The impact of foreign accent on irony interpretation
Martin, Clara D.
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Caffarra S, Michell E, Martin CD (2018) The impact of foreign accent on irony interpretation. PLoS ONE 13(8): e0200939. https:// doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0200939
In modern multi-cultural societies, conversations between foreign speakers and native listeners have become very common. These exchanges often include the use of figurative language. The present study examines, for the first time, whether native listeners’ non-literal interpretation of discourse is influenced by indexical cues such as speaker accent. Native listeners were presented with ironic and literal Spanish stories uttered in a native or foreign accent (Spanish and British English accents, respectively). Two types of irony were considered: ironic criticism (frequently used) and ironic praise (less frequently used). Participants were asked to rate stories on their level of irony. Results showed an impact of foreign accent on natives’ non-literal interpretation. The effect was evident in the less frequent ironic constructions (ironic praise), with foreign accented utterances considered less ironic than native accented utterances. These findings revealed that native listeners’ figurative interpretation of ironic praise can change depending on indexical cues, with a reduction of pragmatic inferences in the case of foreign accent.