A Short Etude on Irony in Storytelling

Open access


This paper presents an overview of chosen concepts of irony as a communicative unit in the repertoire of the speaker. It adopts a framework of narration with emphasis on how minds in interactions co-construct meanings. Irony, which means more than it says, is always used with a specific attitude attached. Irony is thus an act of narrating the speakers’ mind, but in the speaker-hearer meaning perspective.

Due to the fact that there is no narration without a text and no irony without narration, this paper links the Theory of Narrative Line and Narrative Field (Bokus, 1991, 1996, 1998) with a few selected views on the theory of irony (e.g., Clark and Gerrig, 1984; Sperber and Wilson, 1981, 1984) and research results. It also explains how the Cooperation Principle (Grice, 1975) is flouted and again recreated in the process of sharing meanings. Further, we refer to linguistic bias (Maass et al., 1989) and highlight perspective shifting in narration, which can change along the ‘narrative line’ and within the ‘narrative field.’

This paper builds a platform for combining the theories of irony with fields of narration. This perspective situates irony as a vehicle hinged in dialectics between the explicit and the implicit, the like and the dislike, the truth and the falsehood, the praise and the criticism. All of these can be read from irony.

Alba Juez, L. (1995).Verbal Irony and the Maxims of Grice's Cooperative Principle. Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses, 8, 25–30.

Akimoto, Y., & Miyazawa, S. (2017). Individual Differences in Irony Use Depend on Context. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 36(6), 675–693.

Anolli, L., Ciceri, R., & Infantino, M. G. (2002). From” blame by praise” to” praise by blame”: Analysis of vocal patt erns in ironic communication. International Journal of Psychology, 37(5), 266–276.

Astington, J. W. (2003). Sometimes necessary, never sufficient: False-belief understanding and social competence. In B. Repacholi & V. Slaughter (Eds.), Individual differences in theory of mind: Implications for typical and atypical development (pp. 13–38). New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Attardo, S. (1998). Irony as relevant inappropriateness. Journal of Pragmatics, 32, 793–826.

Baron-Cohen S, Leslie A. M., & Frith, U. (October 1985). Does the autistic child have a "theory of mind"?. Cognition, 21(1), 37–46.

Berman, R. A. & Katzenberger, I. 2004. Form and function in introducing narrative and expository texts: A developmental perspective. Discourse Processes, 38(1), 57–94.

Berman, R. A. (1995). Narrative competence and storytelling performance: How children tell stories in different contexts. Journal of narrative and life history, 5(4), 285 –313.

Blum-Kulka, S. (1997) Dinner talk: Cultural patterns of sociability and socialization in family discourse. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Bokus, B. (2004). Inter-mind phenomena in child narrative discourse. Pragmatics, 14(4), 391–408.

Bokus, B. (2000). Światy fabuły w narracji dziecięcej (Story worlds in child narration). Warszawa: Energeia.

Bokus, B. (1998). Pole narracji: pejzaż akcji i pejzaż świadomości w opowiadaniach dziecięcych (The narrative field: landscape of action and landscape of cosciousness in children’s stories). In: M. Smoczyńska (Ed.), Studia z psychologii rozwojowej i psycholingwistyki (Studies in the developmnetal psychology and psycholinguistics) (pp. 211–217). Kraków: Universitas.

Bokus, B. & Shugar, G. W. (1998). Social structures of children’s narrational activity. Psychology of Language and Communication, 2(1), 75–81.

Bokus, B. (1996). Narrative space structuring at the preschool age. Findings on monologic and dialogic discourse. In: C. E. Johnson & J. H. V. Gilbert (Eds.), Children’s language (vol. 9, pp 197–207). Mahvah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Bokus, B. (1991). Children’s pragmatic knowledge of narrative tasks. In: J. Verschueren (Ed.), Pragmatics at Issue, Part I (pp. 13–28). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Brown, P. & Levinson, S. C. (1987). Politeness: Some universals in language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Bruntsch, R. & Ruch, W. (2017). Studying irony detection beyond ironic criticism: Let's include ironic praise. Frontiers of Psychology. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00606

Bülow, P.H. (2004). Sharing experiences of contested illness by storytelling. Discourse and Society, 15(1), 33–53.

