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Do you hear it now? A native advantage for sarcasm processing*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 March 2015

Newberry College
Winthrop University
University of South Carolina
INECO Foundation, Buenos Aires
University of South Carolina
Address for correspondence: Sara A. Peters, Psychology Department, Newberry College, 2100 College St, Newberry, SC


Context and prosody are the main cues native-English speakers rely on to detect and interpret sarcastic irony within spoken discourse. The importance of each type of cue for detecting sarcasm has not been fully investigated in native speakers and has not been examined at all in adult English learners. Here, we compare the extent to which native-English speakers and Arabic-speaking English learners rely on contextual and prosodic cues to identify sarcasm in spoken English, situating these findings within current cross-linguistic effects literature. We show Arabic speakers utilize the cues to a different extent than native speakers: they tend not to utilize prosodic information, focusing on contextual semantic information. These results help clarify the relative weight of contextual and prosodic cues in native-English speakers and support theories that suggest that prosody and emotion could transfer separately in second language learning such that one could transfer while the other does not.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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We would like to thank the University of South Carolina English Proficiency for Internationals Program for generously assisting us in participant recruitment. This work was partially supported by grants NIH R21AG030445 and NSF BCS0822617.


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