Understanding and identifying rhetorical questions in social media

Suhas Ranganath, Xia Hu, Jiliang Tang, Suhang Wang, Huan Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Social media provides a platform for seeking information from a large user base. Information seeking in social media, however, occurs simultaneously with users expressing their viewpoints by making statements. Rhetorical questions have the form of a question but serve the function of a statement and are an important tool employed by users to express their viewpoints. Therefore, rhetorical questions might mislead platforms assisting information seeking in social media. It becomes difficult to identify rhetorical questions as they are not syntactically different from other questions. In this article, we develop a framework to identify rhetorical questions by modeling some motivations of the users to post them.We focus on two motivations of the users drawing from linguistic theories to implicitly convey a message and to modify the strength of a statement previously made. We develop a quantitative framework from these motivations to identify rhetorical questions in social media. We evaluate the framework using two datasets of questions posted on a social media platform Twitter and demonstrate its effectiveness in identifying rhetorical questions. This is the first framework, to the best of our knowledge, to model the possible motivations for posting rhetorical questions to identify them on social media platforms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number17
JournalACM Transactions on Intelligent Systems and Technology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Artificial Intelligence


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