The evaluative palette of verbal irony
In this chapter we present the results of both a theoretical and empirical study on the evaluative character of verbal irony. Our main research concern was to provide evidence as to whether all cases of verbal irony are ‘critical’ in nature or not, both by means of theoretical reflection and by presenting the results of a survey whose questions were mainly oriented toward the identification of ironical situations by English native speakers. For our analysis of the evaluative content of ironic utterances we draw on the findings of studies such as Thompson and Hunston (2000), Martin and White (2005), or Bednarek (2008a). The results of the survey show that the great majority of speakers recognized the different evaluative shades of the ironical situations presented, which gave grounds for accepting our hypothesis that the essence of verbal irony is not to be found in its possible implied criticism, but in a finer, more subtle aspect of the phenomenon which has to do with a clash or contradiction at different linguistic/discursive levels.