Intentionality, speaker’s attitude and the processing of verbal irony

AbstractWhat makes an ironic sentence easier or harder to understand as compared to a literal equivalent? Though this question has been extensively discussed in the literature, the results are mixed(see eg. Filik & Moxey, 2010). The present work attempts to account for the differences in the literature by considering (a) the variable effect of anticipating the intentions of a speaker during comprehension of ironic utterances used to answer yes/no questions, and (b) the role of explicit cues regarding the attitude of a speaker. The results suggest that both of these factors interact and together modulate the interpretation of a sentence as ironic or literal as well as the utterance’s reading times. We interpret these results as broadly in line with the predictions made by the echoic mention account.

Return to previous page