Pápay B., Galántai J. Semantic analysis of triadic relationships in gossip statements

Pápay B., Galántai J.: Semantic analysis of triadic relationships in gossip statements

Most of human conversations contain topics that can be labeled as gossip. Social norms and reputational information are also being transmitted by gossip, making gossip the core of human interactions. In social network terms, gossip is inherently triadic, where the gossip’s sender shares an evaluative information with receiver, about the target of the gossip. The sender of the gossip can use it to enhance her own or to destroy target’s reputation. Sender can also gossip to enforce a social bound with receiver or to enhance group norms.

In our analysis we used a unique spontaneous speech corpus of Hungarian language of approximately 550 hours. As gossip, we defined and annotated statements made by participants about a third, non-present person that are about the third person’s deeds, personality or other factors.

We executed a semantic and morphologic analysis on gossip statements made by the sender in order to understand the relationship among the three actors of the triad. We focused on sender’s motivations for gossiping. As a tool, we used Magyarlanc (translates to „Hungarian chain”), a linguistic analyzer, developed for syntactic analysis of Hungarian language. We used it for POS-tagging, morphological analysis, and dependency parsing. We were able to identify linguistic structures through parts of speech, marking the actors and the relationships among them. As Hungarian language is an agglutinative language, words are rich in meaning. For example, personal pronouns often contain information about the object of speech and the relationship of the speaker with her at the same time.

Results of semantic analysis show that there are different purposes to gossiping where our actors are involved to and represented in the triad to a different measure by the sender. While gossip is inherently triadic, not all actors are represented equally in gossip speeches. Different representation of parties in gossip speeches, as when the sender mentions the target, the receiver herself (or combination of these) are indicating different measures, acts and relationships. We found that when sender only mentions target to describe her acts, it is more likely that gossip functions as a storytelling. We found that, it is also very often that sender speaks about herself, while gossiping about target. In this case, gossip becomes more as Goffman’s presentation of self or as a mechanism of reputation building. While in our analysis it was not so common, but we found that when mentioning the receiver during gossiping the sender’s underlying motivation might be to flatter the receiver or to introduce small talk.