Verbal Irony in a TV Series The Office (US) Season 2

Nabila Nurul Hasyim(1), Sharifah Hanidar(2*)

(1) Universitas Gadjah Mada
(2) Universitas Gadjah Mada
(*) Corresponding Author


Verbal irony as a figurative language has been conceived in everyday life as its use is common when people communicate with each other. It enables the speaker to express negative intention towards the hearer as well as producing humor elements. This study aims to analyze verbal irony in the sitcom The Office (US)  from Pragmatics perspective, which focuses on the identification of its forms and their manifestations in arousing humor. The data of this study were collected from season 2 of The Office (US) that consists of 22 episodes. They were observed, transcribed, analyzed, and classified into the category proposed by Gibbs (2000). The utterances that contain humor were marked and analyzed by applying the theory proposed by Garmendia (2007). The result shows that from 97 occurrences that were identified, all five types of verbal irony (sarcasm, jocularity, rhetorical question, hyperbole, and understatement) were found, with sarcasm as the most frequently used type. The analysis also revealed that the disparity that emerges from verbal irony leads to humor creation.


disparity; humor; situational comedy; verbal irony

Full Text:



Amante, D. J. (1981). The Theory of Ironic Speech Acts. Poetics Today, 2(2), 77. doi:10.2307/1772191

Attardo, S. (2000). Irony as relevant inappropriateness. Journal of Pragmatics, 32(6), 793-826. doi:10.1016/s0378-2166(99)00070-3

Attardo, S. (2002). Humor and Irony in Interaction: From Mode Adoption to Failure of Detection. In 1143578225 860672336 L. Anolli, 1143578226 860672336 R. Ciceri, & 1143578227 860672336 G. Riva (Authors), Say not to say: New perspectives on miscommunication (pp. 165-185). Amsterdam: IOS Press.

Attardo, S. (2010). Humorous texts: A semantic and pragmatic analysis. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Brown, P., & Levinson, S. C. (1987). Politeness: Some universals in language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Clark, H. H., & Gerrig, R. J. (1984). On the pretense theory of irony. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 113(1), 121-126. doi:10.1037/0096-3445.113.1.121

Colston, H. L. (1997). Salting a wound or sugaring a pill: The pragmatic functions of ironic criticism. Discourse processes, 23(1), 25-45.

Colston, H., & Gibbs, R. (2007). A brief history of irony. Irony in language and thought: A cognitive science reader, 3-21.

Dews, S., Kaplan, J., & Winner, E. (1995). Why not say it directly? The social functions of irony. Discourse Processes, 19(3), 347-367. doi:10.1080/01638539509544922

Friedmann, A. (2010). Writing for visual media (3rd ed.). Burlington, MA: Focal Press.

Garmendia, J. (2007). A critical pragmatic theory for irony: what an ironic utterance means, and how it does so. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of the Basque Country.

Gibbs, R. (2000). Irony in Talk Among Friends. Metaphor and Symbol, 15(1), 5-27. doi:10.1207/s15327868ms151&2_2

Gibbs, R. W. (1994). The poetics of mind: Figurative thought, language, and understanding. Cambridge University Press.

Glucksberg, S. (1995). Commentary on Nonliteral Language: Processing and Use. Metaphor and Symbolic Activity, 10(1), 47-57. doi:10.1207/s15327868ms1001_5

Grice, P. (1989). Studies in the Way of Words. Harvard University Press.

Haverkate, H. (1990). A speech act analysis of irony. Journal of Pragmatics, 14(1), 77-109. doi:10.1016/0378-2166(90)90065-l

Izaias, K. C. O. (2011). The analysis of irony through relevance theory in The Big Bang Theory sitcom. BELT-Brazilian English Language Teaching Journal, 2(1), 69-83.

Jorgensen, J., Miller, G. A., & Sperber, D. (1984). Test of the mention theory of irony. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 113(1), 112-120. doi:10.1037/0096-3445.113.1.112

Kreuz, R. J., & Glucksberg, S. (1989). How to be sarcastic: The echoic reminder theory of verbal irony. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 118(4), 374-386. doi:10.1037/0096-3445.118.4.374

Kreuz, R. J., & Roberts, R. M. (1993). On Satire and Parody: The Importance of Being Ironic. Metaphor and Symbolic Activity, 8(2), 97-109. doi:10.1207/s15327868ms0802_2

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Irony. In dictionary. Retrieved January 1, 2021, from

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Situation comedy. In dictionary. Retrieved March 17, 2020, from

Raskin, V. (1985). Semantic mechanism of humor. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company.

Roberts, R. M., & Kreuz, R. J. (1994). Why Do People Use Figurative Language? Psychological Science, 5(3), 159-163. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.1994.tb00653.x

Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. (1981). Irony and the use-mention distinction. Philosophy, 3, 143-184.

The Office seasons ranked. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Timms, D. (2005, March 29). US version of The Office scores ratings victory. Retrieved from

Whalen, J. M., Pexman, P. M., Gill, A. J., & Nowson, S. (2013). Verbal irony use in personal blogs. Behaviour & Information Technology, 32(6), 560-569.


Article Metrics

Abstract views : 2656 | views : 1552


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2022 Nabila Nurul Hasyim, Sharifah Hanidar

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Lexicon Office

English Department
Faculty of Cultural Sciences,
Universitas Gadjah Mada
Soegondo Building, 3rd Floor, Room 306
Yogyakarta, Indonesia 55281
Telephone: +62 274 513096

ISSN: 2746-2668 (Online)

Web Analytics View Stats

Creative Commons License
LEXICON is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Lexicon is indexed in


About UsSubmissionIssuePoliciesReview