The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 8, No 2 (2020)

Comparing English and Russian humour perceptions through signature analysis

Faisal L Kadri, Ekaterina N. Zakharenko


Signature analysis is a statistical technique introduced in the 1940s in order to identify groups of statistical measures to identify aircraft from radar reflections. Other applications include particle identification in nuclear physics and dark matter location in astrophysics. Humour appreciation, or funniness scores, are empirical measures of perceived humour. Two questionnaires, one in English, the other its translation into Russian, were made available online. Each had 96 humorous sentences or jokes. The sentences were classified empirically according to four age trends. Signatures of the four classes of sentences are calculated from participant scores in six age groups. The original scores will be available to researchers for verification and further investigation from either author. The use of signature analysis in this work involves the comparison of a sentence profile with the signature of its class or category; if the profile meets a strict criterion of errors then it can be described as a best predictor of its class. One notable finding from signature analysis is the existence of offsets: displacement of a sentence profile from its type signature. We suggest that offset values are direct measures of humorousness without reference to context. In this analysis, the profiles of the Russian and English sentences are compared to each other and their graphical differences are interpreted including offsets.



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