Talk: Diana Mazzarella and Nausicaa Pouscoulous

Diana Mazzarella is Professor at the Centre for Cognitive Science, University of Neuchâtel. Her current work lies in the interdisciplinary field of pragmatics, which explores language and communication from a cognitive perspective.

Nausicaa Pouscoulous is Associate Professor in Linguistics at University College London. Her research combines experimental and theoretical approaches and focuses on linguistic phenomena at the interface between semantics and pragmatics, such as scalar implicature, presupposition and metaphor. In recent years she has been particularly interested in the acquisition of pragmatic abilities in typically and atypically developing children.

They will talk to us, via Zoom, about some of their recent work on irony. 

Ironic speakers, vigilant children 

Young children are notoriously bad at understanding ironical statements. Unlike what has been shown for other pragmatic phenomena (e.g., various types of implicatures and meaning shifts), the onset of irony comprehension (between 4 and 6 years old) seems insensitive to task manipulation. In this talk we present an account of irony which sheds light on this late development.  
Verbal irony characteristically involves the expression of a derogatory, dissociative attitude. The ironical speaker is not only stating a blatant falsehood or irrelevant proposition; she is also communicating her stance towards its epistemic status. The centrality of attitude recognition in irony understanding opens up the question of which cognitive abilities make it possible. Drawing on Wilson (2009), we provide a full-fledged account of the role of epistemic vigilance in irony understanding and suggest that it relies on the exercise of first- and second-order vigilance towards the content, the ironic speaker as well as the source of the irony. 
The crucial role of epistemic vigilance, particularly second-order epistemic vigilance, can explain why irony comprehension is difficult for pre-schoolers and possibly even some adult populations. 

Tags: Linguistics, Pragmatics, Lingvistikk, Pragmatikk
Published Jan. 24, 2022 12:36 PM - Last modified May 3, 2022 9:10 PM