Putting aspiration into words: 'Laugh particles', managing descriptive trouble and modulating action

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This paper focuses on the phenomenon of 'laugh particles' interpolated within words and their role in interaction. It starts with an overview of the phenomenon, suggesting that it is less analytically presumptive to consider 'interpolated particles of aspiration' (IPAs). IPAs: (a) are objects that may but often do not accompany stand alone laughter; (b) are discrete and targetable objects; (c) are not propositional; (d) can be used with little disruption of delivery (order and timing). A series of examples are used to illustrate two uses of IPAs. First, they can be used to mark one or more lexical items as having some problem or insufficiency. Second, they can be used as a resource for action formation, inserted into words to modulate the nature or strength of the action. In both cases, the use of IPAs does not cancel the use of the words it is interpolated into. In both cases IPAs are designed as markers or flags of trouble. Alternative accounts for the use of IPAs (that they mark quotation, that they mark a word as inapposite) are critically explored and limitations of the idea that they mark the speaker's stance on the action are outlined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1543-1555
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


  • Action modulation
  • Aspiration
  • Conversation analysis
  • Discursive psychology
  • Humour
  • Laugh particles
  • Laughter
  • Stance


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