The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 8, No 4 (2020)

Children’s development of humour in everyday interactions: two case-studies in French and Brazilian Portuguese

Alessandra Del Ré, Christelle Dodane, Aliyah Morgenstern, Alessandra Jacqueline Vieira


In order to understand how children learn to recognize and use humor in their own cultural environment, we have chosen to study their production in two different languages and cultures. We studied a French-speaking monolingual child and a Brazilian Portuguese-speaking child, video-recorded once a month up to seven years old. The detailed multimodal linguistic coding of our data enabled us to draw the multimodal paths the two children followed from the first instances of shared amusement initiated by the adult, expressed mainly through reactive behavior such as laughing, to the children’s own verbal production of successful humor in dialogue. Our study demonstrates that the production of children’s humor is closely linked to the family input (their micro-culture), and to children’s multimodal linguistic and meta-cognitive development. We did not observe important differences between the two children at the macro-cultural level, but there were noticeable inter-individual differences.



Aimard, P. (1988). Les bébés de l’humour. Liège-Bruxelles: Pierre Mardaga.

André-Larochebouvy, D. (1984). La conversation quotidienne. Paris : Didier-Crédif.

Attardo, S. (2003). ‘The pragmatics of humor’. [Special Issue]. Journal of Pragmatics 35 (9).

Attardo, S. (2008). ‘Semantics and pragmatics of humor’. Language and Linguistics Compass 6 (2), pp. 1203-1215.

Bakhtin, M. M. (1987). A cultura popular na Idade Média e no Renascimento: o contexto de François Rabelais. São Paulo: Hucitec.

Bakhtin, M. M. (1997). Estética da Criação Verbal. Trad. de Maria E. G. Pereira. São Paulo: Martins Fontes.

Bakhtin, M. M. & Voloshinov, V. N. (1992). Marxismo e filosofia da linguagem: problemas fundamentais do método sociológico na ciência da linguagem. São Paulo: Hucitec.

Bariaud, F. (1983). La genèse de l’humour chez l’enfant. Paris : Presses Universitaires de France.

Baron-Cohen, S. (1995). Mindblindness: An Essay on Autism and Theory of Mind. Cambridge, MH: MIT Press.

Béal, C. & Mullan, K. (2013). ‘Issues in conversational humour from a cross‐cultural perspective: comparing French and Australian corpora’, in Peeters, B., Mullan, K. & Béal, C. (eds.), Cross‐culturally Speaking, Speaking Cross-culturally, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 107‐139.

Béal, C. & Traverso, V. (2010). ‘Hello, we’re outrageously punctual: front door rituals between friends in France and Australia’. Journal of French Language Studies 20 (1), pp. 17-29.

Bruner, J. S. (1984). ‘Contexts and formats’, in Moscato, M. & Piraut-Le Bonniec, G. (eds.), Le langage: construction et actualisation. Rouen : Publications de l’Université de Rouen, pp. 69-79

Bruner, J. S. (2004a). Comment les enfants apprennent à parler. Paris: Retz.

Bruner, J. S. (2004b). Le développement de l’enfant: savoir-faire, savoir dire. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Carrausse, S. & Carausse, M. (2009). ‘De la spontanéité à l’humour dans la petite enfance. Mise en perspective au sein d’une crèche familiale’, in Feuerhahn, N. (ed.), L’enfance du rire (Humoresque 30). Paris: Corhum Humoresques.

Chabrol, C. (2006). ‘Humour and Media: Definitions, Genres and Cultures”. Questions de communication 10, pp. 7-17.

Charaudeau, P. (2006). ‘Des catégories pour l’humour ?’ Questions de communication 10, pp. 19-41.

Clark, H. (1996). Using Language. Cambridge: CUP.

Coulson, S. (2000). Semantic Leaps: Frame-shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Da Silva Vieira, A. C. (2010). Estudo de competências pragmáticas no autismo: sarcasmo e humor. Universidade de Aveiro. Departamento de Línguas e Culturas, MA thesis.

Del Ré, A. (2011). A criança e a magia da linguagem: um estudo sobre o discurso humorístico. São Paulo: Cultura Acadêmica.

