This article proposes the adoption of Goffman's
concept of “framing” to characterize irony
across its forms; the suggestion that this framing is achieved
by a shift of footing reveals links between verbal irony
and other forms of talk. Examination of irony in conversation
shows how the shift of footing allows for detachment, enabling
the ironist to make evaluations in response to perceived
transgressions with reference to common assumptions. It
is both the construction of an ironic turn and its placement
in a sequence that make for the discernible shift of footing,
and thus the visibility of the frame; with irony, conversational
expectations of what constitutes a next turn are fulfilled
on the level of form, but undermined on the level of content.
This analysis shows the extent to which irony is affiliative,
and reveals its hitherto unacknowledged subtlety of effect
and range of attitude.
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