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Expanding and Weighting Stereotypical Properties of Human Characters for Linguistic Creativity


Abstract and Figures

Many linguistic creativity applications rely heavily on knowledge of nouns and their properties. However, such knowledge sources are scarce and limited. We present a graph-based approach for expanding and weighting properties of nouns with given initial, non-weighted properties. In this paper, we focus on famous characters, either real or fictional, and categories of people , such as Actor, Hero, Child etc. In our case study, we started with an average of 11 and 25 initial properties for characters and categories, for which the method found 63 and 132 additional properties, respectively. An empirical evaluation shows that the expanded properties and weights are consistent with human judgement. The resulting knowledge base can be utilized in creation of figurative language. For instance, metaphors based on famous characters can be used in various applications including story generation, creative writing, advertising and comic generation.
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Expanding and Weighting Stereotypical Properties of Human Characters
for Linguistic Creativity
Khalid Alnajjar1
Mika H¨
Hanyang Chen2
Hannu Toivonen1
1Dept. of Computer Science and HIIT, University of Helsinki, Finland
2School of Computer Science and Informatics, University College Dublin, Belfield D4, Ireland
Many linguistic creativity applications rely heavily on
knowledge of nouns and their properties. However,
such knowledge sources are scarce and limited. We
present a graph-based approach for expanding and
weighting properties of nouns with given initial, non-
weighted properties. In this paper, we focus on famous
characters, either real or fictional, and categories of peo-
ple, such as Actor, Hero, Child etc. In our case study,
we started with an average of 11 and 25 initial proper-
ties for characters and categories, for which the method
found 63 and 132 additional properties, respectively.
An empirical evaluation shows that the expanded prop-
erties and weights are consistent with human judge-
ment. The resulting knowledge base can be utilized in
creation of figurative language. For instance, metaphors
based on famous characters can be used in various ap-
plications including story generation, creative writing,
advertising and comic generation.
Creation and interpretation of figurative language are diffi-
cult tasks to tackle by computational means. This is due
to the fact that the meaning of a figurative utterance cannot
be deduced by the compositional semantic meaning of the
words and syntax used, but the meaning rather lies in the
pragmatics. This complicates the use of figurative language
in computational creativity applications, because pragmatic
meaning is open to human interpretation. Therefore when
exposed to a computationally generated utterance, the reader
might attribute more to it than what is actually there. That is
why, when approaching figurative language from the point
of view of computational creativity, it is important that the
creative system knows what kind of a message is likely to be
conveyed pragmatically by a certain figurative sentence.
The relations between nouns, both characters and cate-
gories, and their linked adjectival properties can be used
in various creative tasks such as generating and interpret-
ing metaphors, which are a common figurative language de-
vice. In a simplified form, by knowing that a given property
is strongly related to a noun A, we can construct a nomi-
nal metaphor that indirectly conveys the meaning of another
noun B having this property by stating “B is A”. However,
such a metaphor doesn’t convey the meaning on the seman-
tic level, but rather pragmatically. Therefore, by knowing
the stereotypical adjectival properties of the nouns used in
the metaphor, we gain access to its pragmatic interpretation.
Consider, as an example, the sentence “Britney Spears is
a cat”. Following the terminology of Richards (1936), in
this metaphor “cat” is known as the vehicle, the noun whose
property is reflected to the tenor, “Britney Spears”.
In order to generate such a metaphor, it is important to
know the stereotypical properties the characters have. For
example, to understand the previous example as equivalent
to “Britney Spears is wild”, one must know that wildness is a
strong property of cats. It is important to bear in mind that,
because we are dealing with figurative language, the inter-
pretation given as an example is not the only possible one.
Therefore, it is also important to know how strongly proper-
ties are linked to nouns in order to construct metaphors that
are likely to carry the intended meaning, or to reach the most
plausible interpretations.
In this paper, we propose a computational method for ob-
taining a list of stereotypical properties for characters by ex-
panding their given properties, using the NOC list (Veale
2016) as our starting point. This is done for famous char-
acters (e.g. Britney Spears) as well as the categories these
characters belong to (e.g. Singer). Our method expands a
given initial set of properties provided by the NOC list with
additional knowledge gathered from the internet. Our meth-
ods also weight the noun–property associations, i.e., they
estimate how strongly a property is associated with a given
In this paper, only the properties that are strongly linked
to nouns are considered stereotypical, meaning that our ap-
proach will eradicate the properties that are in the semantic
penumbra of the noun they are linked to. The word stereo-
type is used here in similar fashion both in the case of cate-
gories and characters, referring to the most descriptive prop-
erties, as opposed to the use of the word stereotype exclu-
sively when describing categories of people with a preju-
diced connotation.