Del Ré, A. & Morgenstern, A. (2010). ‘To laugh or not to laugh: that is the question. Les premières manifestations de l’humour chez l’enfant’. Paper presented at the IADA 2009 conference. Barcelona: University of Münster, pp. 41-54.

Del Ré, A., Hilário Nogarini R. & Mogno dos Santos A. (2012). ‘Programa CLAN da base CHILDES: normas de transcrição (CHAT) e comandos básicos’. Estudos em Aquisição Fonológica 4, pp. 11-30.

Del Ré, A., Dodane, C. & Morgenstern, A. (2015). ‘De l’amusement partagé à la production de l’humour chez l’enfant’, in Farhat, M. & Lacoste, F. (eds.), L’Humour dans le Bassin Méditerranéen. Contacts linguistiques et Culturels, Gafsa: Nouha Editions, pp. 115-139.

Del Ré, A., Hilário Nogarini R. & Rúbens A. (2016). ‘O corpus NALingua e as tecnologias de apoio: a constituição de um banco de dados de fala de crianças no Brasil’. Artefactum 13, pp. 1-16.

Dodane, C., Sauvage, J., Hirsch, F., Barkat-Defradas, M. & Del Ré, A. (2014). ‘Riso e discurso: do acústico ao contextual’, in Del Ré, A., De Paula, L. & Mendonça, M. C. (eds.), Explorando o discurso da criança, São Paulo: Contexto, pp. 35-53.

Dynel, M. (2009). ‘Beyond a joke: types of conversational humour’. Language and Linguistics Compass 3 (5), pp. 1284-1299.

Feuerhahn, N. (1993). Le comique et l’enfance. Paris: Presse Universitaires de France.

Figueira Attié, R. (2000). ‘Dados Anedóticos: Quando a Fala da Criança Provoca o Riso… Humor e Aquisição da Linguagem’. Língua e Instrumentos Linguísticos 6, pp. 27-61.

Fine, G. A. (1979). ‘Small groups and culture creation: The idioculture of little league baseball teams’. American Sociological Review 44, pp. 733-745.

Fox, K. (2004). Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour. London: Hoddon and Stoughton.

François, F. (1994). Morale et mise en mots. Paris: L’Harmattan.

François, F. (2004). Enfants et récits. Mises en mots et “reste”. Lille: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion.

Freud, S. (1969 [1905]). Os chistes e sua relação com o inconsciente. v.VIII. Trad. Jayme Salomão, In Edição Standard Brasileira das Obras Completas de Sigmund Freud. Rio de Janeiro: Imago.

Garitte, C. (2005). ‘La scatologie qui fait rire des enfants. Rires scatologiques’. Humoresque 22. Paris: Corhum Humoresques, pp. 207-222.

Goddard, C. (2006). ‘Lift your game, Martina!: Deadpan jocular irony and the ethnopragmatics of Australian English’, in Cliff Goddard (ed.), Ethnopragmatics: Understanding Discourse in Cultural Context, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 65-97.

Goddard, C. (2009). ‘Not taking yourself too seriously in Australian English: semantic explications, cultural scripts, corpus evidence’. Intercultural Pragmatics 6 (1), pp. 29-53.

Haugh, M. (2010). ‘Jocular mockery, (dis)affiliation and face’. Journal of Pragmatics 42, pp. 2106-2119.

Haugh, M. (2011). ‘Humour, face and im/politeness in getting acquainted’, in Davies, B., Haugh, M. & Merrison, A. (eds.), Situated Politeness, London: Continuum, pp. 165-184.

Haugh, M. & Bousfield, D. (2012). ‘Mock impoliteness, jocular mockery and jocular abuse in Australian and British English’. Journal of Pragmatics 44, pp.1099-1114.

Hay, J. (2001). ‘The pragmatics of humor support’. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 14 (1), pp. 55-82.

Hoicka, E. & Akhtar, N. (2011). ‘Preschoolers joke with jokers, but correct foreigners’. Developmental Science 14 (4), pp. 848-858.

Hoicka, E & Akhtar, N. (2012). ‘Early humour production’. British Journal of Developmental Psychology 30 (4), pp. 586-603.

