How an Unfamiliar Thing Should Be Called
COLORADO UNIV AT BOULDER INST OF COGNITIVE SCIENCE
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An empirical method is described to derive good names for unfamiliar objects. Three principles were used in deriving the names 1 The vocabulary and structure of the names should be within the users linguistic capacities 2 The names should be informationally efficient, namely, short, but at the same time unique and 3 The names should form a classification system. For example, most names have a generic term and one or more modifiers. These principles lead to the following design for creating good names Step 1 Names are generated by a group of subjects. Step 2 From the names generated by subjects, the experimenter chooses a subset of the names according to the following criteria a the modal name is chosen, namely, if a particular name is generated more often than others, it is chosen b shorter names are preferred c names chosen stay within the classification system provided by the subjects. Step 3 How good the names are is tested by measuring 1 how well people can match the names with the objects they describe and 2 how well they can recall the names, given the physical objects. Steps 2 and 3 can be iterated namely, if a given name is poorly matched or recalled, it can be replaced by another generated name and tested again. The method results in names that form a classification system and that are natural, short, well matched with their physical referents and well recalled.