This work is motivated by computational creativity, with
the aim of providing tools to create and interpret figurative
language. The method described in this paper, or its results
which are publicly available, can be used as an auxiliary tool
in systems such as in natural language generators to sub-
stitute literal expressions with figurative ones while still re-
taining the original semantic meaning. In other words, this
work provides a piece to the larger puzzle of computational
creativity in the context of figurative language, both in its
interpretation and generation.
This paper is structured as follows. After briefly review-
ing related work, we give an overview of how the initial
data is obtained for characters and categories, together with
their properties and the limitations the initial data has. We
then describe methods for (1) expanding the set of proper-
ties for characters and categories, (2) computing weights for
the noun–property pairs, and (3) filtering out noun–property
pairs with low weights. We continue by reporting on a
crowd-sourced evaluation of this expansion, and then dis-
cuss the results.
Related Work
The motivation of this paper is metaphors where the tenor
and vehicle are either characters or categories of people.
Characters, in this case, are famous people from the real or
fictional world such as Albert Einstein and Batman. While
characters are all proper nouns, categories are common
nouns (such as hero, scientist) that can be used to catego-
rize people.
The work presented in this paper builds upon the founda-
tions of a system called Thesaurus Rex (Veale 2013). In the
same way as Thesaurus Rex links nouns to properties, our
approach will link both characters and categories to adjecti-
val properties.
As Searle (1958) points out, the whole semantics of
a proper noun poses problems far beyond those of com-
mon nouns. From the point of view of type-token distinc-
tion (Peirce 1974), common nouns can refer to an entire type
(e.g. in “dog is man’s best friend” the word dog refers to
dogs in general), whereas proper nouns refer to tokens (e.g.
there’s only one Albert Einstein).
Constructing meaningful metaphors and interpreting
them requires knowledge about the tenor and vehicle, and
how they interact with each other. This is done by looking
into their shared properties. In the context of this paper, a
property can be understood as an adjective that is stereotyp-
ically associated with a noun.
Metaphor Magnet (Veale and Li 2012) is based on the
notion that stereotype expansion and property overlap are
the key components in interpreting metaphors. Nouns that
are used both as tenor and vehicle are first expanded with a
list of stereotypical properties usually related to the nouns in
question. These stereotypical properties are extracted from
Google n-gram data by linguistic patterns such as “NOUN1
is [a] NOUN2”. After this step, the union of the proper-
ties related to a noun and its associated stereotypical prop-
erties are attributed to the noun. Properties that are in adjec-
tival form, VERB+ings and VERB+eds, are gathered from
the internet by applying a different set of linguistic patterns.
However, this data was not used in its raw form to build
the two knowledge bases, but rather filtered manually. The
properties a metaphor conveys are understood as the inter-
section of the properties of the tenor and those of the vehi-
cle. However, Metaphor Magnet includes a limited cover-
age of characters and their properties (e.g. Albert Einstein
has only 3 properties (educated,trustworthy, and probing),
which makes generating and interpreting metaphors contain-
ing Albert Einstein infeasible.
Our motivation for this work is that metaphor genera-
tion is a knowledge hungry task. Existing metaphor pro-
cessing methods for metaphor identification, interpretation,
and generation rely on a huge amount of knowledge. In
the field of distributional semantics, a lot of research has
been done to extract word relations from large corpora, e.g.,
to group words automatically into semantically related cat-
egories, using methods such as Word2Vec (Mikolov et al.
2013) or LSA (Landauer and Dumais 1997). Such seman-
tically grouped words can include nouns and adjectives if
they co-occurred together in a corpus within the same con-
text. However, these methods generalise far too much for
our needs. In expanding properties, we are only interested in
the adjectives that are descriptive for a given noun, i.e. not
all the adjectives co-occurring with it. In addition, proper
nouns rarely co-occur in text with stereotypical adjectives
describing them. Therefore, such general distributional se-
mantics approaches cannot be used in the context of this pa-
Obtaining Initial Knowledge
We employ two resources for obtaining initial knowledge
of characters and categories along with their properties:
Veale’s (2016) NOC List (Non-Official Characterization
list) is used to obtain initial sets of properties related to
characters; regarding properties of categories, we utilize the
output of an information extraction technique described by
Veale and Hao (2008a).
