Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

Helsingin yliopisto, Helsinki 2006

Sekä että

Ironia koherenssina ja inkoherenssina

Toini Rahtu

Väitöskirja, elokuu 2006.
Helsingin yliopisto, humanistinen tiedekunta, suomen kielen ja kotimaisen kirjallisuuden laitos.

The interpretation of irony in this study is seen as being crucially dependent on the notion of coherence. Coherence depends on a complex interplay of contextual features, which is why all interpretations must be seen as socio-cultural processes. An utterance is perceived as coherent if it makes sense and if it hangs together. Incoherent utterances can result in an ironic interpretation; however, the incoherence must also be perceived as being intentional, and intentionality in turn is a sign of the ironist's rejecting stance. The study does not encompass the notion of irony of fate nor situational irony that is unintentional.

Irony is defined in this study as a combination of five components. It is seen as (1) a negative attitude that reflects (2) the intention of the ironist, and (3) has a target and most often (4) a victim too. Essential to irony is its fifth component, the fact that one or more of these four components must be inferred from co- or context. The componential definition of irony is crucial in deciding whether an interpretation is ironic or not, and the definition makes it possible to discern the differences as well as the similarities between different kinds of irony.

The method of the study is experimental: 12 Finnish newspaper texts that could be considered to be ironic were interpreted by 107 informants. The interpretation of one of the texts was based on unelicited feedback given by readers of a weekly magazine. The responses were analyzed to determine (a) whether the texts were perceived as being coherent or incoherent and (b) whether the informants appealed to any of the five components of irony. The results of the analyses of the informants' responses indicate that differences between the ironic and non-ironic interpretations of the texts can be explained in terms of whether or not the informant regarded the text as being coherent.

The thesis also discusses the shortcomings of other accounts of irony: the Gricean theory of conversational implicature, speech act theory, irony as rhetoric, irony as pretense, irony as echoic mention, and irony as framing. In contrast to these other accounts, the study focuses on irony as a textual phenomenon and underlines the importance of socio-cultural context in the interpretation of irony.

Key words: irony, coherence, incoherence, the componential definition of irony, interpretation of linguistic utterances.

The title page of the publication

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© Helsingin yliopisto 2006

Viimeksi päivitetty 31.07.2006

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