Clark, H., & Gerrig, R. (1984). On the pretense theory of irony. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Genral, 113, 121–126. doi: 10.1037/0096-3445.113.1.121

Colston, H. L. & Lee, S. Y. (2004). Gender differences in verbal irony use. Metaphor and Symbol, 19(4), 289–306.

Cuff, E. C. & Hustler, D. (1981). Adult-child conversation. London: Croom Helm.

Dews, S., Kaplan, J., & Winner, E. (1995). Why not say it directly? The social functions of irony. Discourse Process. 19, 347–367. doi: 10.1080/01638539509544922

Dynel, M. & Meibauer, J. (2016). Everything You always wanted to know about the pragmatics of deception but were afraid to test. International Review of Pragmatics, 8(2), 163–178.

Dynel. M. (2016). Killing Two birds with one deceit. Deception in multi-party interaction. International Review of Pragmatics, 8(2), 179–218.

Garmendia, J. (2010). Irony is critical. Pragmatcs & Cognition, 18, 397–421. doi:10.1075/pc.18.2.07gar

Garmendia, J. (2013). Ironically saying and implicating. What Is Said and What Is Not. The Semantics/Pragmatics Interface, 225–24.

Gibbs, R. W. (2000). Irony in talk among friends. Metaphor and Symbol, 15 (1–2), 5–27.

Gibbs, R. W. (1986). On the psycholinguistics of sarcasm. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 115, 3–15.

Gibbs, R.W. (1994). The poetics of mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Giora, R. (1997). Understanding figurative and literal language: The graded salience hypothesis. Cognitive Linguistics, 8(3),183–206

Giora, R. (1995). On irony and negation. Discourse Process, 19, 239–264. doi:10.1080/01638539509544916

Guimond, S., Chatard, A., Martinot, D., Crisp, R. J., & Redersdorff, S. (2006). Social comparison, self-stereotyping, and gender differences in self- construals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(2), 221–242. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.90.2.221

Grice, H. P. (1975). Logic and conversation. In P. Cole and J. L. Morgan (Eds.), Syntax and Semantics Vol. 3: Speech Acts (pp. 41–58). New York, NY: Academic Press.

Halliday, M. A. K. (1975). Learning how to mean: Explorations in the development of language. New York, NY: Elsevier.

Haverkate, Henk, 1990. A speech act analysis of irony. Journal of Pragmatics, 14(1), 77–109.

Ivanko, S. L., Pexman, P. M., & Olineck, K. M. (2004). How sarcastic are you? Individual differences and verbal irony. Journal of Language & Social Psychology, 23, 244–271.

Katz, A., Piasecka, I., & Toplak, M. (November 2001). Comprehending the sarcastic comments of males and females. Paper presented at the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society, Orlando, FL.

Keenan, E. (1974). Conversational competence in children. Journal of Child Language, 1, 163–183.

Keltner, D., Capps, L., Kring, A. M., Young, R. C., & Heerey, E. A. (2001). Just teasing: a conceptual analysis and empirical review. Psychological Bulletin, 127, 229–248. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.127.2.229

Kemper, S. (1984). The development of narrative skills: Explanations and entertainments. In Discourse development (pp. 99-124). Springer, New York, NY.

Kotthoff , H. (2003). Responding to irony in diff erent contexts: On cognition in conversation. Journal of Pragmatics, 35(9), 1387–1411.

Kreuz, R.J. & Link, K.E. (2002). Asymmetries in the Use of Verbal Irony. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 21(2):127–143.

Kreuz, R.J. &R. Roberts. 1993. On satire and parody: The importance of being ironic. Metaphor and Symbolic Activity (8), 97–109.

Kumon-Nakamura, S., Glucksberg, S., & Brown, M. (1995). How about another piece of pie: the allusional pretense theory of discourse irony. Journal Experimental Psycholgy: General, 124, 3–21. doi:10.1037/0096-3445.124.1.3

Labov, W. (1972). Language in the Inner City: Studies in the Black English Vernacular. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Leech, G. N. (1983). Principles of Pragmatics. New York, NY: Longman

Li, X. (2008). A Cross-Cultural Exploration of Situational Irony in China and the United States. Sino-Platonic Papers, 184.

