Shared Language: Linguistic Similarity in an Algebra Discussion Forum

Michelle P. Banawan, Jinnie Shin, Tracy Arner, Renu Balyan, Walter L. Leite, Danielle S. McNamara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Academic discourse communities and learning circles are characterized by collaboration, sharing commonalities in terms of social interactions and language. The discourse of these communities is composed of jargon, common terminologies, and similarities in how they construe and communicate meaning. This study examines the extent to which discourse reveals “shared language” among its participants that can promote inclusion or affinity. Shared language is characterized in terms of linguistic features and lexical, syntactical, and semantic similarities. We leverage a multi-method approach, including (1) feature engineering using state-of-the-art natural language processing techniques to select the most appropriate features, (2) the bag-of-words classification model to predict linguistic similarity, (3) explainable AI using the local interpretable model-agnostic explanations to explain the model, and (4) a two-step cluster analysis to extract innate groupings between linguistic similarity and emotion. We found that linguistic similarity within and between the threaded discussions was significantly varied, revealing the dynamic and unconstrained nature of the discourse. Further, word choice moderately predicted linguistic similarity between posts within threaded discussions (accuracy = 0.73; F1-score = 0.67), revealing that discourse participants’ lexical choices effectively discriminate between posts in terms of similarity. Lastly, cluster analysis reveals profiles that are distinctly characterized in terms of linguistic similarity, trust, and affect. Our findings demonstrate the potential role of linguistic similarity in supporting social cohesion and affinity within online discourse communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number53
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • algebra
  • discussion forums
  • linguistic similarity
  • math discourse
  • natural language processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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