Publication details [#11380]

Wilson, Deirdre. 2006. The pragmatics of verbal irony: Echo or pretence? Lingua 116 (10) : 1722–1743. 22 pp.
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This paper considers two post-Gricean attempts to provide an explanatory account of verbal irony. The first treats irony as an echoic use of language in which the speaker tacitly dissociates herself from an attributed utterance or thought. The second treats irony as a type of pretence in which the speaker "makes as if" to perform a certain speech act, expecting her audience to see through the pretence and recognise the mocking or critical attitude behind it. The two approaches have sometimes been seen as empirically or theoretically indistinguishable, and several hybrid accounts incorporating elements of both have been proposed. I will argue that the echoic and pretence accounts are distinguishable on both theoretical and empirical grounds, and that while echoic use is essential to standard cases of verbal irony, pretence is not. However, the term irony has been applied to a very wide range of phenomena, not all of which can be explained in the same way, and I will end by briefly mentioning some less central cases where varieties of pretence or simulation do indeed achieve ironical effects. (Deirdre Wilson)