Irony, relevance and pragmatic interpretation in Spanish

X. Rosales Sequeiros

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines the interpretation of irony in Spanish. It first looks at traditional approaches such as the Gricean model, which classify irony together with other tropes like metaphor, hyperbole, or understatement. This type of approach analyses irony as resulting from an overt violation of the maxim of quality (involving the speaker saying a blatantly false statement). This violation forces the hearer to search for a related proposition that will save the application of the maxim, which in the case of irony is the opposite of what has been said and is taken as an implicature of the utterance. However, there are many counterexamples to this approach in Spanish, which suggest that an alternative analysis is needed. It is argued that the best alternative approach is provided by relevance theory, which relies on the idea that irony is a form of echoic use involving an implicit dissociative attitude. It is shown that this framework seems to solve the problems encountered by earlier approaches and its application to Spanish provides further evidence for this alternative account.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-385
JournalLanguage Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • irony
  • pagmatics
  • relevance theory
  • Spanish


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