Verbal irony comprehension in middle school age children and adults in Polish and English discourse

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Krygier-Bartz, Marta
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The objective of this study was to examine Polish and Canadian children’s and adults’ attention to two potential cues to ironic intent: 1) interpretive perspective (addressee versus bystander), and 2) parties present (speaker, addressee, and bystander). Polish participants were 36 9- to 10-year-olds and 36 adults recruited from schools in Poland. Canadian participants were matched from an existing dataset. Participants watched 9 videos containing ironic criticisms, literal criticisms, and literal compliments. Video characters criticized/complimented a present or absent addressee either with or without a bystander in three conditions: private evaluation, public evaluation, and gossip. Participants judged speaker’s intent and humour from the addressee’s perspective, and/or the bystander’s perspective. Interpretative perspective served as a cue to verbal irony only among Canadian adults, who rated ironic criticisms more mean and more serious when interpreting these statements from the addressee’s perspective versus the bystander’s perspective. The number of parties present influenced interpretation of irony’s seriousness for Polish adults, but not their Canadian counterparts. Polish adults rated public ironic criticisms as less serious compared to private ironic criticisms, while Canadian adults rated the conditions similarly. The results show that the relevance of cues in interpreting ironic criticisms is influenced by age and culture.
Verbal irony, Polish discourse, Culture, Children, Adults