Irony in Chinese languages

An overview and a case study

Authored by: I-wen Su , Shuping Huang

The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Applied Linguistics

Print publication date:  March  2019
Online publication date:  March  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138650732
eBook ISBN: 9781315625157
Adobe ISBN:


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Irony is often considered a rhetorical device characterized by incongruity between reality and expectation. In this chapter, we sketch the various approaches to irony and focus on the importance of social interaction in the understanding of verbal irony in Taiwanese Southern Min, a major dialect spoken in Taiwan. We highlight the function of irony as a “social lubricant”, which has been largely ignored in the literature. In doing so, we argue for a more comprehensive theory of irony to account for the often overlooked contextual and cultural aspects of human communication so as to understand why the capacity for irony is an essential part of being human.

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