Ironic situation



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Does an "ironic situation" favor an ironic interpretation?
Rachel Giora1, Ofer Fein2, Ronie Kaufman3, Dana Eisenberg2, and Shani Erez2


1Department of Linguistics, Tel Aviv University

2Department of Behavioral Sciences, The Academic College of Tel Aviv Yaffo
Correspondence address:

Rachel Giora

Department of Linguistics, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69778

Email address: giorar@post.tau.ac.il

What environment would promote irony interpretation? What contextual information would trigger or invite an ironic utterance? Is there a prototypical environment that would render irony interpretation preferable (see Utsumi, 2000, 2004)? According to Gibbs (2002: 462), it is a context that sets up an "ironic situation" through contrast between what is expected and the reality that frustrates it that would facilitate irony interpretation:
The reason why people might find the ironic remark This sure is an exciting life as easy to process as when this same sentence was seen in a literal context (e.g., where the speaker said something truthful about the exciting life he was leading) is because the context itself sets up an "ironic situation" through the contrast between what Gus expected when he joined the Navy and the reality of it being rather boring. Because people conceive of many situations ironically (Gibbs, 1994; Lucariello, 1994), they can subsequently understand someone’s ironic, or sarcastic, comment without having to engage in the additional computation that may be required when ironic remarks are seen in situations that are inherently less ironic.
Inspired by Gibbs' (2002) view that a context featuring an "ironic situation" should facilitate ironic interpretation, we set out to investigate the nature of such contextual information.1 The aim of this study is twofold. We first test the assumption that contexts that feature some contrast between what is expected and the reality that frustrates it would favor an ironic description of that situation compared to contexts in which no contrast is established between what is expected and the reality in which this expectation is realized (Experiment 1). To do that, we presented participants with two types of context. In one, the protagonist, say Gus, expects to experience adventures in the Navy but eventually has to deal with uninspiring daily routines; in another, Gus anticipates mundane routines in the Navy and indeed has to deal with tedious chores. Having read these contexts, participants were presented two possible endings for each of these contexts. One in which the description of the situation is ironic - This sure is an exciting life! – and another in which its description is literal - This sure is a boring life!. If people prefer an ironic description following an "ironic situation" more often than following a nonironic situation, this will support the view that an "ironic situation" invites an ironic ending.

In Experiment 2 we test the assumption that a context featuring an "ironic situation" – a situation that centers on some frustrated expectation – will facilitate irony interpretation compared to a situation that does not but rather centers on an expectation that comes true. To do that, we measured reading times of statements (This sure is an exciting life!) following contexts featuring a frustrated expectation, a realized expectation, and no-expectation, in which this statement is literal. In fact, even if the different (frustrated vs. no-expectation) contexts affect similar reading times for literal and ironic descriptions of such situations, such results will be consistent with the view that, given an "ironic situation", ironies should not be more difficult to understand than literals (Gibbs, 1986, 2002).


Experiment 1
In this study, we compared contexts featuring frustrated expectation vs. realized expectation in an attempt to find out whether they might differ in how they affect readers' choice of an ironic statement that describes the situation. Specifically, we presented participants with contexts in which an expectation was either realized or frustrated and asked them to choose between an ironic and a literal statement that describes that situation.
Method
Participants. Thirty-two participants including students of Tel Aviv University and friends and colleagues of the experimenters (19 women and 13 men) between the ages of 19 and 63 volunteered to participate in the experiment.

