakers prefer self-denigrating humor whereas Peninsular Spanish use teasing and ironic upgrades. Spanish speakers also rely on a wider variety of linguistic resources to add humor to their CRs. Both language groups use humor as a tool to save face. Teasing among Peninsular Spanish is used to strengthen familiarity and closeness ties between interlocutors, a trait often associated with the positive politeness nature of Spanish culture. Self-denigrating humor in English CRs is described as ambiguous from a politeness perspective because it can preserve negative face by directing the humor to the speaker or it may be interpreted as an imposition to reiterate the compliment.

About the authors

Montserrat Mir

Montserrat Mir is Professor of Spanish and applied linguistics and the Language Coordinator at Illinois State University (United States). Her area of research and publication includes Spanish L1/L2 pragmatics and language teaching and learning. Email: montserratmir@ilstu.edu

Josep Maria Cots

Josep Maria Cots is Professor of English and applied linguistics at the University of Lleida (Catalonia, Spain). In his research, he adopts a discourse-analytic perspective to study multilingualism and interculturality as individual and social/institutional processes. Email: jmcots@dal.udl.cat

References

Alba-Juez, Laura. 1995. Irony and the other off-record strategies within politeness theory. Miscelánea. A Journal of English and American Studies 16. 13–23.Search in Google Scholar

Alba-Juez, Laura. 2000. Some discourse strategies used to convey praise and/or positive feelings in Spanish everyday conversation. In Héctor Campos, Elena Herburger, Alfonso Morales-Front & Thomas J. Walsh (eds.), Hispanics linguistics and the turn of the millennium. Papers from the 3rd Hispanics linguistics symposium, 364–380. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.Search in Google Scholar

Alba-Juez, Laura. 2014. Irony as inferred contradiction. Russian Journal of Linguistics 4. 140–153.Search in Google Scholar

Alba-Juez, Laura. 2016. The variables of the evaluative functional relationship: The case of humorous discourse. In Leonor Ruiz Gurillo (ed.), Metapragmatics of humor: Current research trends, 11–34. Amsterdam: John Benjamin.10.1075/ivitra.14.02jueSearch in Google Scholar

Alba-Juez, Laura & Salvatore Attardo. 2014. The evaluative palette of verbal irony. In Geoff Thompson & Laura Alba-Juez (eds.), Evaluation in context, 93–115. Amsterdan, Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing Company.10.1075/pbns.242.05albSearch in Google Scholar

Ardila, John A. G. 2005. Sociopragmática y retórica interpersonal. La cortesía en inglés y castellano. Lewinston Queenston Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press.Search in Google Scholar

Attardo, Salvatore. 2000. Irony as relevant inappropriateness. Journal of Pragmatics 32. 793–826.10.1016/S0378-2166(99)00070-3Search in Google Scholar

Berger, Arthur. 1976. Anatomy of the joke. Journal of Communication 26. 113–115.10.1111/j.1460-2466.1976.tb01913.xSearch in Google Scholar

Boxer, Diana & Florencia Cortés-Conde. 1997. From bonding to biting: Conversational joking and identity display. Journal of Pragmatics 27. 275–294.10.1016/S0378-2166(96)00031-8Search in Google Scholar

Bravo, Diana. 1999. ¿Imagen positive versus imagen negativa?: Pragmática social y componentes del face. Oralia 2. 155–184.Search in Google Scholar

Bravo, Diana. 2008. The implications of studying politeness in Spanish-speaking context: A discussion. Pragmatics 18(4). 577–603.10.1075/prag.18.4.02braSearch in Google Scholar

Brown, Penelope & Stephenson Levinson. 1978. Universals in language usage: Politeness phenomena. In Esther N. Goody (ed.), Questions and politeness: Strategies in social interaction, 56–289. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Brown, Penelope & Stephenson Levinson. 1987. Politeness: Some universals in language use. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511813085Search in Google Scholar

Butler, Clay. 2007. From bite to nip: The dialogic construction of teases. Texas Linguistic Forum 50. 22–34.Search in Google Scholar

Duncan, W. Jack & J. Philip Feisal. 1989. No laughing matter: Patterns of humor in the workplace. Organizational Dynamics 17(4). 18–30.10.1016/S0090-2616(89)80024-5Search in Google Scholar

Dynel, Marta. 2008. No aggression. Only Teasing: The Pragmatics of Teasing and Banter.” Lodz Papers in Pragmatics 4(2). 241–261.10.2478/v10016-008-0001-7Search in Google Scholar

Dynel, Marta. 2009. Beyond a joke: Types of conversational humor. Language and Linguistics Compass 3(5). 1284–1299.10.1111/j.1749-818X.2009.00152.xSearch in Google Scholar

Garcia, Barros & María Jesús. 2011. La cortesía valorizadora en la conversación coloquial española: Estudio pragmalingüístico. PhD. Dissertation. Spain: Universidad de Granada.Search in Google Scholar

Goddard, Cliff. 2006. Lift your game, Martina!– Deadpan jocular irony and the ethnopragmatics of Australian English. In Cliff Goddard (ed.), Ethnopragmatics: Understanding discourse in cultural context, 65–97. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.10.1515/9783110911114.65Search in Google Scholar

Goddard, Cliff. 2009. Not taking yourself too seriously in Australian English: Semantic explications, cultural scripts, corpus evidence. Intercultural Pragmatics 6. 29–53.10.1515/IPRG.2009.002Search in Google Scholar

Grice, H. Paul. 1975. Logic and conversation. In P. Cole & James Morgan (eds.), Syntax and semantics 3: Speech acts, 41–58. New York: Academic Press.10.1163/9789004368811_003Search in Google Scholar