In the rest of this section, we explain how the NOC list is
used in our approach and how the initial stereotypical prop-
erties of categories are obtained.
The Non-Official Characterization list The NOC List
(Non-Official Characterization list) (Veale 2016) is a rich
resource containing myriad information about 804 famous
characters, both real and fictional. The NOC list contains so
called positive and negative talking points for each charac-
ter. These simply mean positive and negative adjectives that
describe the character in question. In this paper, we only use
the talking points and categories from the NOC list, leav-
ing all the other information in the NOC list aside due to its
irrelevance to the problem we are tackling.
Talking points of characters are used as their stereotypi-
cal properties. Positive talking points in the NOC list include
words such as funny, convincing, wise and powerful, while
examples of negative talking points are bossy, inhuman, evil,
and fat. The talking points are not necessarily true about
the characters, instead they are properties that people com-
monly would associate with these characters when thinking
of them. In total, there are 1983 unique properties in the
NOC list.
Stereotypical Properties of Categories The NOC list
also contains categories of characters. They are often oc-
cupations (e.g. Actress and Scientist), but can also refer to
other kinds of social groups (e.g. Child and Bully). In the
NOC list, categories do not have associated properties, be-
cause they are only used to provide the character entries with
more information, i.e. they are not independent entries in the
same way character entries are. On average, a character has
three categories. Overall, there are 449 unique categories in
the NOC list.
The initial stereotypical properties for all the categories
mentioned in the NOC list were obtained by the approach
described by Veale and Hao (2008b; 2008a; for the datasets,
see end of this paper). The Google Search API was used to
mine the web for similes with the pattern “as ADJ as a|an
NOUN with the hypothesis that an adjective ADJ is poten-
tially a stereotypical property of a category NOUN.
Human judges were asked to annotate whether the proper-
ties were meaningful in an empty context to ensure that the
properties were of a high quality and to filter out any noisy
properties. Empty context here refers to the notion that the
properties should make sense even when no additional cues
about the context than the property and category themselves
are provided.
Out of the 449 categories in the NOC list, the described
approach only retrieved properties for 336 categories. This
is due to various reasons that we will return to in Discussion.
Resulting Knowledge In the obtained initial knowledge
base, on average, a character has 11 stereotypical properties,
whereas a category has 25 stereotypical properties. The ini-
tial knowledge base has two shortcomings that the rest of
this paper will tackle.
First, characters naturally have more than 11 properties.
Comparing characters solely based on their properties pro-
vided in the NOC list limits the operation as some of the
properties that are descriptive of them might not be stated
directly in the knowledge base (e.g. Batman is adventur-
Second, these stereotypical properties are not weighted.
In other words, there is no way of telling whether a charac-
ter or category is more strongly related to a given property
than to another one (e.g. is Stewie Griffin more evil or more
Expanding and Weighting Properties
We expand the sets of stereotypical properties of characters
and categories and weight both the initial and the newly in-
ferred properties.
In the expansion phase, we infer new properties of a noun
based on the initial knowledge base. For instance, people
having the property brave are typically considered adven-
turous, and so are bold, strong, agile and resourceful people.
As a result, Batman should also be seen adventurous as his
initial knowledge states that brave, bold, strong, agile and
resourceful are some of his stereotypical properties.
In terms of weighting these properties, our hypothesis is
that the more knowledge there is to back up a given claim
(such as that Batman is brave), the higher the weight should
Both the expansion and weighting of properties are based
on viewing properties in a network of their mutual associ-
ations. We start by explaining the methodology of estab-
lishing the network, then provide the algorithm that assigns
and weights new properties to existing characters based on
their initial knowledge. Thereafter, we describe how weak
properties are pruned.
Construction of a Property Network In order to pre-
dict more stereotypical adjectival properties for nouns,
both characters and categories, we construct an undirected
weighted network of properties from large corpora. The
network is initialized with seed properties from the initial
knowledge base.
We use Veale’s (2011) neighbouring properties dataset
(see end of this paper) to obtain links between properties.