Materials. Materials consisted of 16 pairs of Hebrew contexts, and 16 filler contexts. All the contexts contained a short story, 6-9 sentences long, involving one or more characters, a negative event, and the protagonist's expectation related to that event. In half of the experimental items the expectation was frustrated (1) and in half it came true (2). Other than this difference between a frustrated and a realized expectation, the experimental contexts were very much alike. The filler items included an expectation only occasionally. All the contexts were followed by 2 target sentences. The experimental contexts were each followed by (a) an ironic depiction of how the expectation turned out (see 1a, 2a); (b) a literal description of that situation (see 1b, 2b). Both were uttered by the protagonist who earlier expressed the expectation. The filler items were each followed by a literal and a metaphoric target.
(1) Frustrated expectation
Shirley is a feminist activist. Two weeks ago, she organized a demonstration against the closure of a shelter for victimized women, and invited the press. She hoped that due to her immense efforts many people will show up at the demonstration, and that the media will cover it widely. On the day of the demonstration, 20 activists arrived, and no journalist showed up. In response to the poor turn out, Shirley muttered:

a. This demonstration is a remarkable success. (Ironic)

b. This demonstration is a remarkable failure. (Literal)
(2) Realized expectation
Shirley is a feminist activist. Two weeks ago, she organized a demonstration against the closure of a shelter for victimized women, and invited the press. As always, she prepared herself for the idea that despite the hard work, only a few people will show up at the demonstration and the media will ignore it entirely. On the day of the demonstration, 20 activists arrived, and no journalist showed up. In response to the poor turn out, Shirley muttered:

  a. This demonstration is a remarkable success. (Ironic)

b. This demonstration is a remarkable failure. (Literal)
The paired items were divided into two booklets, each containing 16 experimental and 16 filler contexts plus 2 targets following each context. All the materials, including the target sentences, were randomly presented. Of the 16 experimental contexts, half contained a realized expectation and half a frustrated expectation. One booklet contained 7 contexts featuring an expectation that was realized and 9 in which the expectation was frustrated. The other booklet contained 9 contexts featuring an expectation that was realized and 7 in which the expectation was frustrated. The subjects were not exposed to the same context twice.
Procedure. Subjects were asked to read the stories and select the most suitable ending, either (a) or (b).

Results and discussion
Results showed no preference for ironic over literal interpretations, nor did they show equal distribution of literal and ironic interpretations. Instead, it was the literal utterance that was the most preferable choice (selected in about 70% of the cases). Importantly, this was the case not just when expectation was realized but also when expectation was frustrated.

In addition, results showed no preference for an ironic target as a function of the kind of expectation made manifest. This was borne out by both subject (t1(31)=.27, p=.27) and item (t2(15)=.66, p=.26) analyses. Specifically, subjects chose ironic targets following a context manifesting a frustrated expectation in 30.36% of the cases (SD=27.92). Similarly, subjects chose ironic targets following a context manifesting a realized expectation in 31.60% of the cases (SD=24.84).

It is not the case, then, that a context that sets up an "ironic situation" through contrast between what is expected and the reality that frustrates it that invites an ironic reference to that situation more often than a context not manifesting such "ironic situation." It is not even the case that an "ironic situation" would equally invite ironic and literal descriptions of the situation. Rather, it is the literal description that is favored, regardless of type of expectation (for similar results, see also Ivanko and Pexman, 2003, where situations involving frustrated expectations invited a literal rather than an ironic reference to that situation).

While our findings showed no preference for ironic over literal statements as a function of frustrated vs. realized expectations, they might be examined in terms of an alternative explanation. Would the size of the gap between what is said and the situation described account for speakers' preference of an ironic over a literal utterance? According to the view of irony as indirect negation (Giora, 1995), the larger the gap between what is said and the situation described the more often speakers will select an ironic rather than a literal description of the situation, regardless of whether the situation features a failed or a fulfilled expectation.2 According to the indirect negation view, however, should such a preference emerge, this does not predict ease of processing. Anticipation of an ironic utterance need not have initial facilitative effects. Although under such circumstances, irony interpretation might be speedier than under less favorable conditions, this boosting of the ironic interpretation need not obviate or bypass initial access of inappropriate but more accessible interpretations (see Giora, Fein, Laadan, Wolfson, Zeituny, Kidron, Kaufman, & Shaham, in press).

