This paper intends to show how situation comedies may be used in the English language classroom to develop awareness-raising activities aimed at soliciting an understanding of essentially pragmatic and cultural aspects of everyday language. After a brief overview of studies on pragmatic teachability (Kasper & Rose 2001, 2002) and learnability (Taguchi 2011) in the language classroom over the last twenty years or so, verbal humour in the situation comedy will be investigated with a view to presenting learners with the kinds of word play that are clearly intended to invoke laughter. With reference to a second year degree course in Modern Languages at the University of Parma (Italy), it will be seen how learners can be motivated to resort to previously acquired theoretical knowledge of various pragmatic expedients (Brown & Levinson 1978; Leech 1983; Levinson 1984; Yule 1996) with a view to recognizing the intended illocutionary force of utterances and exchanges in the light of Grice’s (1975) co-operative principle in conversation. This approach is justified by Boulton’s (1994) claim that an understanding of implicature is a necessary learning target. Although it comprises written to be spoken text, the situation comedy is an excellent source of “real” everyday language in which Grice’s maxims are constantly broken or flouted through intentional ambiguity in meaning for the purposes of provoking laughter. By encouraging learners to perceive the fuzzy line of demarcation between the form and communicative function of words and phrases in the ongoing exchange structure of a conversation, it will be possible to see how they become more motivated to search for examples their own (Bardovi-Harlig 1998) and discuss them with the teacher during their post course assessment. The teacher is thus able not only to discern whether learners have effectively become more aware of the subtleties and implicatures of language meaning in the creation of verbal humour, but also incidentally, benefit from a subsequent addition to her sitcom corpus for future courses.
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