Article published in:New Theoretical Insights into Untruthfulness
Edited by Marta Dynel
[Pragmatics & Cognition 23:1] 2016
► pp. 117–149
On the relation of irony, understatement, and litotes
The aim of this paper is to clarify the distinctive and the shared features of the three phenomena: irony, understatement, and litotes. These rhetorical figures have been defined as synonymous, distinct or overlapping in various accounts. This indicates an interrelation but also a need for clearer definitions. Here, each of these rhetorical figures is defined via two jointly necessary conditions. This approach sharpens the categories, enables clear-cut distinctions and helps to explain cases of overlap. German corpus data and examples from the literature as a basis, allow differentiating between cases of understatement as a means of irony, and cases of litotes as a means of understatement. Beyond that, litotes and understatement allow for non-ironic uses. Interestingly, litotic irony is built on litotic understatement. This is due to the overt contrast necessary for both understatement and irony.
Keywords: overlap, figures of speech, rhetorical figures, understatement, irony, co-occurrence, litotes, hyperbole, meiosis, mitigation
Published online: 29 September 2016
Cited by 7 other publications
Ayton, Peter & Leonardo Weiss-Cohen
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