Expecting irony: Context versus salience-based effects

Rachel Giora*, Ofer Fein, Dafna Laadan, Joe Wolfson, Michal Zeituny, Ran Kidron, Ronie Kaufman, Ronit Shaham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Results from 4 experiments support the view that, regardless of contextual information, when an end-product interpretation of an utterance does not rely on the salient (lexicalized and prominent) meanings of its components, it will not be faster than nor as fast to derive as when it does. To test this view, we looked into interpretations of salience-based (here, literal) interpretations and expectation-based (here, ironic) interpretations in contexts inducing an expectation for irony. In Experiment 1, expectancy was manipulated by introducing an ironic speaker in vivo who also uttered the target utterance. Findings show that ironic targets were slower to read than literal counterparts. Experiment 2 shows that ironies took longer to read than literals and that response times to ironically related probes were longer than to literally related probes, regardless of context. Experiments 3 and 4 show that, even when participants were given extra processing time and were exclusively presented ironically biasing contexts, the expectancy for irony acquired throughout such exposure did not facilitate expectancy-based compared to salience-based interpretations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-146
Number of pages28
JournalMetaphor and Symbol
Issue number2
StatePublished - 20 Mar 2008


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