Veale used the simile pattern “as pand * as” as in “as sweet
and * as” to retrieve neighbouring properties of sweet. The
used search engine, Google, returned matching results, e.g.
“as sweet and creamy as” and “as sweet and moist as”, along
with the frequencies of these phrases. Veale additionally
normalized the frequencies. In total, 8644 properties are in-
terconnected with other properties in the dataset.
Using the above-described Veale’s (2011) dataset, we
construct an undirected weighted graph G= (V, E , w).
The set of all retrieved properties constitutes the set Vof
nodes. The set EV×Vof edges is obtained as
all pairs of properties in the dataset; we consider edges
undirected/symmetric. The weight w(pi, pj)of an edge
(pi, pj)Eis obtained from the dataset.
We use N(p)to denote the set of properties adjacent to p,
i.e., N(p) = {pj|(p, pj)E}. We use notation P(n)to
refer to the stereotypical properties of a given noun nin the
initial knowledge base. The set of all properties known in
the initial knowledge base is denoted by P=nP(n).
Finding and Weighting Related Properties The main
objective here is to expand the initial set of properties associ-
ated with nouns and weight them. To expand the properties
of a given noun n, we iterate over all the properties in our
knowledge base, P, and examine their relevance to the input
noun nbased on the property network constructed above.
Given a noun n, we consider one property pPat a
time. We find out which other properties are related to both
nand p, supporting their mutual relationship:
These supporting properties are used to compute a weight
W(n, p)for the stereotypicality of property pfor noun n:
W(n, p) = X
w(r, p).
We use uppercase W(·)for the resulting weights of stereo-
typical properties to distinguish them from the weights be-
tween properties. Recall that property pairs have weights (in
the network constructed above) but noun-property pairs do
not (in the initial knowledge base).
In the special case that pP(n), i.e., our initial knowl-
edge already indicates that pis a stereotypical property of
noun n, we give psome extra weight:
W(n, p) = C+X
w(r, p),(1)
where Cis a positive constant. We define it as C=mc,
where m= max(w(·)) is the maximum weight of an edge,
and c= 3 is a constant which depends on how one wants
to amplify these special cases. We empirically chose c= 3
as a lower value would not have any noticeable effect on
the weightings, and a higher value resulted in having the
properties in the knowledge base be the highest.
Pruning Weak Properties For any noun n, the method
described above yields a weighted list of new properties.
Some of the properties may only be weakly related to the
noun, however. We therefore only keep the best of them.
First, we only keep the top 20% of the properties for each
noun (a character or category).
Second, the final weight W(n, p)has to be greater than m,
the maximum of any single weight in the property graph.
This is to ensure that every new property is supported by
at least two related properties, or more if their weights are
Third, once all weights are calculated for all nouns, we
filter out any property that is not linked to at least two nouns.
The rationale is that such properties are not helpful when
comparing nouns to produce metaphors.
Results of Expansion and Weighting The described ap-
proach found and weighted new properties for 99% of char-
acters (793 out of 804) and 82% of categories (276 out of
336). As a result of all these steps, 63 and 132 new proper-
ties were added on average to each character and category,
respectively. In addition, all existing properties of nouns
were given weights. The expanded and weighted noun-
property pairs are publicly available (see end of this paper).
Examples We illustrate the results of property expansion
with two real examples.
First, consider the person Britney Spears. Her initial
properties in the NOC list are tacky, wacky, sleazy, pretty,
burnt-out, energetic and sultry. Our expansion method in-
ferred 29 additional properties for her. Added properties
with the highest weights are sexy, weird, young and silly,
while added properties with the lowest weights are wild, vig-
orous, shiny, entertaining, skilled, enthusiastic and imagina-
tive. The method aims to only find stereotypical properties,
so it considers all these properties for Britney Spears, includ-
ing the ones with lower weights but still above the defined
threshold. I.e., wild is related but less central to the stereo-
typical view of Britney Spears than what the strong proper-
ties are.
As a second example, consider one of Britney Spears cat-
egories, namely Singer. Initially it had 21 properties, and
the expansion added another 86 properties. Among all the
properties, the highest weights are assigned to expressive,
melodic, artistic, lyrical, musical, entertaining, tuneful and
gifted. The lowest weights yet above the threshold, on the
other hand, are for energetic, concise, capable, fine, harmo-
nious, soulful and humorous.
