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“Mom said it in quotation marks!” Irony comprehension and metapragmatic awareness in 8-year-olds

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 July 2023

Harvard Graduate School of Education, USA
Meredith L. ROWE
Harvard Graduate School of Education, USA
Brock University, Canada
The Maria Grzegorzewska University, Poland
Corresponding author: Sarah Garfinkel; Email:


This study investigated links between the development of children’s understanding of ironic comments and their metapragmatic knowledge. Forty-six 8-year-olds completed the short version of the Irony Comprehension Task, during which they were presented with ironic comments in three stories and asked to provide reasons for why the speaker in a story uttered an ironic comment. We coded their responses and compared the results to similar data collected previously with 5-year-olds. Results showed that compared to younger children, 8-year-olds frequently refer to interlocutors’ emotions, intentions, and to metapragmatics. These results support the view that comprehension of verbal irony is an emerging skill in children.

© The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press

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