Proceedings of the 14 th Norddeutsches Linguistisches Kolloquium 2013 in Halle an der Saale
Edited By Anne Ammermann, Alexander Brock, Jana Pflaeging and Peter Schildhauer
Although the linguistic notion of irony has been discussed since Grice wrote his seminal work on the Cooperative Principle in verbal interactions, it still provides input for further debate. The following contribution considers irony in real-life conversations. It shows that such linguistic data allow for subtle observations on the context-dependence and the dynamism of irony in interactions, which causes difficulties for the existing pragmatic accounts.
The interest in verbal irony dates back to antiquity. Rhetoricians of that time usually defined it as expressing the opposite of one’s intention (cf. Knox 1989). Similar conceptualisations have survived until the present time. A Dictionary of Critical Theory, for example, characterises irony as “a type of rhetoric in which there is a deliberate and obvious disparity or incongruity between the statement made and its intent, as when we say one thing, but mean the opposite of what we say” (Buchanan 2012). Even early linguistic accounts of irony, such as Grice (1975, 1989), seem to support this traditional notion, even though they put it in linguistic terminology. Since the 1980s, however, an autonomous linguistic interest in irony, independent of rhetoric and literary theory, has grown and still offers vital discussions on the subject, especially in the field of pragmatics. This paper shows that although pragmatic accounts of irony have provided valuable insights into the nature of verbal irony, further investigations of this subject in naturally occurring conversations will not only...
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