Publication details [#8814]

Pexman, Penny M. and Melanie Glenwright. 2007. How do typically developing children grasp the meaning of verbal irony? Journal of Neurolinguistics 20 (2) : 178–196. 19 pp.
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Ironic remarks are an important aspect of everyday communication. The inferences involved in understanding a speaker's irony can be complex. How, then, do children develop the ability to understand verbal irony? The present study was designed to address this issue. Participants were 70 six- to ten-year-old children. Each child was presented with ironic criticisms and ironic compliments in the context of short puppet shows and several aspects of comprehension were assessed: appreciation of the speaker's belief, speaker's intent to tease, and speaker's attitude. The results suggest the following developmental progression: For ironic criticisms, speaker belief understanding emerges first, before understanding of speaker's intent to tease and speaker's attitude. These latter two components emerge together. For ironic compliments, speaker belief understanding emerges with understanding of the speaker's intent to tease, and an understanding of speaker attitude emerges later. We offer suggestions as to the factors that are important to development of these skills. (Penny M. Pexman and Melanie Glenwright)