Publication details [#1709]

Bryant, Gregory A. 2002. Recognizing Verbal Irony in Spontaneous Speech. Metaphor and Symbol 17 (2) : 99–117. 19 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.


On the basis of two experiments, the present paper investigates how listeners detect and interpret verbal irony in spontaneous speech extracted from talk radio programs. Previous studies (e.g. Capelli, Nakagawa and Madden, 1990; Fernald, 1992) have shown that in a context with processing limitations for the interlocutor (e.g. unfamiliarity between the speaker and the listener, lack of a face-to-face verbal interaction), the speaker is more likely to use prosodic disambiguation cues, such as exaggerated pitch contours, flattening, increased amplitude, nasalization, prolonged syllables, separation by pauses, etc. This paper demonstrates that listeners use these prosodic cues together with written contextual information to recognize ironic statements. Drawing from Sperber and Wilson’s (1986) echoic interpretation theory, the authors indicate that people make use of local prosodic cues (acoustic features, such as amplitude or duration) to identify the echoed proposition.