Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton May 4, 2011

Irony and (in)coherence: interpreting irony using reader responses to texts

  • Toini Rahtu EMAIL logo
From the journal Text & Talk


The interpretation of ironic texts in this article is based on informants' responses to authentic texts. This approach is illustrated with a set of responses to a (potentially ironic) letter to the editor published in a major Finnish newspaper. Ironic interpretation is seen as being crucially dependent on coherence. Texts that are perceived as incoherent can result in an ironic interpretation, if the incoherence is also perceived as being intentional, and intentionality in turn is a sign of the edge of the ironist. On the basis of the analysis of informants' responses, ironic interpretation is defined as a combination of five factors: (1) an ironic edge that (2) reflects the intention of the ironist, and (3) has a target and (4) a victim, too. Essential to irony is factor (5): one or more of factors 1–4 must be inferred from co(n)text. This definition of irony is crucial in distinguishing irony from non-irony, and it helps to discern the differences as well as the similarities between irony and related phenomena.

Address for correspondence: Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies, P.O. Box 3, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland

Published Online: 2011-05-04
Published in Print: 2011-May

© 2011 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/New York

Downloaded on 25.9.2023 from
Scroll to top button