The pragmatics of Tsukkomi: a conversation analysis of interaction in the My Funny Talk corpus
Goran Vaage (Kobe College)
Paper short abstract:
In this paper, the MFT corpus was analyzed in terms of structure and interactional functions, focusing on back-channeling, confirmations, questions and tsukkomi. Furthermore, three distinct patterns of tsukkomi was established, confirming that tsukkomi is a part of social interaction in Japanese.
Paper long abstract:
Tsukkomi is said to be an indispensable component of Japanese humour. However, very little has been explored scientifically in regards to the pragmatic functions of tsukkomi in conversation among everyday people. This void in research is most likely due to the lack of easily accessible corpus data on tsukkomi because there are no corpora available with tags such as boke or tsukkomi. The My Funny Talk Corpus developed by Sadanobu at Kobe University is a blessing in this respect; the corpus is an audio-visual collection of talks about three minutes in length entered in a funny-talk tournament with speaking styles rarely addressed in standard spoken-language corpora. It consists of 248 entries in which ordinary speakers of Japanese get together and talk about their funny stories while being videotaped, bound to include instances of tsukkomi and suitable for an investigation of interaction in humorous conversations. In this paper, all the videos and transcripts of this corpus were analyzed considering the following research questions: (1) What is the structure, and what kind of patterns of tsukkomi can be found in the My Funny Talk Corpus? (2) What are the interactional functions of these patterns? The analysis showed that because of the format of the funny-talk contest being as it is with the contestants introducing their funny stories to others, there were little cooperative turn taking per se, but there was certainly interaction in almost all clips, with the following patterns being observed in order of frequency; back-channeling, confirmations, questions and tsukkomi. Furthermore, three distinct patterns of tsukkomi could be found in the corpus; the traditional pattern where the storyteller says something odd to which the others react; the self-tsukkomi pattern where the storyteller reacts himself to something odd in his or her own story; the embedded pattern, where the story teller refers to something odd and the tsukkomi reaction from a third person perspective. Thus, this paper confirms that tsukkomi is a part of social interaction in Japanese, but at the same time suggests that not all patterns of tsukkomi are related to turn-taking, but rather serve as components in Japanese joke structure.