Irony is defined as an instrument used by the speaker to communicate the opposite of real message they intend to convey. However, a number of studies agree in considering irony an attitude related to the need of protecting the personal image of the speaker. To date, relatively few studies have focused on the acoustic analysis of verbal irony. Nasal articulation, exaggerated stressed syllables, heightened intensity, slow speech rate, syllable lengthening (extra-long pauses) and heightened pitch variation are some of the prosodic patterns of ironic speech identified so far. In some cases, verbal irony presents a reduced pitch range and it is perceived as flat. With specific reference to Italian, there is currently little available research on the acoustic properties of verbal irony. Our study aims to investigate the strategies adopted by speakers to convey sarcasm in terms of prosody, specifically we focused on a famous Italian sit-com.


Sui tratti prosodici dellironia verbale in una sit-com

L’ironia è definita come uno strumento utilizzato dal parlante per comunicare il contrario del reale messaggio che intende trasmettere. Tuttavia, diversi studi concordano nel considerare l’ironia un atteggiamento legato alla necessità di proteggere l’immagine personale del parlante. Ad oggi, relativamente pochi studi si sono concentrati sull’analisi acustica dell’ironia verbale. L’articolazione nasale, l’esagerazione delle sillabe sottolineate, l’aumento dell’intensità, la lentezza del discorso, l’allungamento delle sillabe (pause extra-lunghe) e l’accentuata variazione dell’intonazione sono alcuni dei modelli prosodici del discorso ironico identificati finora. In alcuni casi, l’ironia verbale presenta una gamma di intonazione ridotta e viene percepita come piatta. Con specifico riferimento all’italiano, le ricerche disponibili sull’acustica dell’ironia verbale sono fino ad oggi poche. Il nostro studio si propone di indagare le strategie adottate dai parlanti per trasmettere il sarcasmo in termini di prosodia; in particolare ci siamo concentrati sull’analisi di una famosa sit-com italiana.


Riferimenti bibliografici

Adachi T. (1996), “Sarcasm in Japanese”, in Studies in Language, 20, 1, pp. 1-36.

Anolli L., Infantino M. G., Ciceri R. (2001), “You’re a real genius! Irony as a miscommunication Design”, in Anolli L., Ciceri R., Riva G. (eds.), Say not to say: New Perspectives on Miscommunication, IOS Press, Amsterdam, pp. 141-163.

Anolli L., Infantino M. G., Ciceri R. (2002), “From ‘Blame by Praise’ to ‘Praise by Blame’: Analysis of vocal patterns in ironic communication”, in International Journal of Psychology, 37, 5, pp. 266-276.

Attardo S. (2000a), “Irony as relevant inappropriateness”, in Journal of Pragmatics, 32, 6, pp. 793-826.

Attardo S. (2000b), “Irony markers and functions: Towards a goal-oriented theory of irony and its processing”, in Rask. Internationalt Tidsskrift for Sprog og Kommunikation, 12, Odense University Press, Odense, pp. 3-20.

Attardo S., Eisterhold J., Hay J., Poggi I. (2003), “Multimodal markers of irony and sarcasm”, in Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 16, 2, pp. 243-260.

Berendonner A. (1981), Éléments de pragmatique linguistique, Les Éditions de Minuit, Paris.

Booth W. C. (1974), A rhetoric of irony, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Bryant G. A. (2010), “Prosodic Contrasts in Ironic Speech”, in Discourse Process, 47, 7, pp. 545-566.

Cheang H. S, Pell M. D. (2008), “The sound of sarcasm”, in Speech Communication, 50, 5, pp. 366-381.

Cheang H. S., Pell M. D. (2009), “Acoustic markers of sarcasm in Cantonese and English”, in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 126, 3, pp. 1394-1405.

Chen A., Boves L. (2018), “What’s in a word: Sounding sarcastic in British English”, in Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 48, 1, pp. 57-76.

Clark H., Gerrig R. (1984), “On the pretense theory of irony”, in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 113, pp. 121-126.

Cutler A. (1974), “On saying what you mean without meaning what you say”, in Papers from the tenth regional meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, Department of Linguistics, University of Chicago, Chicago, pp. 117-127.

