Research Seminars

Research seminars

Wednesday 14th December 2016

"Americans don't do irony": Cross-cultural perspectives on the Pragmatics of Irony"

Paul Simpson (University of Liverpool)

This presentation approaches irony as a discursive practice and makes specific reference to the way in which ironic situations are processed and interpreted in different cultural contexts. The study argues that irony is at the forefront of much social interaction, including, humour, sarcasm, banter, teasing, politeness, satire and parody; it also contends that more emphasis should be given in pragmatic accounts of irony to the role of individual language users in both the generation and the classification of irony. In pursuit of these related aims, an online experiment is generated which gathers reactions to six different scenarios from about 300 informants world-wide. The data elicited offers insights into cultural practices and helps challenge myths such as the one posited in the title of this talk; that is, the common perception of many in the UK and Ireland that people from North America ‘don't do’ irony. The talk therefore places ordinary users of language centre stage, allowing them, not academicians, to decide on the ironic status of different kinds of discourse. More broadly, the paper foregrounds the communicative, cultural and legal consequences of irony in social life.