A delicate balance
Irony in the negotiation of refusals
This paper examines the factors that influence the outcome of exchanges containing refusals, focusing specifically on the role of irony. For this purpose, we analyse spontaneous conversations in English (SPICE-Ireland Corpus and Spoken BNC) within a discursive framework (Eelen 2001; Mills 2003; Watts 2003) that considers the negotiation of opposing views as well as relationships between interlocutors. We propose a model that relies on the crucial distinction we draw between the ‘positional’ and the ‘interpersonal’ level, pointing at mismatches between the two when it comes to the presence of conflict. We determine the presence and (non-)resolution of interpersonal conflict based on evidence of relational work (Locher and Watts 2008) and show that although there is no fixed trajectory from irony type (Kapogianni 2011, 2018) to interpersonal effect, some ironies are more interpersonally risky than others.
Keywords: refusals, irony, interpersonal conflict, multi-turn approach
Published online: 14 January 2021
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