The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 2, No 3 (2014)

A statistical analysis of satirical product reviews

Stephen Skalicky,Scott Crossley


A corpus of 750 product reviews extracted from was analyzed for specific lexical, grammatical, and semantic features to identify differences between satirical and non-satirical product reviews through a statistical analysis. The corpus contained 375 reviews identified as satirical and 375 as non-satirical (750 total). Fourteen different linguistic indices were used to measure features related to lexical sophistication, grammatical functions, and the semantic properties of words. A one-way multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) found a significant difference between review types. The MANOVA was followed by a discriminant function analysis (DFA), which used seven variables to correctly classify 71.7 per cent of the reviews as satirical or non-satirical. Those seven variables suggest that, linguistically, satirical texts are more specific, less lexically sophisticated, and contain more words associated with negative emotions and certainty than non-satirical texts. These results demonstrate that satire shares some, but not all, of the previously identified semantic features of sarcasm (Campbell & Katz 2012), supporting Simpson’s (2003) claim that satire should be considered separately from other forms of irony. Ultimately, this study puts forth an argument that a statistical analysis of lexical, semantic, and grammatical properties of satirical texts can shed some descriptive light on this relatively understudied linguistic phenomenon, while also providing suggestions for future analysis.


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