Prosodic correlates of the expression of pure sarcasm and sarcastic irony in Brazilian Portuguese

Wellington da Silva, Plínio Almeida Barbosa


The study reported here aimed at investigating whether sarcastic irony is expressed in Brazilian Portuguese with an acoustic pattern distinct from that of pure sarcasm and neutral speech. A total of 236 utterances (48 exemplars of sarcastic irony, 84 of pure sarcasm, and 104 neutral), produced by 11 speakers (6 female; 5 male) and validated by a separate group of subjects in a perception experiment, were subjected to automatic acoustic analysis for the extraction of 15 acoustic parameters. The results showed that, in relation to the neutral utterances, sarcastic irony is expressed with smaller long-term average spectrum (LTAS) spectral slope, greater LTAS standard deviation, greater fundamental frequency (f0) first derivative standard deviation, lower f0 median, maximum and minimum, wider f0 interquantile range, and greater values of jitter and shimmer. Compared with pure sarcasm, sarcastic irony is expressed with a significantly greater LTAS spectral slope. We concluded, therefore, that sarcastic irony is expressed in Brazilian Portuguese with a specific pattern of changes in acoustic parameters as compared to neutral speech and pure sarcasm.

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