English as a formal specification language

Rolf Schwitter*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


PENG is a computer-processable controlled natural language designed for writing unambiguous and precise specifications. PENG covers a strict subset of standard English and is precisely defined by a controlled grammar and a controlled lexicon. In contrast to other controlled languages, the author does not need to know the grammatical restrictions explicitly. ECOLE, a look-ahead text editor, indicates the restrictions while the specification is written. The controlled lexicon contains domain-specific content words that can be defined by the author on the fly and predefined function words. Specifications written in PENG can be deterministically translated into discourse representations structures to cope with anaphora and presuppositions and also into first-order predicate logic. To test the formal properties of PENG, we reformulated Schubert's steamroller puzzle in PENG, translated the resulting specification via discourse representation structures into first-order predicate logic with equality, and proved the steamroller's conclusion with OTTER, a standard theorem prover.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Thirteenth International Workshop on Database and Expert Systems Applications (DEXA 2002)
EditorsA Min Tjoa, Rol Wagner
Place of PublicationLos Alamitos, USA
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)0769516688
ISBN (Print)0769516688
Publication statusPublished - 2002
EventThird International Workshop on Natural Language and Information Systems - Aix-en-Provence, France
Duration: 2 Sep 20026 Sep 2002


WorkshopThird International Workshop on Natural Language and Information Systems
CityAix-en-Provence, France


  • Application software
  • Australia
  • Formal languages
  • Formal specifications
  • Humans
  • Logic testing
  • Manuals
  • Natural languages
  • Vocabulary
  • Writing


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