To test the hypothesis that the size of the gap between what is said and the situation referred to can account for a possible preference of ironic descriptions of these situations, we presented 10 irony experts (students of irony classes) with all the contexts, which, this time, were followed by the ironic targets only. We asked these experts to rate, on a 7 point scale, the size of the gap between what is said and the situation described by the ironic statement. We then looked at the gap ratings of the third (11) of the items that had received the greatest amount of ironic endings compared to the third (11) of the items that had received the smallest amount of ironic endings. Results showed that readers' choice of an ironic target was a function of the size of the gap: The third most popular ironic endings received higher gap ratings (5.91, SD=0.51) than the third least popular ironic endings (5.55, SD=0.57), t(20)=1.57, p=.06.

Similarly, comparing the third (11) of the ironic items rated highest in terms of gap size to the third (11) of the items rated lowest in terms of gap size reveals that the upper third was more often selected as an ironic ending (36.4%, SD=19.3%) compared to the lower third (24.4%, SD=17.1%), t(20)=1.53, p=.07.

In all, these findings indicate that the preference for an ironic statement is not sensitive to the type of expectation induced by context. Instead, it is guided by the size of the gap between what is said and the situation described. (For more evidence supporting the view that irony hinges on the gap between what is said and what is referred to, see Colston & O'Brien, 2000; Giora, 1995, Giora et al., 2005a,b).

Results of Experiment 1, then, do not favor a context exhibiting a frustrated expectation over a context exhibiting a realized expectation in terms of how they prefer an ironic statement over a literal one. Further, contrary to Gibbs' (2002) assumption, situations featuring a frustrated expectation are not perceived as inviting an ironic statement more often than or as often as a literal statement.

It now remains to test Gibbs' second assumption that situations that feature a frustrated expectation will facilitate irony comprehension compared to those that do not. To this end, Experiment 2 was designed.
Experiment 2
In this study we test the view proposed by Gibbs (2002) that an ironic reading of a target might be facilitated by a context that sets up an "ironic situation" through contrast between what is expected and the reality that frustrates it. To do that we measure reading times of targets embedded in different contexts - a context featuring a frustrated expectation, a context featuring a realized expectation, and a context featuring no-expectation. We aim to find out whether targets' processing times will differ as a function of the nature of the contextual expectation - frustrated vs. realized vs. no-expectation. While contexts featuring expectations bias the target statements toward the ironic interpretation, the contexts featuring no-expectation bias their reading toward the literal interpretation. If reading times of targets following contexts that feature a frustrated expectation are faster than those following contexts that feature a fulfilled expectation, this will argue in favor of the view that an "ironic situation" indeed facilitates irony interpretation. Even if reading times of targets following such contexts are faster than those following a neutral context, this will support the view that an "ironic situation" promotes ironic interpretation. However, if there is no difference between reading times of targets following contexts featuring an expectation whether frustrated or not, but, in addition, such targets take longer to read than following a neutral context, this will argue against the view proposed by Gibbs (2002) that contextual information featuring an "ironic situation" facilitates irony interpretation.
Method
Participants. Sixty students of the Academic College of Tel Aviv Yaffo (41 women, 19 men), aged 20-26, participated in this experiment for a course credit. They were all native speakers of Hebrew.

Materials. Materials included 15 triplet experimental items,

5 filler items and 2 practice items, all followed by a Yes/No comprehension question. The fillers and practice items were all literally biased. The experimental items were divided into 3 types of context, 5 of each type, each followed by the same target sentence and the same final sentence. One type was ironically biased and featured frustrated expectation (3), another was also ironically biased and featured a realized expectation (4), and another was literally biased and featured no expectation (5). The 3 types of contexts, although not identical, were rather similar. The materials were selected on the basis of 2 pretests that established which items were rated as most ironic (pretest 1) and which stood out, as indicated by the number of responses to questions, as satisfying the requirement for featuring the 3 types of expectations mentioned above (pretest 2).

