Familiarity and Pronounceability of Nouns and Names

Document Type




Format of Original

12 p.

Publication Date




Source Publication

Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

doi: 10.3758/BF03200740


Ratings of familiarity and pronounceability were obtained from a random sample of 199 surnames (selected from over 80,000 entries in the Purdue University phone book) and 199 nouns (from the Kučera-Francis, 1967, word database). The distributions of ratings for nouns versus names are substantially different: Nouns were rated as more familiar and easier to pronounce than surnames. Frequency and familiarity were more closely related in the proper name pool than the word pool, although both correlations were modest. Ratings of familiarity and pronounceability were highly related for both groups. A production experiment showed that rated pronounceability was highly related to the time taken to produce a name. These data confirm the common belief that there are differences in the statistical and distributional properties of words as compared to proper names. The value of using frequency and the ratings of familiarity and pronounceability for predicting variations in actual pronunciations of words and names are discussed.


Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, Vol. 31, No. 4 (December 1999): 638-649. DOI.

Michael Johnson was affiliated with Purdue University at the time of publication.