The role of prosody in children's inferences of ironic intent

Linda M. Milosky, Janet A. Ford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Cues that may affect how an utterance is interpreted may arise from several sources. The importance of prosody, or vocal affect, in determining if a speaker's intent is ironic has often been assumed, but studies of the role of prosody in children's comprehension of potentially ironic utterances have yielded mixed results. The study presented here sought to examine the effects of prosodic variation on the type of inferences 6-and 9-year-old children made about a speaker's communicative intent. Sixteen children from each age group were given two-sentence scenarios about events, in which the event outcome was not stated. Target sentences were presented in three prosodic conditions, and children were asked to infer the event outcome and the speaker's intended meaning. Results demonstrated that children's interpretations of potentially ironic utterances were influenced by prosody, and the nature of this influence differed by age (Age x Prosody interaction).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-61
Number of pages15
JournalDiscourse Processes
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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