Isn’t it ironic? An analysis on the elaboration of ironic sentences with ERPs

Michela Balconi, Simona Amenta

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in rivistaArticolo in rivistapeer review


Although frequent in our everyday conversations, irony is a complex pragmatic phenomenon involving specific linguistic, communicative and cognitive abilities in order to be fully understood. In this study we examined the pragmatic comprehension of ironical and non ironical language by analysing event-related potentials (ERPs) of irony decoding process. We asked 12 subjects to listen to 240 sentences with a counterfactual vs. non-counterfactual content and spoken with ironical vs. neutral prosody. ERPs morphological analysis showed a negative deflection peaking in central-frontal and parietal areas at about 460ms post stimulus onset (N400) for all the conditions. Statistical analyses applied to peak amplitudes showed no statistically significant differences between the conditions as a function of the type of sentence (ironical vs. non ironical) and the content of ironical sentences (counterfactual vs. non counterfactual). An increase of N400 related to ironical sentences was nonetheless observed. The absence of an N400 effect may indicate that irony is not treated as a semantic anomaly, although, the observed differences in amplitude could be probably attributed to a higher requirement for the cognitive system in order to integrate contrasting and complex lexical, prosodic and contextual cues.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)9-17
Numero di pagine9
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2008


  • ERPs
  • Irony
  • Neuropragmatics


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