Is a So-Called “Beach” a Beach? An Empirically Based Analysis of Secondary Content Induced by Ironic Name Use

in Secondary Content
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Abstract

This paper investigates the source and status of contents involved in ironic utterances which contain the name-mentioning modifier so-called as in The so-called “beach” was a thin strip of black volcanic grit. Based on two experimental studies, we argue that the head nominal’s non-literalness implicated in constructions of this sort is at-issue “the most”, while the speaker’s attitude to evaluate the head’s denotatum negatively is treated as at-issue the least. It will further be reasoned that the meaning that the head nominal’s denotatum has been called by the quoted name tends to figure as a presupposition, which is compatible with an echo approach towards verbal irony. Our findings support the notion of at-issueness as a graded criterion and can be used to argue that verbal irony in general seems to be difficult to reject directly and, thus, be treated as at-issue.