Chinese ESL Learners' Pragmatic Competence in the Usage of Genuine Compliments, Ironic Compliments, and Ironic Insults
This study examined the pragmatic competency of Chinese ESL learners’ with genuine compliments, ironic compliments, and ironic insults. A genuine compliment is praise framed positively (e.g., "Good job!") while an ironic compliment is one framed negatively (e.g., "Lousy job!"). An ironic insult is an insult framed positively so that it resembles a compliment [e.g., saying "Good job" when it was lousy]). Subjects rated nine scenarios with these three types of speech acts according to (1) how insulted the complimentee is likely to be, (2) what impact the compliment/insult might have on the complimentercomplimentee relationship, (3) what kind of emotional response the complimentee is likely to have, and (4) how the complimentee might respond. The results indicated that a positive impression is often associated with genuine compliments, whereas a negative impression is associated with ironic compliments and ironic insults. This suggests that there is a miscommunication when irony is added to compliments. This study could be the basis for future studies that aim to understand how miscommunications are created, how they can be resolved, and how second language teachers can teach these solutions while taking into account the second language learner’s culture and background.