Publication details [#1708]

Dews, Shelly. 1999. Obligatory processing of literal and nonliteral meanings in verbal irony. Journal of Pragmatics 31 : 1579–1599. 21 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
Amsterdam: Elsevier


The authors distinguish between two forms of verbal irony, viz. ironic criticism and ironic praise. The former involves a situation in which a speaker expresses a negative attitude by means of a positive statement (e.g. ‘Fine weather we’re having’ referring to a cold and rainy day) whereas the latter refers to a case in which a speaker employs a negative sentence to convey a positive attitude (e.g. ‘You have a hard life’ said to a friend going on a luxury holiday). In consonance with the Tinge Hypothesis (Dews and Winner, 1995), the results of experiment 1 show that the positive literal meaning of an ironic criticism mitigates the severity of the criticism whereas the negative literal meaning of an ironic praise suggests a more critical attitude. This paper endorses the multiple meaning model of non-literal language processing according to which literal and intended meanings can be derived in either order or at the same time.