Article published In:Pragmatics: Online-First Articles
‘It seems my enemy is about having malaria’
The sociocultural context of verbal irony in Nigeria
This study seeks to characterise the form of verbal irony common among Nigerians by identifying its motivation, inherent properties, and communicative value. Data for this study comprised detailed field notes taken within the last five years in contexts in which utterances occurred naturally. These were then tested among informants from diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds at the University of Benin to determine the prevalence and motivation of the ironic utterances. In addition, 500 questionnaires were administered to a group of students and staff in the same institution. These were analysed using frequency tables and simple percentages. Results support the claim that irony in this context is governed by a single cultural principle: “You hurt yourself by admitting a negative situation.” Although the study draws heavily from the relevance-theoretic echoic account, it seeks to reevaluate this account by suggesting that positive attitudes in negative situations are salient cultural notions that underlie the echoic account in this context.
Keywords: verbal irony, echoic account, Nigerian cultural contexts, positive echoic irony, self-distancing, relevance theory
- 2.Notions of irony
- 3.The echoic interpretation of irony
- 4.The Nigerian cultural context and the echoic account
- 5.Materials and methods
- 6.Data presentation and analysis
- 6.1Irony and self-distancing
- 6.2Irony and positive confession
- 6.3The imaginary enemy as victim
- 6.4Comprehending verbal irony
- 6.5Composition of irony
- 7.Summary of findings and concluding remarks
Published online: 16 May 2023
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