Laughter Interjections: Contributions to a Lexical Anthropology of Humour (with special reference to Danish)

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The purpose of this paper is threefold. Firstly, it seeks to fill a gap in the literature on interjections by suggesting that ‘laughter interjections’ (words such English haha or hehe) make up an important subtype of interjections that has so far not been accounted for in cross-linguistic typologies and comparative work on interjections. Secondly, it argues that laughter interjections are thick with cultural meaning, and that they, if properly understood, can play an important role for an “emic turn” in humor studies. Third, it develops a case study on “Danish funniness”, with a point of departure in the Danish paradigm of laughter interjections: haha, hehe, hihi, hoho, hæhæ, høhø, håhå, tihi and tøhø. The paper explores humorous discourse from the perspective of these small and highly culturally specific expressive words, and provides high definition analysis of two Danish laughter interjections tøhø and hæhæ, using the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM) technique of explication. The general framework of the study is Lexical Anthropology, an emic approach to meaning analysis that combines insights from lexical semantics and linguistic anthropology.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Studies in Language
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)110-130
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Interjections
  • Lexical Semantics
  • Laughter
  • Humour
  • Linguistic Anthropology
  • Danish
  • NSM semantics

Cite this