version presented at the 2006 Pacific APA Why Isn't Sarcasm Semantic, Anyway?* Nearly everyone assumes that sarcasm is a pragmatic phenomenon. But we can also construct a prima facie plausible..

Nearly everyone shares the intuition that sarcasm or verbal irony1 is a use of language in which speaker meaning and sentence meaning come apart. Two millennia ago, Quintilian defined irony as speech in which “we understand something which is the opposite of what is actually said.”2 More recently, Josef Stern sharply distinguishes metaphor, which he argues is semantic, from irony: in the latter case, he says, we are not “even tempted to posit an ironic meaning in the utterance in addition to the ordinary literal meanings of the words used.”3 Indeed, sarcasm is frequently cited as a paradigm case of pragmatic meaning
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