Ironic tones of voices

Maël Mauchand, Nikolaos Vergis, Marc Pell


While prosody is thought to play a major role in the production and comprehension of irony, the manner in which prosody is used to signal ironic intentions is still poorly understood. The complexity and variety of ironic interactions create divergences in the observations of irony production and interpretation, making the theoretical “ironic tone of voice” a challenging concept to define. To examine the possibility of such a concept, acoustic and perceptual measurements were performed on literal or ironic criticisms and compliments. Our goal was to isolate cues specific to different attitudes conveyed and to relate these cues to the recognition and interpretation of particular attitudes. The very accurate discrimination between literal and ironic utterances in the perceptual judgements contrasted with the diversity in prosodic strategies between and within each attitude. We found that ironic criticisms (sarcasm) could often be distinguished from literal compliments based on increased utterance duration and reduced pitch variability. However, none of the acoustic measures significantly predicted the distinction between ironic compliments (teasing) and literal criticisms. This asymmetry in the prosodic strategies, when related to the asymmetries in production and interpretation of ironies, highlighted the interdependence between prosodic consistency and functional interpersonal interactions in ironic speech.


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-90

Cite as: Mauchand, M., Vergis, N., Pell, M. (2018) Ironic tones of voices. Proc. 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018, 443-447, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-90.


@inproceedings{Mauchand2018,
  author={Maël Mauchand and Nikolaos Vergis and Marc Pell},
  title={Ironic tones of voices},
  year=2018,
  booktitle={Proc. 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018},
  pages={443--447},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-90},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-90}
}