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Applied Linguistics Review

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The relationship between English proficiency and humour appreciation among English L1 users and Chinese L2 users of English

Xuemei Chen
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Applied Linguistics and Communication, Birkbeck College, University of London, 26 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DT, UK
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/ Jean-Marc Dewaele
  • Department of Applied Linguistics and Communication, Birkbeck College, University of London, 26 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DT, UK
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Published Online: 2018-04-13 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2018-0002


Humour appreciation involves split second detection and resolution of cultural and pragmatic incongruities. Second language (L2) users may need more time and effort to understand and appreciate L2 humour. Previous studies have mostly used decontextualized verbal jokes and reported a linear relationship between L2 proficiency and humour appreciation. The present study strives for more ecological validity by using audiovisual-based, multimodal humorous stimuli. A total of 272 Chinese L2 users of English and 94 English L1 users rated the funniness and the ease of understanding of two short video extracts and then completed an English vocabulary size test, LexTALE. The findings suggest that L2 users need to reach a certain threshold in L2 linguistic, pragmatic and sociocultural knowledge before a positive linear relationship emerges between proficiency and appreciation of multimodal humorous stimuli. Also, advanced L2 users demonstrated similarities with English L1 users in humour processing.

Keywords: L2 humour appreciation; L2 vocabulary size; ease of understanding; Chinese L2 users of English; English L1 users


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About the article

Published Online: 2018-04-13

This article is funded by the China Scholarship Council (10.13039/481100004543), Grant Number: 201406290174.

Citation Information: Applied Linguistics Review, ISSN (Online) 1868-6311, ISSN (Print) 1868-6303, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2018-0002.

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