Thus, the aim of the first pretest was to establish that the two types of ironically biased contexts (3-4) indeed had similarly ironic targets, but such that would be distinctly more ironic than the assumed literal target, which should be rated as lowest on the irony scale. To do that we engaged 24 participants (14 women, and 10 men), aged 21-36 years old, high-tech employees, all native speakers of Hebrew, who volunteered to participate in the pretest. They were presented 23 items as in (3-5) and were asked to read them and rate the targets (which were highlighted) on a 7 point irony scale.

The second pretest aimed to ensure that our contexts featured a frustrated expectation (3), a realized expectation (4), and no-expectation (5). Materials were the 23 items used in pretest 1. Twenty-four Tel Aviv University students (17 women, 7 men) aged 22-66, all native speakers of Hebrew, volunteered to participate in the pretest. They were asked to read the contexts and the target sentence and to answer the following Yes/No questions:




  1. Did the protagonist of the text (whose name was indicated) have an expectation?

  2. If so, was the expectation fulfilled?

For the experiment we selected 15 triplet items, so that the frustrated and realized expectations would be similar in their expectancy scores (replies to question (a) of the 2nd pretest). However, there was still a difference between them. The mean expectancy score for the frustrated expectation was 89% (SD=21%), for the realized expectation - 77% (SD=18), and for the no-expectation - 32% (SD=21%). Those expectancy scores all differed from each other significantly (all p's<.0001), suggesting that a frustrated expectation is easier to identify as an expectation compared to the realized expectation, and that no expectation is also relatively easy to identify as such. Regarding the fulfillment of the expectation (question (b) of the 2nd pretest), the frustrated expectations were found to be indeed unfulfilled (M=2%, SD=4%), while the realized expectations got a high fulfillment score (M=81%, SD=21%). The difference between the two was significant, t(14)=15.34, p<.0001). Lastly, based on the first pretest, while the two types of ironies did not differ in ironiness - 5.97, SD=0.35, for the frustrated expectations; 5.90, SD=.45, for the realized expectation, t<1, n.s. -, they differed significantly from the literal targets which scored only 2.27 (SD=0.78) on the ironiness scale, t(14)=15.00, p<.0001, t(14)=16.99, p<.001. We have thus ensured that even though contexts featuring a frustrated expectation were more easily recognized as featuring an expectation compared to contexts featuring a fulfilled expectation, they were both evaluated as featuring expectation compared to contexts exhibiting no expectation. We further ensured that the contexts containing an expectation were similarly biased ironically while the contexts exhibiting no expectation were different, scoring low on the ironiness scale.


(3) Frustrated expectation
Context:

Sagee went on a ski vacation abroad. He really likes vacations that include sport activities. A relaxed vacation in a quiet ski-resort place looked like the right thing for him. Before leaving, he made sure he had all the equipment and even took training classes on a ski simulator. But already at the beginning of the second day he lost balance, fell, and broke his shoulder. He spent the rest of the time in a local hospital ward feeling bored and missing home. When he got back home, his shoulder still in cast, he said to his fellow workers:


Ironic target sentence:

"Ski vacation is recommended for your health"


Final sentence:

Everyone smiled.


Comprehension question:

Do you think Sagee will go for a ski vacation again?


(4) Realized expectation
Context:

Sagee went on a ski vacation abroad. He doesn't even like skiing. It looks dangerous to him and staying in such a cold place doesn't feel like a vacation at all. But his girlfriend wanted to go and asked him to join her. Already at the beginning of the second day he lost balance, fell, and broke his shoulder. He spent the rest of the time in a local hospital ward feeling bored and missing home. When he got back home, his shoulder still in cast, he said to his fellow workers:


Ironic target sentence:

"Ski vacation is recommended for your health"


Final sentence:

Everyone smiled.


Comprehension question:

Do you think Sagee will go for a ski vacation again?


