Studies on the use of irony: an affinity selector mechanism

  • Caterina Scianna
Keywords: Verbal Irony, Social Cognition, Relevance Theory, Interpretative Hypotheses, Comprehension


Even if pragmatics has studied irony in depth, there is surprisingly little agreement not only to
its functions but also to its basic definition. Irony appears to be the result of different
linguistics acts (refusing, echoing, pretending, alluding), that in any case serve the speaker’s
goal to highlight an incongruity between some previous expectations and the current
situation. However, there seems to be something else that characterizes irony so as to render
it unique, something that makes it even more distinctively different from other figures of
speech, from other rhetorical strategies or structural devices.
The paper proposes a wider vision of investigation that takes into account the fact that irony
is a relational strategy in the sense that it operates not only between meanings (said and
unsaid) but also between people. Irony, far from being only a way of communicating a
proposition, is a sophisticated interaction that takes place between highly social beings. To be
understood, it requires contextual and metacommunicative elements, and also mutual
attribution of knowledge, intentions and affective states between speaker and listener.
Defining what the ironic linguistic meaning is, allows us to understand just only one aspect of
this complex phenomenon, but it doesn’t allow us to understand that irony is an attitude, a
way of doing things in order to create a relationship, of inclusion as much as exclusion, with
others. Understanding the social aspects of irony is a challenge for pragmatics, that allows us
to have an approach not only limited to understanding disparity between literal and figurative
meaning but which investigates irony as a social phenomenon that brings together several
different cognitive social abilities.


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How to Cite
Scianna, C. (2023) “Studies on the use of irony: an affinity selector mechanism”, Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio. doi: 10.4396/2022SFL05.