Irony in selected Kenyan political utterances: a relevance theoretic approach
The study looked at the interpretation of irony in selected Kenyan political utterances of 2012/2013 during the campaign period for the General Elections. The interpretation of irony was tested using the echoic interpretive approach as grounded in Relevance Theory by Wilson & Sperber (1986/95). The ironical utterances were sampled from a total of fifty utterances as the sample size out of which a total of twenty six ironical utterances were selected and analysed for the echo. These utterances were taken from print media and others were downloaded. The politicians being strategists in the way they use language contributed greatly to this study. The aim of the study was to also find out some of the echoes that politicians in verbal irony. As noted earlier echoic interpretation involves metarepresentation of an utterance or thought of another speaker. The interpretive aspect involves a speaker expressing an attributed thought or utterance to another speaker but most importantly expressing a range of dissociative attitudes towards those utterances or thoughts. The study also set out to analyse interpretation verbal irony using the basic tenets of Relevance theory which involve cognition, communication, comprehension cognitive effects and processing efforts in the interpretation of utterances inclusive of ironical utterances. The study showed that all these aspects had one main aim of maximizing relevance using cost-benefit formula which aims at creating as many assumptions using less effort to attain optimal relevance and also shows when to stop when the most accessible interpretation has been arrived at. From the findings in Kenyan political utterances, the attitude expressed involve a range of dissociative attitude ranging from mocking, ridiculing, scornful and disapproval all basing on the attributed utterance thought or even assumptions. The echoes identified from ironical utterances varied from those manifested in long time memory such as echoes of stereotype, societal norms and expectations while those manifested in short time memory include echoes of previous contexts and assumptions. The study found out that politicians have various intentions when using verbal irony such as a strategy to manipulate, influencing and coercing the voters to vote for them at the expense of their opponents. From the study verbal irony goes beyond stating the opposite of what is said but it is majorly based on the attitudes expressed in the utterance that are mainly dissociative in political utterances. Lastly the five chapters gave detailed accounts into solving the statement of the problem of interpretation of political ironical utterances within the Relevance theory and most importantly for ironical utterances to be understood as ironical a certain context had to be created that is identifiable with both the hearer and the speaker in order for the hearer to make inferences about the speakers intended meaning until optimal relevance is achieved.