We next evaluate the quality of the expanded and weighted
set of noun-property pairs. The evaluation is carried out us-
ing human judges, crowdsourced through the CrowdFlower1
platform. In this section, we explain our evaluation setup
and the data collected followed by the results.
Evaluation Setup
The goal of this evaluation is to validate the quality of the
expanded and weighted set of properties. We do this by em-
pirically checking if the properties and their weights corre-
spond to what people think of them in conjunction of a given
To limit the expense of the evaluation, we used a random
sample of noun-property pairs. First, we randomly selected
25% of all nouns (188 characters and 73 categories, in to-
tal 261 nouns) to be evaluated. Then we selected four test
properties for each noun, seeking for a diverse set of prop-
erties to evaluate. We selected one strong property (with a
high weight), one “weak” property (with a low weight but
still considered substantially related by the method) and two
random properties that are not in the expanded set.
More specifically, we divided the noun’s expanded set of
properties into four equal-width bins based on their weights.
We then selected one property at random from the highest
bin and one from the lowest bin. For some nouns this pro-
cess fails to work as intended. If the property expansion was
unsuccessful, then the noun only has the initial properties,
and they can all have equal weights. In these cases, both se-
lected properties are considered strong and there is no weak
For every noun to be evaluated, we asked judges to rate
the four selected properties on a 5-level Likert scale (Fig-
ure 1). We used ve judges per noun as a trade-off between
cost of evaluation and amount of data obtained. We assigned
value 1 to “strongly disagree”, 2 to “disagree”, etc., and
eventually 5 to “strongly agree”. For each noun-property
pair, we then used the average score from the (up to) 5 judges
as the score of that pair. We compared the weights given to
noun-property pairs by the proposed method to the scores
given by the human judges.
The null hypothesis in our tests is that all four properties
for each noun come from the same distribution, i.e., the ex-
panded properties effectively are random and the weights do
not relate to the strength of noun-property association. The
values of weights and scores from judges are not directly
comparable due to their different ranges; the statistics we
will be using do not assume they are comparable.
Evaluators were allowed to skip nouns they did not know,
e.g. a character in a movie they had not seen, by choosing
“No” for the first question. In fact, the properties of a noun
are shown only if the evaluator knew the noun. If they knew
the noun, they were still allowed to indicate that they did not
know whether the noun had a given property, as in Figure 1.
Figure 1: An example of a crowdsourced questionnaire
The judges were limited to English-speaking countries
(Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom
and United States), and were required to have English as a
language they speak in their profile. This limitation is en-
forced because characters in the NOC list are largely from
Western culture and the language of all the knowledge is
English. Moreover, some properties in the initial knowledge
bases and the constructed property network are not com-
monly known even by English speakers, such as matricidal,
duplicitous and loquacious.2
We did not attempt to remove likely crowdsourcing scam-
mers as this would be difficult due to the subjectivity of how
strongly nouns and properties are related. The effect of this
decision is that the data is likely to contain additional noise
from random entries by scammers or negligent judges.
We obtained evaluations for 261 nouns (and their 4 proper-
ties) from 5 judges each, i.e., we had in total 1305 judge-
ments of nouns.
Almost one third (31%) of these judgements were skipped
evaluations where the judge indicated they did not know the
character or category and thus did not score its properties.
This is a relatively high rate and might be inflated due to
scammers; however, the number also suggests that it was
useful to allow skipping unknown nouns in order to reduce
random answers and noise in the actual scores. The average
number of evaluators a given noun had is 3.5.
In the following analysis, we ignore nouns that had just
one or two evaluators and only consider the 199 nouns (out
of 261) which had at least three evaluators. Among these
199 nouns, 127 (64%) are characters and 72 (36%) are cat-
egories. These characters are further divided to 93 real and
34 fictional characters.
The judges could also answer that they did not know if the
noun had a given property. Overall, 32% of noun-property
pairs received the “I do not know” answer (in all 199 con-
sidered nouns). Ignoring those two noun-property pairs that
2Based on the word’s difficulty index on
only received “do not knows”, the total number of evaluated
noun-property pairs for the 199 nouns is 794.
For each of the remaining 794 noun-property pairs, we
have one to five Likert scores from the human judges. As
mentioned above, we map the answers to values from one to
five, and take the average of the answers as the score of the
noun-property pair.
