Discussion: Pokeman names in English and elsewhere

From Shigeto Kawahara

My students and I wrote up a paper on a few sound symbolic patterns in Japanese pokemon names, where we show that mora counts and voiced obstruents affect pokemon characters’ weight, size, and strength. The paper can be downloaded at http://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/003196 (see also the separate Phonolist post for the abstract).

A natural follow-up question is, what about English names? I did a quick and dirty analysis addressing the same question about voiced obstruents using English pokemon names, based on orthography, which is attached to this email. Although the correlations are there, they are much weaker. But there’s an obvious flaw in this analysis; since the numbers of voiced obstruents are counted based on orthography, for example, “pidgotto” is considered to have two voiced obstruents, one for “d” and one for “g”.

Some other linguists have an intuition that in English, vowels are crucial. But obviously, automatically extracting phonetic vowel quality from orthography is not an easy task.

The bottom line: I am looking for interested researchers (or students) for collaboration who would convert the English names to some kind of transcription so that we can do a similar analysis in English. Of course if somebody can do a different language other than English, that’d be much welcome as well.

Also I’d love to have an open forum for discussion of this general project.

Posted in Discussion topic
3 comments on “Discussion: Pokeman names in English and elsewhere
  1. I’m interested! Various thoughts on how to get it done, such as:
    (1) doing Pokemon names as part of a transcription exercise in undergrad phonology courses
    (2) Mechanical Turk
    (3) verification of a subset by trusted transcribers

    • Shigeto Kawahara says:


      Thanks! I like (1) a lot.

      Regarding (2), do you think we can use Mechanical Turk to ask people to transcribe names in IPA?

  2. Shigeto Kawahara says:

    1. The English results that are referred to in the main text can be viewed from here:


    2. And a grad student from MIT pointed me to a potentially useful cite:


    which would make it easier to extract phonetic information that are necessary.

    3. We now have a lot of “wug” pictures of Pokemon characters, and the naming experiment is on-going in Japanese. If anybody wants to collaborate on this experiment in English or any other language, I’d love to collaborate.

    Any further thoughts are welcome!

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