Hoicka, E. & Gattis, M. (2008). ‘Do the wrong thing. How toddlers tell a joke from a mistake’. Cognitive Development 23 (1), pp. 180-190.

Hoicka, E. & Gattis, M. (2012). ‘Acoustic differences between humorous and sincere communicative intentions’. British Journal of Developmental Psychology 30 (4), pp. 531-549.

Jones, D. & Andrews, B. (1988). ‘Australian humour’, in Hergenham, L. (ed.), The Penguin New Literary History of Australia, Ringwood, Vic.: Penguin, pp. 60-76.

Johnson, K. E. & Mervis, C. B. (1997). ‘First steps in the emergence of verbal humor: A case study’. Infant Behavior and Development 20 (2), pp.187-196.

Kintsch, W. & Van Dijk, T. A. (1978). ‘Toward a model of text comprehension and production’. Psychological Review 58, pp. 363-394.

Lampert, M. D. & Ervin-Tripp, S. M. (2006). ‘Risky laughter: Teasing and self-directed joking among male and female friends’. Journal of Pragmatics 38, pp. 51-72.

Levinson, S. C. (1992). ‘Activity types and language’, in Drew, P. & Heritage, J. (eds.), Talk at Work: Interaction in Institutional Settings, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 66-100.

Loizou, E. (2005) ‘Infant humour: the theory of the absurd and the empowerment theory’. International Journal of Early Years Education 23 (1), pp. 43-53.

Meany, M. M., Clark, T. & Laineste, L. (2014). ‘Comedy, creativity and culture: a metamodern perspective’. The International Journal of Literary Humanities 11, pp. 1-15.

McGhee, P. E. (1979). Humor, its Origin and Development. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman.

Mireault G.C. & Reddy V. (2016) ‘The development of humor’, in Mireault G.C. & Reddy V. (eds.), Humor in Infants: Developmental and Psychological Perspectives, Springer, pp. 11-22.

Morgenstern, A. & Parisse, C. (2012). ‘The Paris corpus’. French Language Studies 22 (1), pp. 7-12.

Norrick, N. R. (2003). ‘Issues in conversational joking’. Journal of Pragmatics 35 (9), pp. 1333-1359.

Norrick, N. R. (2006). ‘Humor in language’, in Brown, K. (ed.), Encyclopaedia of Language and Linguistics, Amsterdam: Elsevier, pp. 425-426.

Piaget, J. & Inhelder, B. (1966). La psychologie de l’enfant. Paris : PUF.

Priego-Valverde, B. (2003). L’humour dans la conversation familière: description et analyse linguistique. Paris: L’Harmattan.

Reddy, V. (1991). ‘Playing with others expectations: Teasing and mucking about in the first year’, in Whiten, A. (ed.), Natural Theories of Mind: Evolution, Development and Simulation of Everyday Mindreading, Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, pp. 143-158.

Salazar Orvig, A. (1999). Les mouvements du discours. Style, référence et dialogue dans des entretiens cliniques. Paris: L’Harmattan.

Salazar Orvig, A., Marcos, H., Morgenstern, A., Rouba, H., Leber-Marin, J. & Parès, J. (2010). ‘Dialogical beginnings of anaphora: The use of third person pronouns before the age of 3’. Journal of Pragmatics 42, pp. 1842-1865

Saliba, E. T. (2002). Raízes do riso. São Paulo: Companhia das letras.

Sperber, D. & Wilson, D. (1978). ‘Les ironies comme mention’. Poétique 36, pp. 399-412.

Tholander, M. & Aronsson, K. (2003). ‘Doing subteaching in school groupwork. Positioning, resistance, and participation frameworks’. Language and Education 17 (3), pp. 208-234.

Vygotsky, L. (2005). Pensamento e linguagem. 3ª ed. São Paulo: Martins Fontes.

Vygotsky, L. (2007). A formação social da mente. 7ª ed. São Paulo: Martins Fontes.

Winnicott, D. W. (1953). ‘Transitional objects and transitional phenomena; a study of the first not-me possession’. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis 34 (2), pp. 89-97.