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How defaultness affects text production: Resonating with default interpretations of negative sarcasm

Rachel Giora, Shir Givoni and Israela Becker

Abstract

According to the Defaultness Hypothesis, interpretations of constructions, involving strong attenuation (e.g., by means of negation) of highly positive concepts, such as S/he is not the most mesmerizing person around; S/he is not particularly smart; S/he is not extremely friendly; and S/he is not really the ideal teacher, will spring to mind by default, immediately and directly. Hence, when in natural discourse, such constructions will be echoed by their environment via their default, here, sarcastic interpretation (e.g., S/he is dull; S/he is stupid; S/he is reserved; S/he is the worst teacher). Results show that, in natural discourse, default rather than nondefault interpretations prevail; indeed, the contexts of the negative constructions studied here evolve and unfold via resonating with their default interpretations.

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