Why we laugh when nothing's funny: the use of laughter to cope with disagreement in conversation
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The phenomenon of laughter has intrigued many philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, and – most recently – linguists. While laughter is conventionally thought of as a component of the phenomenon of humor, this paper seeks to empirically illustrate how laughter may be used in unconventional ways, i.e. in response to nonhumorous (and in fact discordant) sequences in conversation. The term coping laughter refers to laughter that attempts to remedy, correct, reframe, or distract from something that is undesirable in a conversation. This paper proposes that there are two types of coping laughter (IN-laughter and RE-laughter) that accomplish different functions based on who initiates the laughter. Eight data samples are analyzed within the analytical frameworks of politeness and conversational framing with special treatments of the evolution of laughter and the structure of conflict.