Maass, A., Salvi, D., Acuri, L., & Semin, G. R. (1989). Language use in intergroup contexts: the linguistic intergroup bias. Jouranl of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 981–993. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.57.6.981

Milanowicz, A., Tarnowski, A., & Bokus, B. (2017). When sugar-coated words taste dry: The relationship between gender, anxiety, and response to irony. Fronters of Psycholgy. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02215

Milanowicz, A., & Bokus, B. (2013). Gender and moral judgments: the role of who is speaking to whom. Journal of Gender Studies, 22, 423–443. doi: 10.1080/09589236.2012.719314

Muecke, D. (1970). Irony. Norfolk, Fakenham: Methuen & Co Ltd.

Myers Roy, A. (1977). Towards a definition of irony. In: R. W. Fasold & R. Shuy (Eds.), Studies in language variation (pp. 171–183). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

Norrick, N. R. (1994). Involvement and joking in conversation. Journal of Pragmatics, 22, 409–430. doi: 10.1016/0378-2166(94)90117-1

Norrick, N. R. (2007). Conversational storytelling. In: D.Herman (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Narrative (pp. 127–141). Cambridge Univeristy Press.

Pexman, P. M. & Olineck, K. M. (2002). Does sarcasm always sting? Investigating the impact of ironic insults and ironic compliments. Discourse Processes, 33, 199–217.

Psathas, G. (1968). Comment. American Psychologist, 23, 135–137

Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. (1981). Irony and the use-mention distinction. In P. Cole (Ed.), Radical Pragmatics (pp. 295–318) New York, NY: Academic Press.

Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. (1984). Pragmatics: an overview. In S. Georges (Ed.), From the Lingusistics to the Social Context (pp. 21–41). Bologna: Cooperativa Libraria Universitaria Editrice.

Schwoebel, J., Dews, S., Winner, E., & Srinivas, K. (2000). Obligatory processing of the literal meaning of ironic utterances: further evidence. Metaphor Symbol, 15, 47–61. doi:10.1080/10926488.2000.9678864

Spotorno, N., Koun E., Prado J., Van Der Henst J.B.,& Noveck I.A.(2012). Neural evidence that utterance-processing entails mentalizing: the case of irony. Neuroimage, 63(1), 25–39. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.06.046.

Todorov, A., Said, C. P., Engell, A. D., & Oosterhof, N. N. (2008). Understanding evaluation of faces on social dimensions. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12(12), 455–460.

Weir, R. (1960). Language in the crib. The Hague: Mouton.

Wigboldus, D. H. J., & Douglas, K. (2007). Language, stereotypes, and intergroup relations. In K. Fiedler (Ed.), Social communication (pp. 79–106). New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Wigboldus, D. H. J., Spears, R., & Semin, G. R. (2005). When do we communicate stereotypes? Influence of the social context on the linguistic expectancy bias. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 8(3), 215-230. doi:10.1177/1368430205053939

Wimmer, H. & Perner, J. (1983). Beliefs about beliefs: representation and constraining function of wrong beliefs in young children’s understanding of deception. Cognition, 13, 103–128.

Winner, E., Brownell, H., Happé, F., Blum, A., & Pincus, D. (1998). Distinguishing lies from 5 jokes: Theory of mind deficits and discourse interpretation in right hemisphere brain- 6 damaged patients. Brain and Language, 62, 89–106. doi:10.1006/brln.1997.1889

Wolniewicz, B. (2012). O pojęciu Kłamstwa i Zasadzie Prawdomówności. Edukacja Filozoficzna, 54, 1–23.

Vrij, A. (2006). Detecting Lies and Deceit. Pitfalls and Opportunities. 2nd ed. Chichester: John Wiley.

Journal Information

CiteScore 2018: 0.29

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.118
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.410


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 120 120 37
PDF Downloads 108 108 22