Defining Features of Verbal Irony
Ruiten, C.A. van
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Verbal irony is commonly used and frequently discussed, yet relatively poorly understood. Many theorists have tried to determine the defining features of irony, but a conclusive answer has not yet been found. In this study, a corpus of 76 ironic Tumblr messages was created and analysed. Each item in the corpus was checked for the presence or absence of nine features, which were taken from existing theories on irony. Evaluative allusion and pragmatic insincerity were found in all items in the corpus. These features seem to be essential to the communication of irony, while the other features tested in this study are not. This is supportive evidence for the allusion pretence (Kumon-Nakamura et al., 1995) and the implicit display (Utsumi, 2000) theories of verbal irony. The pretence theory (Clark & Gerrig, 1984/2007) and the echoic account of irony (Sperber & Wilson, 1981; Wilson & Sperber, 1992; Wilson, 2006) are not supported.