Haugh, Michael. 2010. Jocular mockery, (dis)affiliation and face. Journal of Pragmatics 42. 2106–2119.10.1016/j.pragma.2009.12.018Search in Google Scholar

Haugh, Michael. 2011. Humour, face and im/politeness in getting acquainted. In Bethan Davies, Michael Haugh & Andrew John Merrison (eds.), Situated politeness, 165–184. London: Continuum.Search in Google Scholar

Haugh, Michael & Derek Bousfield. 2012. Mock impoliteness, jocular mockery and jocular abuse in Australian and British English. Journal of Pragmatics 44. 1099–1114.10.1016/j.pragma.2012.02.003Search in Google Scholar

Haverkate, Henk. 2004. El análisis de la cortesía comunicativa, categorización pragmalingüística de la cultura española. In Diana Bravo & Antonio Briz (eds.), Pragmática sociocultural: Estudios sobre el discurso de cortesía español, 55–66. Barcelona: Ariel.Search in Google Scholar

Hay, Jennifer. 2001. The pragmatics of humor support. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 14(1). 55–82.10.1515/humr.14.1.55Search in Google Scholar

Hernández-Flores, Nieves. 1999. Politeness ideology in Spanish colloquial conversation: The case of advice. Pragmatics 9(1). 37–49.10.1075/prag.9.1.04herSearch in Google Scholar

Hickey, Leo. 1991. Comparatively polite people in Spain and Britain. Association for Contemporary Iberian Studies 4(2). 2–7.Search in Google Scholar

Holmes, Janet. 2000. Politeness, power, and provocation: How humour functions in the workplace. Discourse Studies 2(2). 159–185.10.1177/1461445600002002002Search in Google Scholar

Holmes, Janet. 2006. Sharing a laugh: Pragmatic aspects of humour and gender in the workplace. Journal of Pragmatics 38. 26–50.10.1016/j.pragma.2005.06.007Search in Google Scholar

Holmes, Janet & Jennifer Hay. 1997. Humor as an ethnic boundary marker in New Zealand. Journal of Intercultural Studies 18(2). 127–151.10.1080/07256868.1997.9963447Search in Google Scholar

Keltner, Dacher, Ann M. Lisa Capps, Randall C. Young Kring & Erin. A. Heerey. 2001. Just teasing: A conceptual analysis and empirical review. Psychological Review 127(2). 229–248.10.1037/0033-2909.127.2.229Search in Google Scholar

Kotthoff, Helga. 1996. Impoliteness and conversational joking: On relational politics. Folia Linguistica 30. 299–327.10.1515/flin.1996.30.3-4.299Search in Google Scholar

Kotthoff, Helga. 2007. Oral genres of humor. On the dialectic of genre knowledge and creative authoring. Pragmatics 17(2). 263–296.10.1075/prag.17.2.04kotSearch in Google Scholar

Leech, Geoffrey. 1983. Principles of politeness. Singapore: Longman.Search in Google Scholar

Leech, Geoffrey. 2014. The pragmatics of politeness. Oxford: Oxford University Press.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195341386.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Maíz-Arévalo, Carmen. 2015. Jocular mockery in computer-mediated communication: A contrastive study of a spanish and English facebook community. Journal of Politeness Research 11(2). 289–327.10.1515/pr-2015-0012Search in Google Scholar

Márquez Reiter, Rosina. 2000. Linguistic politeness in Britain and Uruguay: A contrastive study or requests and apologies. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins North America.10.1075/pbns.83Search in Google Scholar

Márquez Reiter, Rosina & María Elena Placencia. 2005. Spanish pragmatics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.10.1057/9780230505018Search in Google Scholar

Miller, L. 1995. Two aspects of Japanese and American co-worker interaction: Giving instructions and creating rapport. Journal of Applied Behavioral Sciences 31(2). 141–161.10.1177/0021886395312004Search in Google Scholar

Mir, Montserrat & Josep Maria Cots. 2017. Beyond saying thanks: Compliment responses in American English and Peninsular Spanish. Languages in Contrast 17(1). 128–150.10.1075/lic.17.1.06mirSearch in Google Scholar

Norrick, Neal. 1993. Conversational joking: Humor in everyday talk. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Partington, Alan. 2011. Phrasal irony: Its form, function and exploitation. Journal of Pragmatics 43. 1786–1800.10.1016/j.pragma.2010.11.001Search in Google Scholar

Pawluk, Cheryl. 1989. Social construction of teasing. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 19(2). 145–167.10.1111/j.1468-5914.1989.tb00142.xSearch in Google Scholar

Schnur, Stephanie & Angela Chan. 2011. When laughter is not enough. Responding to teasing and self-denigrating humour at work. Journal of Pragmatics 43. 20–35.10.1016/j.pragma.2010.09.001Search in Google Scholar

Shardakova, Maria. 2012. Cross-cultural analysis of the use of humor by Russian and American English speakers. Linguistics Insights: Studies in Language and Communication 132. 197–237.Search in Google Scholar

Warm, Theodore R. 1997. The role of teasing in development and vice-versa. Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics 18. 97–101.10.1097/00004703-199704000-00004Search in Google Scholar

Yamada, Haru. 1997. Different games, different rules: Why Americans and Japanese misunderstand each other. New York: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Zadjman, Anat. 1995. Humorous face-threatening acts: Humor as strategy. Journal of Pragmatics 23. 325–339.10.1016/0378-2166(94)00038-GSearch in Google Scholar

Ziv, Avner. 1984. Personality and sense of humour. New York: Springer.Search in Google Scholar

Ziv, Avner. 2010. The social function of humor in interpersonal relationships. Society 47. 11–18.10.1007/s12115-009-9283-9Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2019-06-27
Published in Print: 2019-08-27

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Downloaded on 27.1.2023 from https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/humor-2017-0125/html
Scroll Up Arrow