Embedding irony and the semantics/pragmatics distinction

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 62 (6):674-699 (2019)
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Abstract

This paper argues that we need to re-think the semantics/pragmatics distinction in the light of new evidence from embedding of irony. This raises a new version of the old problem of ‘embedded implicatures’. I argue that embedded irony isn’t fully explained by solutions proposed for other embedded implicatures. I first consider two strategies: weak pragmatics and strong pragmatics. These explain embedded irony as truth-conditional content. However, by trying to shoehorn irony into said-content, they raise problems of their own. I conclude by considering how a modified Gricean model can explain that irony embeds qua implicature. This leads us to prefer a local implicature model. This has important consequences for how we draw the semantics/pragmatics distinction.

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Mihaela Popa-Wyatt
University of Manchester

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