Humour at work: conviviality through language play in Singapore's multicultural workplaces

Amanda Wise*, Selvaraj Velayutham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Humour plays an important role in making and mediating human relationships. While scholarship on workplace humour is voluminous, there is scarce literature on interactional humour in non-Western yet culturally diverse settings. This article looks at humour in multi-ethnic Singaporean workplaces employing both citizens and temporary migrants, with a particular focus on blue collar and service workers. We argue that Singlish forms a linguistic and aural humour template for workers to bridge significant language, racial and cultural differences through language play that is devoid of the aggressive disparagement humour that frequently characterizes shop-floor humour in the Anglosphere. What evolves is a humorous metrolingua franca (Pennycook, A., and E. Otsuji. 2015. Metrolingualism: Language in the City. London: Routledge.) that is specific to the way everyday multiculturalism operates in diverse Singaporean workplaces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)911-929
Number of pages19
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number5
Early online date21 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2020


  • conviviality
  • Everyday multiculturalism
  • interaction humour
  • Singapore
  • Singlish
  • work


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