The Controlled Natural Language of Randall Munroe’s Thing Explainer

  • Tobias Kuhn
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 9767)


It is rare that texts or entire books written in a Controlled Natural Language (CNL) become very popular, but exactly this has happened with a book that has been published last year. Randall Munroe’s Thing Explainer uses only the 1’000 most often used words of the English language together with drawn pictures to explain complicated things such as nuclear reactors, jet engines, the solar system, and dishwashers. This restricted language is a very interesting new case for the CNL community. I describe here its place in the context of existing approaches on Controlled Natural Languages, and I provide a first analysis from a scientific perspective, covering the word production rules and word distributions.


Word Form Grammatical Structure Irregular Form Similar Language Root Word 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Computer ScienceVU University AmsterdamAmsterdamNetherlands

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