Tag questions and common ground effects in the perception of verbal irony


Verbal irony is used with friends as well as with strangers, and it can appear in a variety of linguistic forms, such as in tag questions (e.g., 'You think you're really something, don't you?'). To better understand the role of shared common ground and tag questions in the perception of irony, these factors were manipulated in a series of experiments. Subjects read scenarios containing ironic statements, and rated either the degree of perceived irony (experiment 2) or the appropriateness of the ironic statements (experiment 3). Experiment 4 measured subjects' memory for ironic and literal statements. Although common ground and tag manipulations did not affect the degree of perceived irony, common ground did exert an influence on the appropriateness of ironic statements. Subjects did not remember the ironic statements any better than their literal equivalents, but both common ground and tag manipulations interacted with statement type. © 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

Journal of Pragmatics