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Clin Linguist Phon. 2018;32(8):721-738. doi: 10.1080/02699206.2018.1430851. Epub 2018 Feb 2.

Context processing during irony comprehension in right-frontal brain-damaged individuals.

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a CNRS, LPL , Aix-Marseille University , Aix-en-Provence , France.
b Faculté des lettres et sciences humaines, Institut des sciences du langage et de la communication , Université de Neuchâtel , Neuchâtel , Switzerland.
c Clinique Romande de réadaptation , Sion , Switzerland.


The aim of the present study was to investigate whether the degree of incongruity between contextual information and a target sentence influences the extent to which irony is understood in individuals with right-frontal-hemisphere damage (RHD). A psycholinguistic paradigm was used, allowing us to assess whether impairment in irony understanding is likely to be due to insensitivity (i.e. difficulty in capturing or detecting relevant contextual information) to relevant contextual information or to difficulties in integrating contextual information. Twenty individuals with RHD and 20 healthy control (HC) participants were tested on their understanding of a speaker's ironic intent and their executive functions. The main results revealed that individuals with RHD exhibit different patterns of performance, some of them being able to understand irony while in others this ability was impaired. The present study gives support to the hypothesis that difficulties in adequately using contextual information may account for pragmatic impairment of individuals with RHD. More importantly, the results suggested that these difficulties are related to a lack of sensitivity to contextual information instead of difficulty integrating it along with the ironic utterance. A subgroup of individuals with RHD processed the speaker's utterance without any reference to contextual information, which led them to a literal interpretation of the utterance.


Pragmatics; context processing; individuals with right-hemisphere-damaged; irony

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