The inter-judge agreement on the 794 noun-property pairs
by the 32 judges, using Krippendorff’s alpha measure, is
We now consider measures of how well the proposed
method performed in its tasks. We first see if it can success-
fully identify related properties. We then consider three sub-
tly different measures of stereotypicality of noun-property
pairs and their correlation with the weights assigned by the
proposed method: (1) the mean score as a direct measure of
stereotypicality, (2) the standard deviation of the score as a
measure of judge agreement (a proxy for stereotypicality),
and (3) the number of cases when judges did not know if the
noun had the property (a proxy for the inverse of stereotypi-
Identification of Related Properties The first sub-goal of
the method was to find new properties related to given nouns
(without weighting them yet). We evaluated how well the
method performed in this task using a two-sample permu-
tation test for equal means. We took all new noun-property
pairs that were related according to the method as one set,
and contrasted them to all random noun-property pairs. The
alternative hypothesis was that the mean of scores among the
related properties would be higher than among the random
properties. The null hypothesis of equal distributions was
materialized using 107random permutations of the mean
scores across the two sets.
The observed difference between means was higher in
the data than in any of the random permutations, yielding
p107. This statistically highly significant difference
between the two sets indicates that the method can success-
fully identify new related properties using the initial set of
properties and an automatically acquired network of related
properties. It should be noted, however, that this is more a
measure of precision than recall, i.e., the newly found prop-
erties tend to be stereotypical for the noun, but there is little
information of how many truly stereotypical properties go
unnoticed by the method.
Noun-Property Score Let us next take a look at the scores
and weights of noun-property pairs. Noun-property pairs
with higher scores are likely to be more stereotypical. For
simplicity, we pool all nouns together and consider together
their strong properties as one set, weak properties as one set,
and random properties as one set. In this and all later exper-
iments, where we consider weights of noun-property pairs,
we include both the initial pairs and the expanded ones.
The mean scores are given in Table 1. The strong prop-
erties have a mean score of 4.13, weak properties have 3.60
Table 1: Mean and sample standard deviation of evaluation
scores, and number of noun-property pairs evaluated
Strong Property Weak Property Random Properties
µ SD n µ SD n µ SD n
Categories 4.28 0.64 77 3.43 0.87 66 2.80 0.96 144
Real Char. 3.95 0.92 94 3.62 0.85 92 2.79 0.96 185
Fictional Char. 4.27 0.62 35 3.89 0.75 33 2.88 0.89 68
Total 4.13 0.79 206 3.60 0.85 191 2.81 0.94 397
and random properties 2.18. This indicates a clear general
agreement between the human judges and the weights given
by the system: the strong properties have on average 0.53
units higher scores than weak properties, and even 1.32 units
higher than random properties. The scores of random prop-
erties show that judges either disagreed that a given noun
has the property or found the association neutral.
For more informative statistical insight on the relation
between noun-property weights and evaluation scores, we
measured their correlation by simply pooling all noun-
property pairs together. The random properties have no
weight assigned by the system; for the test here we assumed
they have zero weight. This is a very crude approach but
helps us gain some insight into the correlation. The Pear-
son correlation coefficient is r= 0.48, with p1045.
The correlation coefficient is not strong (possibly partially
due to the simple approach), but the p-value indicates that
the correlation is statistically highly significant and not just
a random effect.
We also measured the correlation between scores and
weights among the related properties only, i.e., ignoring the
random properties. Pearson correlation coefficient there is
r= 0.30 (p109) suggesting that it is easier to separate
random properties from related properties than strong prop-
erties from weak ones. However, the correlation between
scores and weights is statistically highly significant also just
among the related properties.
Standard Deviation of Scores Additional standard devia-
tions of the scores (Table 1) can provide insight to the degree
of agreement between judges. We can see that strong proper-
ties are typically more agreed on (have smaller standard de-
viation); however, in the case of real characters judges seem
to have had slightly diverse opinions. Weak properties have
higher standard deviation than strong properties, and ran-
dom properties even larger, indicating less agreement and
lower stereotypicality for them.
Unknown Properties In addition to the scores from hu-
man judges, we have a complementary measure of stereo-
typicality: how many judges knew if the noun had the prop-
erty? Consider a property that has a high numerical score but
was not known to be a property of the noun by many judges
such a property can not be considered very stereotypical
for the noun.
