Volume 36, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0213-2028
  • E-ISSN: 2254-6774
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This paper presents an exploratory study of humour in multilingual, multicultural healthcare interactions with an interpreter. Data are part of a dataset of healthcare encounters observed in a hospital in Madrid (Spain) for a period of five months, which included the participation of six interpreters. Four aspects were analysed: (1) who initiates humour, (2) who receives humour, (3) what the functions of humour are, and (4) how interpreters behave vis-à-vis humour occurrences. Preliminary findings indicate that humour allows patients, healthcare providers and interpreters to pursue relational and transactional goals similar to those present in monolingual healthcare interactions, such as handling negative emotions. Interpreters are active co-constructors of humour, and all participants in the triad work together towards the establishment and recognition of a humorous frame, where hierarchical relationships seem to exist. Together with linguistic and cultural differences between participants, interpreters must appropriately render background and contextual knowledge to ensure humour maintains its intended function, which emphasises the healthcare interpreter’s active role in interaction. These findings call for greater attention to research on humour, as well as specific training for interpreters to highlight its relational power and, thus, ensure successful communication in multicultural, multilingual (healthcare) settings.


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