Vagueness as Cost Reduction: An Empirical Test

Matthew James Green, Kees van Deemter

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPublished conference contribution

7 Downloads (Pure)


NLG systems that generate text from numerical data must decide between alternative linguistic forms of the given numerical content, such as whether to use a precise or a vague expression. Currently there is little empirical data for these systems to draw on when making these decisions. We performed experiments with human readers in which participants responded to instructions in the form of referring expressions, where we manipulated whether the instruction used a vague or a crisp referring expression, in order to test the hypothesis that vagueness reduces processing costs for the comprehender. Results indicate that people respond more quickly and accurately to vague linguistic expressions than to crisp numerical expressions, but that this benefit also accrues to precise terms that avoid numbers.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of `Production of Referring Expressions' workshop at 33rd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2011
EventProduction of Referring Expressions - Boston, MA, United States
Duration: 20 Jul 201120 Jul 2011


ConferenceProduction of Referring Expressions
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityBoston, MA

Bibliographical note

This work was funded in part by an EPSRC Platform Grant awarded to the NLG group at Aberdeen.


  • referring expressions
  • empirical;
  • vagueness
  • cost reduction


Dive into the research topics of 'Vagueness as Cost Reduction: An Empirical Test'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this