(5) No-expectation
Context:

Sagee went on a ski vacation abroad. He has never practiced ski so it was his first time. He wasn't sure whether he would be able to learn to ski and whether he will handle the weather. The minute he got there he understood it was a great thing for him. He learned how to ski in no time and enjoyed it a lot. Besides, the weather was nice and the atmosphere relaxed. When he got back home, he said to his fellow workers:


Literal target sentence:

"Ski vacation is recommended for your health"


Final sentence:

Everyone smiled.


Comprehension question:

Do you think Sagee will go for a ski vacation again?


Procedure. Participants were tested individually. They were seated in front of a computer screen in a quiet and well lit room and were asked to read the context paragraph. When they have read the paragraph they had to press the space bar and were presented with the target sentence. Having read this sentence they pressed the space bar and were presented with the final sentence. A Yes/No question followed when they had pressed the space bar indicating they have read the final sentence. They had to respond to this question by pressing the Yes or No designated key. Reading times of targets were recorded by the computer.
Results and discussion
Two participants were excluded from the analyses after making more than 25% errors in responding to the Yes/No comprehension questions. To ensure a perfectly counterbalanced design, two participants were randomly excluded from each of the two other conditions. The final analyses are thus based on 54 participants (18 in each condition).

Reading times of targets, whose Yes/No comprehension questions participants failed to respond to correctly, were excluded from the analyses (overall, 35 out of 810 RTs, about 4.3%). Since the data were skewed and contained many outliers, the raw data was logarithmically transformed, before the analyses were run. However, for simplicity, the means and SDs are reported here before the transformation. Both subject (t1) and item (t2) t-tests were performed. Findings show that "ironic situations" did not facilitate irony comprehension. They demonstrate that there was no difference in the mean reading time of ironic targets following either a context featuring a frustrated expectation (1927 msec, SD=421) or a context featuring a realized expectation (1906 msec, SD=453), t1(53)<1, n.s., t2(14)<1, n.s. However, they were both significantly longer than the reading time of literal targets following contexts featuring no expectation (1819 msec, SD=506). Thus, reading times of ironic targets following a context featuring a frustrated expectation compared to the reading times of literal targets were significantly slower, t1(53)=1.99, p<.05, t2(14)=1.37, p=.10. Reading times of ironic targets following a context featuring a realized expectation compared to the reading times of literal targets were significantly slower, t1(53)=2.09, p<.05, t2(14)=1.23, p=.12 (but less so for the item analysis probably because of the small number of items). When the same t-tests were performed on the raw data (not subjected to the logarithmic transformation), the results were the same, just less significant.

These findings then argue against the view that a context featuring an "ironic situation" - a situation that sets up a contrast between what is expected and the reality that frustrates it – should facilitate irony interpretation to the extent that it may be tapped directly and be as if not easier easy to understand as a literal alterative (Gibbs, 1986, 2002). Instead, they replicate previous results showing that, regardless of context strength, interpreting irony takes longer to process than equivalent salience-based (e.g., literal) utterances (Giora, 1995; Giora et al., in press; Pexman, Ferretti & Katz, 2000; Schwoebel, Dews, Winner, & Srinivas, 2000 among others).
General Discussion
In this article we set out to test the hypothesis that irony interpretation should be (i) promoted as well as (ii) facilitated by a context that involves an "ironic situation" - a situation that sets up a contrast between what is expected and the reality that frustrates it (Gibbs, 2002). To do that, we first examined the possibility that an "ironic situation" indeed favors an ironic description of that situation (Experiment 1). We then turned to test the assumption that an "ironic situation" would facilitate irony interpretation (Experiment 2).

