“That’s not ironic, that’s just stupid”

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This article draws on a range of models from language studies, particularly from linguistic pragmatics, in order to elucidate patterns in the production and reception of irony in its social and cultural context. An expanded view of the concept of irony, it is suggested, allows for better modelling of the creative mechanisms which underpin it, and in doing so can open the way for a fuller understanding of humour production and reception. A consequence of this broader (five-fold) typology of irony is that it can help shed light on the cultural dynamic of irony. The article uses a range of examples from different media and the lay definitions and interpretations that ordinary (non-academic) users of the language use in the comprehension of irony. Insofar as it seeks to develop an overarching model of irony, this paper draws on a variety of textual examples from a variety of sources, ranging from corpus evidence, through a stand-up comedy routine, to political wall murals and their discursive re-conformation as humour in present-day Northern Ireland. Although the central discussion is supported by insights from other linguistic, cognitive and socio-cultural approaches, the theoretical framework which emerges, with its focus on language and communication in context, is situated squarely within contemporary linguistic pragmatics.


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