On the priority of salience-based interpretations: The case of sarcastic irony

Ofer Fein*, Menahem Yeari, Rachel Giora

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Results from 2 experiments support the view that, regardless of strength of contextual expectation for utterance nonsalient (ironic) interpretation, (a) salience-based interpretations will not be blocked. Instead, they will be facilitated initially. And, (b) if conducive to the interpretation process, they will not be suppressed, albeit incompatible (Giora 2003; Giora and Fein 1999a; Giora and Fein 1999b; Giora et al. 2007). In Experiment 1, expectancy for an ironic utterance was manipulated by introducing an ironic speaker, whose ironic utterances were prefaced by overt ironic cues, making explicit the speaker's ironic intent. In Experiment 2, expectancy strongly biased via repeated exposure to ironic utterances, was further strengthened by informing participants that the experiment was testing sarcasm interpretation. Long processing times were allowed so as to tap later (suppression) processes. Results from reading times and lexical decisions support the temporal priority of salience-based interpretations, while arguing against both, the contextualist views (Gibbs 2002; Katz 2009) and the Gricean suppression hypothesis (Grice 1975).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-32
Number of pages32
JournalIntercultural Pragmatics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2015


FundersFunder number
The Israel Science Foundation436/12


    • Context
    • Expectation Hypothesis
    • Irony
    • Salience
    • Sarcasm


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