An Exploratory Study on the Derivation of Ironical Implicatures by English Foreign Language Learners: Could Culture Play a Role?




cross-cultural communication, English foreign language learners, implicature, irony, cultural background, English-speaking culture, High Context culture, Low Context culture


Literature on cross-cultural communication has demonstrated that communication breakdowns are more likely to occur among speakers from different cultural backgrounds (Keenan 1976; Devine 1983). This kind of assumptions constituted the departing point of further studies, such as that of Bouton (1988), where he tested the communicative habits of non-native speakers of English and contrasted them with those of English native speakers. The results of these studies have proved that the derivation of implicatures by English non-native speakers differs if compared with that of English native speakers and that ironical implicatures are among the most difficult ones to grasp for English non-native speakers. What is more, culture has been regarded as a possible variable influencing the derivation of implicit meanings (Bouton 1988; Liddicoat 2009). In view of this literature and applying the approach on High Context and Low Context cultures (in accordance with Hall 1976; Würtz 2005; Min 2016; Hornikx and le Pair 2017), this exploratory study aims at analysing if culture plays a role in the derivation of ironical implicatures by English foreign language learners. For current purposes, the present study aims to analyse, first, whether a group of English foreign language learners derives pragmatically felicitous ironical implicatures or not; and, secondly, if culture as a bidirectional factor has an impact on participants’ interpretations. In order to do so, an exploratory sample of twelve English foreign language learners (all of them belonging to a High Context culture) filled a questionnaire, which was used to gather data. The questionnaire contained fifteen questions: ten multiple-choice questions and five open questions, each of them giving rise to an ironical implicature. The results suggest that participants show a high tendency to derive pragmatically felicitous ironical implicatures and that culture as a bidirectional variable has an impact on their interpretations. This leads to the conclusion that culture as a bidirectional variable seems to play a role in the derivation of ironical implicatures by the English foreign language learners in our sample.


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How to Cite

Ortiz Fernández, Paola, and María Tania Barberán Recalde. 2024. “An Exploratory Study on the Derivation of Ironical Implicatures by English Foreign Language Learners: Could Culture Play a Role?”. Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina De Estudios Ingleses, no. 40 (January):199-222.