A Linguistic Analysis of Requirements Errors and Its Application

Authors:Hanks, Kimberly, Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of Virginia Knight, John, Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of Virginia Strunk, Elisabeth, Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of Virginia

A significant number of requirements errors can be characterized as failures to adequately take into account the system context of the software to be built. It has been shown that poor communication of domain knowledge pertaining to the system is a major source of such errors. The pervasive medium for this communication, natural language, is widely accepted to be problematic for high-precision communication because of its characteristic ambiguity and informality. However, it is nevertheless amenable to rigorous inspection and possesses its own body of research results. We analyze the domain knowledge communication problem from the perspective of current cognitive linguistic theory, and we describe insights deriving from this analysis. These insights are exploited to motivate a technique, the construction of a domain map, which allows the recording and propagation of real-world semantics essential to the production of software elements that have validity within their system context. The domain map construction and form help ensure the integrity of the recording and the effectiveness of the propagation. Our technique is demonstrated on parts of a real industrial requirements specification, and an evaluation is presented which takes into account both quality and cost.
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Hanks, Kimberly, John Knight, and Elisabeth Strunk. "A Linguistic Analysis of Requirements Errors and Its Application." University of Virginia Dept. of Computer Science Tech Report (2001).

University of Virginia, Department of Computer Science
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