Dews S., Winner E. (1995), “Muting the meaning: a social function of irony”, in Metaphor and Symbolic Activity, 10, 1, pp. 3-19.

Ducharme L. (1994), “Sarcasm and interactional politics”, in Symbolic Interaction, 17, pp. 51-62.

Fonagy I. (1971), “Synthèse de l’ironie”, in Phonetica, 23, pp. 42-51.

Gibbs R.W. (2000), “Irony in talk among friends”, in Metaphor and Symbol, 15, pp. 5-27.

González-Fuente S., Escandell-Vidal V., Prieto P. (2015), “Gestural codas pave the way to the understanding of verbal irony”, in Journal of Pragmatics, 90, 26-47.

Gurrado G. (2020), “La prosodia delle esclamative sarcastiche nell’italiano di Bari. Uno studio pilota”, in Studi Italiani di Linguistica Applicata, 2, pp. 368-392.

Gurrado G. (2022), “An acoustic analysis of ironic comments”, in Anais do II Congresso Brasileiro de Prosódia. Prosodia de líguas faladas e sinalizadas e suas interfaces, online event, n. 2, pp. 77-83.

Gurrado G. (2023), “Come esclamare con ironia: sul ruolo della prosodia nella codifica dell’attitudine ironica” in Castagneto M., Ravetto M. (a cura di), La Comunicazione parlata 2020, Roma, Aracne, pp. 651-674.

Haiman J. (1998), Talk is cheap: Sarcasm, alienation, and the evolution of language, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Jorgenesen J. (1996), “The functions of sarcastic irony in speech”, in Journal of Pragmatics, 26, 5, pp. 613-634.

Kreuz R. J., Roberts R. M. (1993), “On satire and parody: The importance of being ironic”, in Metaphor and Symbolic Activity, 8, 2, pp. 97-109.

Kreuz R. J., Roberts R. M. (1995), “Two cues for verbal irony: Hyperbole and the ironic tone of voice”, in Metaphor and Symbolic Activity, 10, pp. 21-31.

Kumwapee N., Jitwiriyanont S. (2020), “Expressing the Opposite: Acoustic Cues of Thai Verbal Irony”, in Proceedings of the 34th Pacific Asia Conference on Language, Information and Computation, Association for Computational Linguistics, Hanoi, Vietnam, pp. 439-446.

Lan C., Hui P., Xu W, Mok P. (2019), “Revisiting Acoustic Markers of Sarcasm in Cantonese”, in Proceedings of the 19th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS 2019), pp. 77-81.

Leykum H. (2019), “Acoustic Characteristics of Verbal Irony in Standard Austrian German”, in Calhoun S., Escudero P., Tabain M., Warren P. (eds.), Proceedings of the 19th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS 2019), pp. 3398-3402.

Loevenbruck H., Ameur Ben Jannet M., D’Imperio M., Spini M., Champagne-Lavau M. (2013), “Prosodic cues of sarcastic speech in French: Slower, higher, wider”, in Bimbot F. (ed.), Proceedings of the 15th Annual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association (INTERSPEECH 2014), pp. 3537-3541.

Mauchand M., Vergis N., Pell M. (2018), “Ironic tones of voices”, in Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody, 2018, pp. 443-447.

Muecke D.C. (1969), The Compass of Irony, Methuen, London.

Nauke A., Braun A. (2011), “The production and perception of irony in short context-free Utterances”, in Proceedings 17th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS 2011), pp. 1450-1453.

Nunberg G. (2001), The Way We Talk Now, Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

Rao R. (2013), “Prosodic Consequences of Sarcasm Versus Sincerity in Mexican Spanish”, in Concentric: Studies in Linguistics, 39.2, pp. 33-59.

Rockwell P. (2000), “Actors, partners and observers perceptions of sarcasm”, in Perceptual and Motor Skills, 91, pp. 665-668.

Schaffer K. R. (1982), “Are there consistent vocal clues for irony?”, in Masek C. S., Hendrick R. A., Miller M. F. (eds.), Parasession on Language and Behavior, Chicago Linguistic Society, Chicago, IL, pp. 204-210.

Sperber D., Wilson D. (1981), “Irony and the use- mention distinction”, in Cole P. (ed.), Radical pragmatics, Academic Press, New York, pp. 295-318.