A New Analysis of Verbal Irony

Yasir Alotaibi


This article contributes a new analysis of verbal irony to the literature. It presents the main analyses of verbal irony – and the main criticisms of these analyses – found in both older and modern literatures as part of its attempt to build a new account for verbal irony. Thus, this paper discusses traditional, echoic and pretense accounts of irony and the limitations of these analyses. In traditional account, verbal irony is analyzed as a type of a trope or a figurative, in which the speaker communicates the opposite of the literal meaning (see Utsumi (2000)). In echoic analysis, verbal irony is assumed to be an echoic interpretation of an attributed utterance or thought (see Wilson and Sperber (1992)). As for pretense account of verbal irony, it views the ironist as pretending to be an injudicious speaker talking to an uninitiated hearer (see Clark and Gerrig (1984)). The three analyses of verbal irony attract some criticism in the literature (see Kreuz and Glucksberg (1989) and Utsumi (2000)). This paper argues for a new analysis, suggesting that there are multiple types of verbal irony that should be examined under more than one analytical approach based on their meanings. This paper suggests that ironic verbal expressions that communicate the opposite of their literal meaning should be analyzed as a type of metaphor with two oppositional subjects in which the ironist pretends to believe that they resemble one another.



Ironist, echoic, pretense, verbal irony

Full Text:



Alzamakhshariy, M. (n.d.). Alkashaf an haqaaq ghwamidh altanziyl. Dar Alkitaab alarabiy.

Camp, E. (2012). Sarcasm, pretense, and the semantics/pragmatics distinction. Nouˆs 46(4), 587–634.

Carston, R. and C. Wearing (2015). Hyperbolic language and its relation to metaphor and irony. Journal of Pragmatics 79, 79–92.

Clark, H. H. (1996). Using language. cambridge: Cambridge university press, 1996. pp. xi+ 432. Journal of Linguistics (01).

Clark, H. H. and R. J. Gerrig (1984). On the pretense theory of irony. Currie, G. (2004). Arts and minds. Oxford University Press on Demand.

Currie, G. and I. Ravenscroft (2002). Recreative minds: Imagination in philosophy and psychol- ogy. Oxford University Press.

Giora, R. (1995). On irony and negation. Discourse processes 19(2), 239–264.

Grice, H. (1975). Logic and conversationin p. cole and j. morgan (eds.) syntax and semantics volume 3: Speech acts.

Grice, H. P. (1978). Further notes on logic and conversation. 1978 1, 13–128.

Jorgensen, J., G. A. Miller, and D. Sperber (1984). Test of the mention theory of irony. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 113(1), 112.

Kreuz, R. J. and S. Glucksberg (1989). How to be sarcastic: The echoic reminder theory of verbal irony. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 118(4), 374.

Kumon-Nakamura, S., S. Glucksberg, and M. Brown (1995). How about another piece of pie: The allusional pretense theory of discourse irony. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Gen- eral 124(1), 3.

Lakoff, G. and M. Johnson (2003). Metaphors we live by. 1980. Chicago: U of Chicago P.

Levinson, S. C. (1983). Pragmatics (cambridge textbooks in linguistics).

Nichols, S. and S. Stich (2000). A cognitive theory of pretense. Cognition 74(2), 115–147.

Popa-Wyatt, M. (2014). Pretence and echo: towards an integrated account of verbal irony. Inter- national Review of Pragmatics 6(1), 127–168.

Recanati, F. (2000). Oratio obliqua, oratio recta: an essay on metarepresentation. MIT Press.

Recanati, F. (2004). Literal meaning. Cambridge University Press. Sperber, D. (1984). Verbal irony: Pretense or echoic mention?

Sperber, D. and D. Wilson (1981). Irony and the use-mention distinction. Philosophy 3, 143–184.

Sperber, D. and D. Wilson (1986). Relevance: Communication and Cognition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Sperber, D. and D. Wilson (1998). A reply to seto, hamamoto and yamanashi. Relevance theory: Applications and implications 37, 283.

Utsumi, A. (2000). Verbal irony as implicit display of ironic environment: Distinguishing ironic utterances from nonirony. Journal of Pragmatics 32(12), 1777–1806.

Walton, K. L. (1990). Mimesis as make-believe: On the foundations of the representational arts. Harvard University Press.

Wilson, D. (2006). The pragmatics of verbal irony: Echo or pretence? Lingua 116(10), 1722– 1743.

Wilson, D. and D. Sperber (1992). On verbal irony. Lingua 87(1), 53–76.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.6n.5p.154


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2012-2019 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD

International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the journal emails into your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.