Carla Zaccagnini and Santiago Costantino
Similarity Matrix: Morphology, Semantics
2020-21
Comparative study of national anthems’ lyrics: words and meanings
Archival print on Canson Rag Photographique 310 gsm
Edition 3 + 2AP
About this work:
These images compare pairs of text, tens of thousands of pairs. They are built to show the similarity between the lyrics of national anthems, and this was done in two ways: by comparing the words they use and the meaning of these words. Lyrics can be thought as arrows in space, and two text are similar when their arrows point in similar directions. Two identical texts always point in the exact same direction, no matter if we compare their use of words or the significance of their sentences. Nevertheless, language allows us to use many different words to convey the same idea, and also a similar list of words to express opposing meanings, thus arrows that represent the use of words and arrows that represent ideas point to distinct directions for the same text.

Similarity Matrices compare the directions at which national anthems point. All possible pairs of anthems are displayed and their arrows are compared. These arrows do not live in a three-dimensional space but in spaces with up to three hundred dimensions, but still, they are simply arrows. The matrices list the countries alphabetically both in the vertical and horizontal directions, and the gray level of every square is the result of comparing two anthems; identical direction is white, opposite direction is black, and gray is somewhere in between. Monphology compare the use of words, a multidimensional universe where only sounds and symbols matter, Semantics reflect their meaning regardless of the tokens.
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