Philosophical Studies 174 (1):123-140 (2017)

Stephen Barker
Nottingham University
I argue that figurative speech, and irony in particular, presents a deep challenge to the orthodox view about sentence content. The standard view is that sentence contents are, at their core, propositional contents: truth-conditional contents. Moreover, the only component of a sentence’s content that embeds in compound sentences, like belief reports or conditionals, is the propositional content. I argue that a careful analysis of irony shows this view cannot be maintained. Irony is a purely pragmatic form of content that embeds in compound sentences. The standard view cannot account for this fact. I sketch out a speech-act theoretic framework that can. But in accepting this alternative framework we are giving up on the whole idea of an autonomous semantics.
Keywords Figurative speech  Semantics  Truth-conditions  Propositions  Irony  Embedding  Speech acts  Pretence  Belief  Belief attributions  Thought
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11098-016-0624-4
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 59,775
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Asserting.Robert Brandom - 1983 - Noûs 17 (4):637-650.
The Content–Force Distinction.Peter W. Hanks - 2007 - Philosophical Studies 134 (2):141-164.
Pretence and Echo: Towards an Integrated Account of Verbal Irony.Mihaela Popa-Wyatt - 2014 - International Review of Pragmatics 6 (1):127–168.

View all 10 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Embedding Irony and the Semantics/Pragmatics Distinction.Mihaela Popa-Wyatt - 2019 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 62 (6):674-699.
Comparing and Combining Covert and Overt Untruthfulness.Marta Dynel - 2016 - Pragmatics and Cognition 23 (1):174-208.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Conditionals and Propositions in Semantics.Daniel Rothschild - 2015 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 44 (6):781-791.
The Argument From Ignorance Against Truth-Conditional Semantics.Paul Saka - 2007 - American Philosophical Quarterly 44 (2):157 - 169.
Demonstratives, Indexicals, and Tensed Attributions of Belief.Mark Richard - 1982 - Dissertation, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Sub-Sentential Speech and the Traditional View.Stefano Predelli - 2011 - Linguistics and Philosophy 34 (6):571-588.
Speech Acts Without Propositions?Marina Sbisà - 2006 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 72 (1):155-178.
Exclamatives, Degrees and Speech Acts.Jessica Rett - 2011 - Linguistics and Philosophy 34 (5):411-442.


Added to PP index

Total views
69 ( #149,560 of 2,432,610 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #294,596 of 2,432,610 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes