Smiles and Laughter in English and Japanese Conversations: Receptive and Productive Skills and Communicative Competence

By Hiroko Furo.

Published by Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This study compares the use of smiles and laughter in English and Japanese conversations for the purpose of investigating how facial expressions compliment or contradict verbal interactions. Furthermore, this study explores how differently Americans and the Japanese interpret facial expressions and respond to them, which shows the interlocutor’s intersubjectivity in social interaction.
Data used for this study consists of 200 minutes of Japanese and English conversations. The data analysis shows that, in both language data, smiles and laughter are triggered by similar linguistic features such as negation, mutually understood semantics and exaggerated phonological features. However, in the Japanese data, smiles and laughter are used more to cover the speakers’ hesitation, nervousness or uncertainty. This study indicates that smiles and laughter can be employed as contextualization cues to allow the participants to collaborate and co-participate with their interlocutors and that to acquire the accurate interpretation of facial expression and the skills to respond to them in culturally and contextually appropriate ways are necessary for second language learners to develop of their communicative competence. For these purposes, this study encourages educators to use information and technology to visually present these cultural differences in behavioral norms to improve students’ communicative competence.

Keywords: Japanese, Non-Verbal Behavior, Cross-Cultural Communication

Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.35-48. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.802MB).

Dr. Hiroko Furo

Associate Professor of Japanese Studies, MCLL, Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, IL, USA

Dr. Hiroko Furo received her Ph.D. in Linguistics with concentration of Sociolinguistics from Georgetown University. She specializes in cross-cultural communication between U.S. and Japan, discourse analysis, language and gender, and pragmatics.