Sarcasm, pretense, and the semantics/pragmatics distinction

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Traditional theories of sarcasm treat it as a case of a speaker's meaning the opposite of what she says. Recently, 'expressivists' have argued that sarcasm is not a type of speaker meaning at all, but merely the expression of a dissociative attitude toward an evoked thought or perspective. I argue that we should analyze sarcasm in terms of meaning inversion, as the traditional theory does; but that we need to construe 'meaning' more broadly, to include illocutionary force and evaluative attitudes as well as propositional content. I distinguish four subclasses of sarcasm, individuated in terms of the target of inversion. Three of these classes raise serious challenges for a standard implicature analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)587-634
Number of pages48
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy

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