The Effect of Context (Humorous vs. Non-humorous) on Vocabulary Acquisition and Retention of Iranian EFL Learners

Mohsen Ghaffari, Ramin Mohamadi


For almost four decades, ESL/EFL scholars have been trying to find which learning type, contextualized vs. decontextualized, leads to better vocabulary acquisition and retention. In an attempt to solve this problem, this study tried to examine the possible effectiveness of using humorous context on vocabulary acquisition and retention. Another issue that was undertaken in the present study was comparing the efficiency of contextualized and decontextualized vocabulary learning and retention. For this purpose, 58 Iranian EFL learners were categorized into 3 groups: a) humorous, b) non-humorous, and c) decontextualized. The findings were analyzed using one-way ANOVA and Tukey post hoc test. As the results revealed, the participants in decontextualized group outperformed the participants in both humorous and non-humorous groups. However, it should be noted that the performance of humorous group was significantly better than the performance of non-humorous group.



Vocabulary Learning, Vocabulary Retention, Humor, Context

Full Text:



Askildson, L. (2005). Effect of humor in the language classroom: humor as a pedagogical tool in theory and practice. Arizona Working Papers In Second Language Acquisition and Teaching, 12, 45 - 61.

Bergin, D. (1999). Influences on classroom interest. Educational Psychologist, 34, 87 - 98.

Berk, R. A. (1996). Student ratings of 10 strategies for using humor in college teaching. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 7, 71 - 92.

Celik, M. (2004). Humor: What can it do for tertiary students. Hacettepe Unniversitesi Egitim Fakultesi Dergisi, 27, 59 - 66.

Day, R. R., Omura, C., & Hiramatsu, M. (1991). Incidental EFL vocabulary learning and reading. Reading in a Foreign Language, 7, 541 - 551.

DeCarrico, J. S. (2001). Vocabulary learning and teaching. In M. Celce-Murcia (Ed.), Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (pp. 285-299). Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

Dupuy, B. & Krashen, S.D. (1993).Incidental vocabulary acquisition in French as a foreign language. Applied Language Learning, 4, 55 - 63.

Gardner, D. (2004). Vocabulary input through extensive reading: A comparison of words found in children’s narrative and expository reading materials. Applied Linguistics, 25, 1 - 37.

Garner, R. L. (2006). Humor in pedagogy: How huh-huh can lead to aha. College Teaching, 54, 177 - 180.

Grabe, W. (1991). Current developments in second language reading research. TESOL Quarterly, 25, 8 - 39.

Heidari Soureshjani, K. (2011). The effect of contextualizing and decontextualizing techniques on lexical- oriented knowledge of Persian EFL language learners. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 1, 547 - 552.

Holmes, J., & Marra, M. (2002). Having a laugh at work: How humor contributes to workplace culture. Journal of Pragmatics, 34, 1683 - 1710.

Horst, M., Cobb, T., & Meara, P. (1998). Beyond a Clockwork Orange: acquiring second language vocabulary through reading. Reading in a Foreign Language, 11, 207 - 223.

Huckin, T., & Coady, J. (1999). Incidental Vocabulary acquisition in a second language. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 21, 181 - 193.

Hulstijn, J. H. (2003). Incidental and intentional learning. In C.J. Doughty & M. Long (Eds.) Handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 349–381). Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Hunt, A. & Beglar, D. (2002). Current research and practice in teaching vocabulary. In Richards J. C. & W. A. Renandya (eds.), Methodology in language teaching: An anthology of current practice (pp. 258-266). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kaplan, R. M., & Pascoe, G.C. (1977). Humorous lectures and humorous examples: Some effects upon comprehension and retention. Journal of Educational Psychology, 69, 61 - 65.

Ketabi, S., & Simin, S. (2009). Investigating Persian EFL teachers and learners' attitudes towards humor in class. International Journal of Language Studies, 3, 435 - 452.

Krashen, S. D. (1989). We acquire vocabulary and spelling by reading: Additional evidence for the input hypothesis. Modern Language Journal, 73, 440 - 462.

Laufer, B. (1998). The development of passive and active vocabulary in a second language: Same or different. Applied Linguistics, 19, 255 - 271.

Laufer, B. (2005). Focus on form in second language vocabulary learning. EUROSLA Yearbook, 5, 223 - 250.

