This study examines how irony is evaluated and practiced in online commenting. Specifically, it explores readers’ perceptions of irony manifest in their comments on ironic opinion editorials, and ironic comments following-up on ironic op-eds. Against the background of readers’ judgmental evaluations which highlight the threat to face embedded in ironic op-eds, the analysis focuses on affiliative irony whereby readers reciprocate the irony in the op-ed, and by so doing align with the columnist in jointly addressing a third party, who thus becomes a common target. In terms of the conceptualisation of follow-ups, the discussion adapts the traditional definition of a follow-up to the contextual constraints and requirements of CMC (in this case, op-eds. and their comments). In terms of irony research, it argues for the follow-up quality inherent in the flouting of implicit conversational norms or in the echoing mention of a previous act, be it explicit (a prior utterance) or implicit (presumed thought, belief, state of mind), true or imagined.
The analysis draws on a corpus-based study of three Israeli newspapers: Ha’aretz, Ynet and NRG. The study presupposes an interactional view of irony, and considers the study of readers’ follow-ups as a way to gain access to speakers’ intuitions, as well as to spontaneous discourse.
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