Introduction:

The ability of listeners to discriminate literal meanings from figurative language, affective language, or rhetorical devices such as irony is crucial for a successful social interaction. This discriminative ability might be reduced in listeners supplied with cochlear implants (CIs), widely used auditory prostheses that restore auditory perception in the deaf or hard-of-hearing. Irony is acoustically characterised by especially a lower fundamental frequency (F0), a lower intensity and a longer duration in comparison to literal utterances. In auditory perception experiments, listeners mainly rely on F0 and intensity values to distinguish between context-free ironic and literal utterances. As CI listeners have great difficulties in F0 perception, the use of frequency information for the detection of irony is impaired. However, irony is often additionally conveyed by characteristic facial expressions.

Objective:

The aim of the project is two-fold: The first (“Production”) part of the project will study the role of paraverbal cues in verbal irony of Standard Austrian German (SAG) speakers under well-controlled experimental conditions without acoustic context information. The second (“Perception”) part will investigate the performance in recognizing irony in a normal-hearing control group and a group of CI listeners.

Method:

Recordings of speakers of SAG will be conducted. During the recording session, the participants will be presented with scenarios that evoke either a literal or an ironic utterance. The response utterances will be audio- and video-recorded. Subsequently, the thus obtained context-free stimuli will be presented in a discrimination test to normal-hearing and to postlingually deafened CI listeners in three modes: auditory only, auditory+visual, visual only.

Application:

The results will not only provide information on irony production in SAG and on multimodal irony perception and processing, but will, most importantly, identify the cues that need to be improved in cochlear implants in order to allow CI listeners full participation in daily life.