Speaker’s intended meaning in cases of situational irony

Anna Milanowicz , Barbara Bokus


Children’s ability to comprehend irony is the main subject in the present project. We concentrate on children’s understanding of ironic utterances occurring in cases of situational irony. Situational irony entails the representation of events that end contrary to what is expected (Lucariello & Mindolovich, 1995). When interpreting ironic utterances, the listener must use this contextual information in order to derive speaker’s intended meaning (Mey, 2008;  Rattray & Tolmie, 2008). The study proposal is treated as a method of exploring mind-reading in children. Making inferences about the speaker’s intentions are tested in a story-completion task, wherein children are presented with story stems and asked to provide endings. We assume that a story task is ideal for eliciting ironic events because a story is about irregularities in activities (Bruner, 1986).

The basic questions can be formulated as follows: How do 3- to 7-year-old children comprehend situational irony? Sixty Polish-speaking children (20 children in each of three age groups: 3;6-4;0,  4;6-5;0 and 5;6-6;0 ) participated in the study. Each child was told two stories about ironic events (for half of the children, the first was presented Story A, and for the other half - Story B). During the analyses we concentrate on how children understood the meaning of ironic utterances literally or  nonliterally, or maybe could not decide (“don’t know” answers) or gave irrelevant answers (following Loukusa and Leinonen, 2008). In the group of 3-year-olds, answers showing a nonliteral (intended) meaning were fewer than answers focusing on the literal meaning of the ironic utterances. In 4-year olds these two kinds of answers were equally frequent, whereas older children favored a nonliteral meaning in their answers. It was found  that though younger children can be capable of identifying examples of verbal irony, the ability to recognize the intent behind ironic statements develops between 5 and 6 years of age. Older children even created new examples of situational irony in their stories. Younger children (4-year-olds) focused their attention on a game of pretending that facilitated the interpretation of ironic statements.  The results were discussed in the light of Utsumi’s theory of irony, based on the assumptions that “ironic language presupposes an ironic environment, a certain situational setting in the discourse context. Verbal irony is a language-related phenomenon, but it cannot be discussed outside of a situation” (Utsumi, 2008, p. 500).

Author Anna Milanowicz
Anna Milanowicz,,
, Barbara Bokus (Wydział Psychologii)
Barbara Bokus,,
- Wydział Psychologii
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Book Stoyanova Juliana, Kyuchukov Hristo (eds.): Psychology and Linguistics. Papers in Honor of Professor Encho Gerganov , 2011, Prosveta
Abstract in Polish

W pracy przedstawione jest zagadnienie znaczenia wypowiedzi ironicznych. Powszechnie stosowaną procedurę, służącą badaniu rozumienia przez dzieci fałszywych przekonań, uznano za ciekawe narzędzie diagnostyczne z perspektywy dotarcia do rozumienia przez dzieci ironii. Badanie dotyczy zmian rozwojowych w zakresie rozumienia ironii sytuacyjnej, a ściślej nastawione jest na uchwycenie dostrzeżenia przez dzieci różnicy pomiędzy znaczeniem zamierzonym i znaczeniem dosłownym wypowiedzi w przypadkach ironii sytuacyjnej. W badaniach uczestniczyły dzieci 3-6letnie (po 20 dzieci w każdej z trzech grup wiekowych: 3;6-4;0,  4;6-5;0 and 5;6-6;0 ). Analizy materiału empirycznego (z uwzględnieniem kryteriów zaproponowanych m.in. przez takich badaczy, jak  Loukusa and Leinonen, 2008) dowiodły, że  dzieci są w stanie  zrozumieć ironię znacznie wcześniej niż dotychczas sądzono (por. Lucariello & Mindolovich, 1995; Farina, Albanese, & Pons, 2007; Pexman & Glenwright, 2007; Rattray & Tolmie, 2008).

Languagepl polski
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Dorobek Naukowy - Preview URLhttp://dn.swps.edu.pl/Podglad.aspx?WpisID=5586
Dorobek Naukowy - Approve URLhttp://dn.swps.edu.pl/Biuro/ZatwierdzanieWpisu.aspx?WpisID=5586
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