Table 2 shows the percentage of noun-property pairs that
were not evaluated by judges because they did not know
whether such noun has a given property. We notice a marked
Table 2: Percentage of noun-property pairs that were rated
as “do not know” the among evaluated noun-property pairs
Strong Property Weak Property Random Properties
Categories 20% 30% 76%
Real Characters 19% 21% 54%
Fictional Characters 6% 24% 54%
Total 17% 25% 62%
increase of this number for random properties, as can be ex-
pected. Asked about a property that a character is not specif-
ically known for, a valid answer is to say that one does not
know if the character has that property. The number of un-
known properties was also higher for the weak properties
than for strong properties, indicating higher stereotypicality
for the strong properties.
An interesting observation is that fictional characters are
very well known for their strong properties (only 6% of “do
not knows” vs. 19% for real characters and categories). This
is probably due to the fact that fictional characters tend to
have more distinctive and emphasized properties than real
people; they thus seem to lend themselves better for figura-
tive language such as metaphors.
We have proposed and evaluated a method for expanding
and weighing sets of properties of characters or categories.
The empirical results, based on crowdsourcing, indicate that
the method is able to identify new related properties, and to
weight initial and new properties to reflect how stereotypi-
cal they are for the given noun. A number of issues were
encountered during the process, however. We next discuss
these issues, as well as possible applications and extensions
of the proposed method.
Analysis of Problems in the Method There are three
types of problems this method faced: (1) finding results
matching a linguistic pattern, (2) lack of sufficient evidence
to expand the knowledge base, and (3) limited initial knowl-
edge base.
The NOC list contains 449 unique categories; however,
for 113 categories, retrieving their properties using “as ADJ
as a|an NOUN was not successful. This is a problem of type
1 and is due to two main reasons. The first is that the cate-
gory is a compound word describing another category, such
as Petty Criminal, Roman Gladiator and AI Program Villain.
The other reason is that some categories are not commonly
used on the internet in the queried pattern, e.g. Symbologist,
Lexicographer and Hyperchondriac.
The approach for expanding properties was unable to
expand the properties of 11 characters and 60 categories.
Regarding characters, the expansion typically failed be-
cause there were few links to the character’s initial prop-
erties. An example of such a case is Tiger Woods a golf
player who has five properties that are not available in the
constructed property network, namely philandering, field-
topping, world-beating, highly-paid, long-driving. This is
also a type 1 problem as the links in the network were ob-
tained from the simile pattern “as pand * as”. Additionally,
his remaining four properties, promiscuous, unfaithful, ath-
letic, and masterful, are not strongly enough related to each
other to infer new links with a weight higher than our defined
threshold m, a problem of type 2.
The above two factors also affect the expansion of cate-
gories’ properties. In addition, some categories have a very
limited number of properties retrieved for them in the initial
knowledge base, i.e. a problem of type 3. For instance, the
categories Linguist and Frontiersman have only one stereo-
typical property linked to them which is fluent and adven-
turous, respectively.
Hence, this approach is expected to work when nouns
have a sufficient number of properties (at least 5) that are
related to each other and exist in the constructed network.
In our case study, this seems to have been the case for most
characters and categories. In case where this is not feasi-
ble, the pruning conditions can be made lenient to result in
higher coverage (e.g. selecting top 50% instead of 20% or
reducing the threshold to m/2). This can add noise, how-
ever, and it requires more experimentation to find out what
the exact effects would be.
Applications A direct use case for the proposed approach
is in situations where a wider range of properties are re-
quired to perform a creative task but only relatively small
number of properties are available at hand. For instance,
Meta4meaning (Xiao et al. 2016) a creative corpus-based
system for interpreting metaphors has shown good results
of how a creative system can produce interpretations similar
to humans. Nevertheless, the system was unable to interpret
some metaphors (e.g. “the woman is a cat”) due to reasons
including that a given noun (woman) was not associated with
a desired property (wild).
Our approach for expanding the list of properties of a
noun can be employed in such a scenario. The noun woman
is not on the NOC list, so we use as examples two specific
women instead. Consider the expression “Britney Spears is a
cat” and its possible metaphorical meanings. One approach
to find potential such meanings is to look at the shared prop-
erties of Britney Spears and of cat (and then pick some of
those based on various criteria (Xiao et al. 2016)).
