Mirthful and polite laughter: structural models and their duration


  • Regina Sabonytė
  • Asta Kazlauskienė
  • Sigita Dereškevičiūtė




Mirthful laughter, polite laughter, structural units of laughter, bout of laughter, syllable of laughter


Foreign researchers have been investigating laughter, as a paralinguistic element, and its acoustic properties for about two decades. However, laughter has not been in the field of interest of Lithuanian phoneticians so far. This article analyses two most common types of social laughter: polite and mirthful. The aim of the research is to determine differences of structure and duration of structural units of polite and mirthful laughter. The research material consists of 100 samples of spontaneous, non-overlapping polite and mirthful laughter (50 of each type). The recordings were annotated and boundaries of laughter units were determined by using PRAAT programme.

The analysis of the structure and duration of structural units of polite and mirthful laughter revealed that polite laughter does not tend to last long: its episodes consist of one bout of one to three syllables; the most common is a two-syllable laughter bout. The episode of mirthful laughter can consist of more than one bout; the bouts of this type of laughter consist of one to fifteen syllables, although the most common samples are of three or four syllables. In most cases, one-bout laughter that consists of one or two syllables is considered to be polite; laughter that is longer than three syllables can always be identified as mirthful. Bouts of both polite and mirthful laughter consist of three syllables. In that case, the difference between the two types of laughter can be seen in duration: bouts of mirthful laughter always last longer than bouts of polite laughter of the same structure.