Publication details [#3601]

Colston, Herbert L. and Sabrina Y. Lee. 2004. Gender differences in verbal irony use. Metaphor and Symbol 19 (4) : 289–306. 18 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language


Potential causes of gender differences in perceived and reported verbal irony use are investigated. The study first presented written scenarios of speakers with indeterminate gender who made sarcastic comments. These speakers are judged to be more likely male than female, by both male and female participants. In a separate task, male participants also report a greater likelihood of using verbal irony relative to female participants. The study then investigated potential explanations of this gender difference. The results revealed support for an explanation based on a match between the generally greater riskiness of males over females, and a relatively greater risk of miscomprehension of verbal irony, rather than an explanation that males use verbal irony because its pragmatic functions fit better with their discourse goals versus those reported by females. A discussion of other potential underpinnings to gender differences in verbal irony use and a call for further research are presented. (Herbert Colston and Sabrina Lee)