The intersection between the expanded properties of Brit-
ney Spears and cat include properties such as energetic,
spry, vigorous, wild, etc., all possible interpretations of the
metaphoric expression.
The shared properties between Hillary Clinton and cat,
in turn, include words such as smart, independent, intelli-
gent, etc, which are possible metaphorical meanings of the
expression “Hillary Clinton is a cat”.
Veale (2016) outlines how the NOC list can be used in
metaphor generation in the case of characters. In his pa-
per, metaphors are represented as concept pairs that are con-
structed by using multiple overlapping properties, such as
“Hillary Clinton could be Princess Leia: driven yet bossy”.
His approach provides multiple recommendations for possi-
ble metaphors. For a tenor, such as Tony Stark (Ironman)
and a desired property, such as rich, the system outputs pos-
sible characters to be used in a metaphor, for example “Tony
Stark is Bruce Wayne”. The extended weights from our ap-
proach can be used to generate these kinds of metaphors in
a richer way, since our system provides more knowledge
about the stereotypical properties and their weights. This
could directly be tested out, for example, with the metaphor
generation algorithm proposed by Veale and Li (2012).
The proposed approach is valuable also in creative sys-
tems requiring an input from the user, whether they are co-
creative systems or not. An example of such a case is gener-
ating creative slogans (using BrainSup ( ¨
Ozbal, Pighin, and
Strapparava 2013) for instance). Users of these systems are
expected to specify the target words such as the brand name
and its essential properties to highlight. Our property expan-
sion approach can be utilized in this context to expand the
initial set of properties input by the user and weight them to
improve the slogans generated.
Properties of Characters in the Context of a Category
There are various possible ways to extend the proposed
method; we here discuss one interesting avenue that could
easily be implemented on top of the current method.
Sometimes an important aspect in metaphors is to know
how strong a given property is to a noun when examined
from the point of view of a given domain or category. For
instance, the weights of the stereotypical property arrogant
of Tony Stark when seen as Hero should be different than
when seen as Billionaire.
We hypothesize that such cases can probably be handled
by a simple generalization to the definitions of this paper.
Assume that nis a character, ca category and pa property.
The supporting set of properties is then simply constrained
to those that are also properties of category c:
Equation 1 can then be applied as before. Validation of this
technique is a topic for future work.
Conclusions and Future Work
In this paper, we have presented a way of expanding a given
initial set of adjectival properties for nouns to cover a wider
range of their stereotypical properties, and of weighing the
properties. We have successfully applied this approach both
in the case of common nouns (categories) and proper nouns
(characters). We also conducted an evaluation with human
judges to verify the quality of the results obtained by our
proposed method.
Based on the new knowledge we constructed about char-
acters and their linked properties, future research can be
conducted on computational linguistic creativity, such as
metaphor interpretation and generation. An evaluation of
metaphors generated using the properties and weights pro-
duced by the proposed method would also give additional in-
sight into the quality and usefulness of the results of this pa-
per. Such an evaluation could also inform us about whether
metaphors including proper nouns are seen by people in a
similar fashion as metaphors only consisting of common
nouns. Based on our results, fictional characters look es-
pecially promising for metaphors since their stereotypical
properties tend to be well known (cf. Table 2).
We have only discussed the expansion of a list of adjecti-
val properties for nouns in this paper. However, the expan-
sion of the nominal components, i.e. categories and charac-
ters has been left aside. Given that the origin of the nouns,
namely the NOC list, is hand crafted and currently the only
way of expanding it is by a laborious manual process, it
would be interesting to see in the future if our approach can
be used to expand the nominal knowledge as well, for in-
stance, by altering the linguistic patterns.
A possible future direction for this research is to expand
it to multiple languages. From a theoretical point of view,
there is nothing heavily language dependent that would hin-
der the adaptation of this method to different languages.
Since our approach deals with stereotypes which are known
to be socially constructed and thus culturally dependent, this
method, in the context of multiple languages, could shed
more light on stereotypical beliefs in different cultures.
The datasets used as input and produced as output by
the methods described in this paper are publicly avail-
able at
This work has been supported by the Academy of Finland
under grant 276897 (CLiC) and by the European Commis-
sion coordination action PROSECCO (Promoting the Scien-
tific Exploration of Computational Creativity; PROSECCO-
network.EU). The authors would like to thank Tony Veale
for providing the data sets and inspiration for this work.
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