The role of prosody in the expression of irony in Spanish

  • Barbara Pihler Ciglič University of Ljubljana
Keywords: intonation, prosody, irony, oral speech


When verbal irony, an intrinsically polyphonic phenomenon, forms a part of oral discourse, it is often accompanied by a particular intonation, tone and accent (Ruiz Gurillo 2009; Becerra Valderrama 2011). Therefore, prosody becomes a significant part of the paralinguistic information in real conversation (Poyatos 1994; Couper-Kuhlen 2000), often playing the decisive role for the recognition and correct interpretation of verbal irony by the interlocutor. In Spanish there are few syntactic patterns that enable the ironic statement (e.g. the anteposition of adjectives according to Haverkate 1985). Hence, intonation, arguably the most influential linguistic phenomenon in oral communication, deserves more attention, although it has not always been considered a priority.
This article aims to, first, show the pragmatic relevance of prosody in the production of ironic statements and, second, observe the factors that determine the ironic intonation in Spanish, while examining its performance in specific examples of oral discourse. For this purpose, examples of ironic statements have been compared with non-ironic statements and analyzed using Praat software. The comparison, whose main objective was to determine the role of prosody in the recognition of the ironic intent with or without the situational context, was carried out in an experiment with thirty students in the Master’s Degree program in Spanish at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ljubljana.

How to Cite
Pihler Ciglič, B. (2017). The role of prosody in the expression of irony in Spanish. Linguistica, 57(1), 255-278.