In Experiment 1 we compared contexts exhibiting an "ironic situation" which involves a frustrated expectation with contexts not exhibiting such a situation but instead involving an expectation that comes true. Our findings show that literal endings were preferred over ironic ones, and that both types of contexts invited the same amount of ironic endings, suggesting that there is nothing unique about any of these contexts that might invite an ironic description of the situation described. However, a reanalysis of the results in terms of an alternative theory was attempted. According to the indirect negation view of irony (Giora, 1995; Giora et al., 2005), it is the gap between what is said and the situation described by what is said that accounts for ironiness. Indeed an inspection of the results along these lines reveals that, having been presented with both alternatives, subjects opted for an ironic ending more often than for a literal ending when the gap between what is said and the situation referred to was large, regardless of type of expectation (frustrated/realized).

In Experiment 2 we showed that while the ironic interpretations always took longer to read than the literal ones, they took equally long to read regardless of whether they followed an "ironic situation" or not. An "ironic situation", then, did not facilitate ironic interpretation.

Based on these studies, it seems safe to conclude that a context that sets up an "ironic situation" through contrast between what is expected and the reality that frustrates it neither invites an ironic statement nor facilitates its interpretation. The claim, then, that rich and supportive contextual information can facilitate irony interpretation (Gibbs, 1986, 2002) has not gained support here. Au contraire. These results support an alternative view that, regardless of how supportive a context is of an ironic interpretation, it does not allow appropriate interpretations to circumvent inappropriate but salient meanings and interpretations based on these meanings (which here coincided with literal interpretations). As a result, salience-based interpretations were faster to derive (as also shown by Giora et al., in press).

Still, it is also possible to claim that, since it was not established here that a context featuring an "ironic situation" invites an ironic utterance (Experiment 1), the contexts used in our experiments do not, in fact, constitute strong contextual information. Would a context that induces an expectation for an ironic utterance eventually facilitate such an utterance? In Giora et al. (in press) we examined such contexts. On the assumption that expectancy may be built-up by preceding stimulus sequences (Jentzsch & Sommer, 2002; Kirby, 1976; Laming, 1968, 1969; Soetens, Boer, & Hueting, 1985), we proliferated use of ironic utterances in contexts preceding ironic and literal targets. Such contexts indeed induced an expectation for an oncoming ironic utterance. Notwithstanding, even these highly predictive contexts did not facilitate ironic utterances compared to salience-based (literal) interpretations, which were always activated initially. So far, then, most of the evidence adduced argues against the claim that a rich and supportive context facilitates ironic interpretation.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The studies reported here were supported by a grant to the first author by Adams Super Center for Brain Tel Aviv University, and by Tel Aviv University Basic Research Fund. We also thank an anonymous reviewer for very helpful comments.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Rachel Giora, Department of Linguistics, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel. E-mail: giorar@post.tau.ac.il
References
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Appendix

Sample items

Experiment 1
(1a) Frustrated expectation
Dina was preparing to go out on a date with a guy she had met on the internet. According to the description he had put on the website, and the chats they had had, she was expecting to meet a handsome and witty man. Upon arrival at the place where the two had set to meet, she saw an ugly creature, which later on turned out to be humorless as well. When she got back home, she told her friend Miri about her date:


        1. I had a cool date (Ironic)

        2. I had a bummer date (Literal)

(1b) Realized expectation


Dina was preparing to go out on a date with a guy she had met on the internet. In order to avoid disappointment, she prepared herself for a meeting with a guy whom she would not like. Upon arrival at the place where the two had set to meet, she saw an ugly creature, which later on turned out to be humorless as well. When she got back home, she told her friend Miri about her date:
a. I had a cool date (Ironic)

b. I had a bummer date (Literal)


(2a) Frustrated expectation
Danit was about to join the army. She had wanted to be assigned a challenging position, and applied for an aviation course. When she arrived at the induction center, an appointing officer informed her she will be appointed a secretarial position near home in Tel Aviv. Danit said:
a. My military service is going to be terrific. (Ironic)

b. My military service is going to be a drag. (Literal)


