Research cultures and the pragmatic functions of humor in academic research presentations: A corpus-assisted analysis

Gertrud Reershemius*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Based on a corpus of English, German, and Polish spoken academic discourse, this article analyzes the distribution and function of humor in academic research presentations. The corpus is the result of a European research cooperation project consisting of 300,000 tokens of spoken academic language, focusing on the genres research presentation, student presentation, and oral examination. The article investigates difference between the German and English research cultures as expressed in the genre of specialist research presentations, and the role of humor as a pragmatic device in their respective contexts. The data is analyzed according to the paradigms of corpus-assisted discourse studies (CADS). The findings show that humor is used in research presentations as an expression of discourse reflexivity. They also reveal a considerable difference in the quantitative distribution of humor in research presentations depending on the educational, linguistic, and cultural background of the presenters, thus confirming the notion of different research cultures. Such research cultures nurture distinct attitudes to genres of academic language: whereas in one of the cultures identified researchers conform with the constraints and structures of the genre, those working in another attempt to subvert them, for example by the application of humor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)863-875
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number6-7
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2012


  • English for academic purposes
  • German for academic purposes
  • humor
  • research cultures
  • spoken academic discourse


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