The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 10, No 1 (2022)

Joke identification, comprehension and appreciation by Spanish intermediate ESL learners: an exploratory study

Santiago Arróniz Parra,Manuel Padilla Cruz


This paper reports on an exploratory study examining joke identification, appreciation and comprehension by Spanish intermediate ESL learners. The study is based on a relevance-theoretic classification of jokes, which assumes that humorousness results from manipulation of three parametres: make-sense frames, cultural information and utterance interpretation. It firstly ascertains whether Spanish ESL learners recognise orally-delivered samples of seven types of purportedly jocular texts. Secondly, it examines whether these learners actually regard such texts as comical and why. Finally, it looks into the learners’ interpretative problems in order to single out which joke type(s) is/are more challenging. The study relies on quantitative and qualitative data elicited through an online questionnaire comprising four tasks. The results indicate no correlation between joke identification and appreciation, and independence of successful joke recognition from sophisticated interpretative skills. Jokes involving invalidation of an activated make-sense frame were most easily identified and found most funny, but jokes exploiting cancellation of an initial, seemingly plausible, interpretation posed more difficulties.


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