How sports fans forge intergroup competition through language: The case of verbal irony

C.F. Burgers, C.J. Beukeboom, M Kelder, M.M.E. Peeters

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In situations with rival groups, people strategically use language to strengthen group identity and foster intergroup competition. We distinguished 2 communication mechanisms to accomplish this: (a) linguistic aggression toward out-group members, (b) communicating group expectancies. We contrasted these mechanisms across 2 experiments by studying verbal irony. Experiment 1 targeted speaker behavior and showed that Dutch soccer fans found irony more appropriate to comment on out-group (vs. in-group) members, regardless of behavioral valence. Experiment 2 demonstrated differential inferences from irony by neutral observers: Fans using ironic comments about competent (vs. incompetent) behavior were seen more as out-group and less as in-group members. Our experiments demonstrated a communication asymmetry between speaker behavior and addressee inferences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-457
JournalHuman Communication Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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