(2b) Realized expectation
Danit was about to join the army. Since she knew that the army does not promote women, she assumed she'd be assigned an insignificant job. When she arrived at the induction center, an appointing officer informed her she will be appointed a secretarial position near home, in Tel Aviv. Danit said:


    1. My military service is going to be terrific. (Ironic)

    2. My military service is going to be a drag. (Literal)


Experiment 2
(1a) Frustrated expectation
Yair and Anat moved to Paris. A friend of theirs recommended a real estate agent she knew who indeed immediately sent them photos of amazing apartments in romantic attics in the center of Paris. They were really excited. When they arrived at the apartment they found out that the photos distorted the reality. The apartment they chose was actually a 25m2 without even enough space for the luggage. Frustrated, Anat said to Yair:

"We are having a great start here in Paris, ha?"

Yair looked quite shocked.
(1b) Realized expectation
Yair and Anat moved to Paris. They went to a real estate agent who sent them photos of optional apartments. This way of selecting an apartment looked quite problematic. How can one pick an apartment just from looking at photos? One should visit the apartment before deciding he is going to live there. When they got to the apartment they found out that the photos distorted the reality. The apartment they chose was actually 25m2 without even enough space for the luggage. Frustrated, Anat said to Yair:

"We are having a great start here in Paris, ha?"

Yair looked quite shocked.
(1c) No-expectation
Yair and Anat moved to Paris. They heard about an available apartment from a friend and decided to first move there and then, after have moved there, to make up their mind as to whether to stay there or shop for another one. When they arrived in Paris, they found that the apartment was just amazing, located in the center and designed in a way that met their standards exactly. Anat said to Yair:

"We are having a great start here in Paris, ha?"

Yair looked quite shocked.

(2a) Frustrated expectation


After several times in which Meital moved apartments with the help of friends, she decided to order movers for the job. She wanted other people to carry everything for her, take the stuff down from the current apartment and take it up to the new one, all in one ride and without a need to beg and apologize to her friends. But on the moving day the movers were 2 hours late, didn't behave nicely, and also dropped the box with all the fragile stuff, and everything was broken. When the movers asked for their payment she told them:

You are really worth the money.

The owner of the moving company didn't respond

(2b) Realized expectation

 

Meital was moving to a new place. After she didn't manage to find a pickup truck, she decided to order movers. She already knew that this deal was not worthwhile: the movers are always late and are not really responsible. But she didn't have a choice. Indeed, on the moving day, the movers were 2 hours late, didn't behave nicely, and even dropped the box with all the fragile stuff, and everything was broken. When the movers asked for their payment she told them:



You are really worth the money.

The owner of the moving company didn't respond.


(2c) No-expectation

 

After several times in which Meital moved her apartment with the help of friends, she decided to order movers for the job. She found a company in the yellow pages and hired them. On the moving day everything worked smoothly, the movers came on time, took everything very fast and treated the fragile things properly. When the movers asked for their payment, she told them:



You are really worth the money.

The owner of the moving company didn't respond.




1 Note that "ironic situation" and "situational irony" are two unrelated notions. For information on "situational irony", see Gibbs (1994); Littman & Mey (1991); Shelley (2001).


2 For examples, in the context of 1, which reports of the small number of activists showing up for the demonstration, to say that (a) This demonstration is a remarkable success is to state something that is distinctly removed from the actual state of affairs. Such a statement fleshes out the gap between what is said and the situation described by what is said. However, to say that (b) This demonstration is a remarkable failure is to state something that more closely reflects the actual state of affairs and thus hardly maintains any gap between what is said and the situation described. While the former is usually interpreted ironically, the latter is taken to be literal. Indeed, when the gap is somehow narrowed down by a hedge such as not as in (c) This demonstration is not a remarkable success, readers still interpret it ironically, but to a lesser extent than when it is not hedged and the gap is more distinct (see Giora, Federman, Kehat, Fein, & Sabah, 2005a; Giora, Fein, Ganzi, Alkeslassy Levi, 2005b).



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