Wait Signals Predict Sarcasm in Online Debates

J. Trevor D'Arcey, Shereen Oraby, Jean E Fox Tree


We examined the predictive value of wait signals for sarcasm in online debate forums.  In a corpus comparison we examined the word frequency of um and uh across six corpora.  In general, there were far more fillers in spoken corpora than written corpora.  We also found that the proportion of ums to uhs varied by corpus type.  In Experiment 1 we tested whether the inclusion of um or uh at the beginning of online debate forum posts led to higher probability of those posts being classified as sarcastic by Amazon Mechanical Turk workers.  We found that posts beginning with these items were twice as likely to be labeled sarcastic. In Experiment 2 we tested fillers and ellipses in the middle of posts.  We found that posts including these items were approximately three to five times more likely to be labeled sarcastic. We compared results to other signals like the word obviously and quotation marks.  Signals that indicate delay in written communication cue readers to non-literal meaning.

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www.dialogue-and-discourse.orgISSN: 2152-9620   Journal doi: 10.5087/dad