Publication details [#4071]

Dews, Shelly, Ellen Winner, Joan Kaplan, Elizabeth Rosenblatt, Malia Hunt, et al., Karen Lim, Angela McGovern, Alison Qualter and Bonnie Smarsh. 1996. Children's understanding of the meaning and functions of verbal irony. Child Development 67 (6) : 3071–3085. 15 pp.
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We investigated children's understanding of irony and sensitivity to irony's meanness and humor. In Study 1, 89 participants (520136-year-olds, 820139-year-olds, adults) heard ironic and literal criticisms, and literal compliments. Comprehension of irony emerged between 5 and 6 years of age. Ratings of humor increased with age; ratings of meanness did not (showing that all ages perceived irony as more muted than literal criticism). In Study 2, results from 135 participants (620137-year-olds, 820139-year-olds, and adults) replicated these findings and revealed the role of form and intonation. Thus, comprehension of irony emerges between 5 and 6 years of age, and sensitivity to the muting function develops prior to sensitivity to the humor function. (Shelly Dews et al.)