Laufer, B., Elder, C., Hill, K., & Congdon, P. (2004). Size and strength: Do we need both to measure vocabulary knowledge. Language Testing, 21, 202 - 226.

Laufer, B., & Hulstijn, J. (2001). Incidental vocabulary acquisition in a second language: The construct of task-induced involvement. Applied Linguistics, 22, 1 - 26.

Laufer, B., & Paribakht, T. S. (1998). The relationship between passive and active vocabularies: Effects of language learning context. Language Learning, 48, 365 - 391.

Lin-qiong, L. (2007). Pragmatic interpretation of humor production and comprehension. Us- China Foreign Language, 5, 17 - 20.

Mason, B., & Krashen, S. (2004). Is form-focused vocabulary instruction worthwhile. Regional Language Center Journal, 35, 179 - 185.

Minchew, S. S., & Hopper, P. F. (2008). Techniques for using humor and fun in the language arts classroom. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 81, 232 - 236.

Nation, I.S.P. (1980). Strategies for receptive vocabulary learning. Guidelines, 3, 18-23.

Nation, I.S.P. (2001). Learning vocabulary in another language. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Nation, I. S. P. (2006). Second language vocabulary. In K. Brown (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of language and linguistics (pp. 448–454). Oxford: Elsevier.

Nation, I.S.P. (2007). The four strands. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 1, 1 - 12.

Newirth, J. (2006). Jokes and their relation to the unconscious: Humor as a fundamental emotional experience. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 16, 557 - 571.

Oxford, R.L., & Scarcella, R.C. (1994). Second language vocabulary learning among adults: state of the art in vocabulary instruction. System, 22, 231 - 243.

Paribakht, T. S., & Wesche, M. (1997). Vocabulary enhancement activities and reading for meaning in second language vocabulary development. In J. Coady & T. Huckin (Eds.), Second language vocabulary acquisition: A rationale for pedagogy (pp. 174–200). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Paribakht, T., & Wesche, M. (1999).Reading and incidentalL2 vocabulary acquisition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 21, 195 - 224.

Pitts, M., White, H., & Krashen, S. (1989) Acquiring second language vocabulary through reading: a replication of the Clockwork Orange study using second language acquirers. Reading in a Foreign Language, 5, 271 - 275.

Qian, D. D. (1996). ESL vocabulary acquisition: Contextualization and decontextualization. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 53, 120-142.

Read, J. & Chapelle, C.A. (2001). A framework for second language vocabulary assessment. Language Testing, 18, 1 - 32.

Rott, S. (1999). The effect of exposure frequency on intermediate language incidental vocabulary acquisition and retention through reading. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 21, 589 - 619.

Schmidt, S. R. (1994). Effects of humor on sentence memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 20, 953 - 967.

Schmitt, N. & Meara, P. (1997). Researching vocabulary through a word knowledge framework: word associations and verbal suffixes. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 19, 17 - 36.

Schmitt, N., Schmitt, D. & Clapham, C. (2001). Developing and exploring the behavior of two new versions of the Vocabulary Levels Test. Language Testing, 18, 55 - 88.

Summerfelt, H., Lippman, L, & Hyman Jr., I. E. (2010). The effect of humor on: Constrained by the pun. The Journal of General Psychology, 137, 376 - 394.

Vahid Dastjerdi, H., Rafie, M., & Kasaian, Z. (2010). The application of humorous song in EFL classrooms and its effect on listening comprehension. English Language Teaching, 4, 100 – 108.

Wanzer, M. B., & Frymier, A. B. (1999). The relationship between student perceptions of instructor humor and students' reports of learning. Communication Education, 48, 48 - 62.

Wanzer, M. B., Frymier, A. B., & Irwin, J. (2010). An explanation of the relationship between instructor humor and student learning: instructional humor processing theory. Communication Education, 59, 1 -18.

Webb, S. (2005). Receptive and productive vocabulary learning: The effects of reading and writing on vocabulary knowledge. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 27, 33 - 52.

Webb, S. (2007b). The effects of repetition on vocabulary knowledge. Applied Linguistics, 28, 46 - 65.

Webb, S. (2008a). Receptive and productive vocabulary sizes of L2 learners. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 30, 79 - 95.

Webb, S. (2008b). The effects of context on incidental vocabulary learning. Reading in a Foreign Language, 20, 232 - 245.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2012-2023 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD

International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the journal emails into your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.