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Journal Article (Refereed)
February 2008

Generating Natural Language Specifications from UML Class Diagrams

Meziane, F & Athanasakis, N & Ananiadou, S 2008, 'Generating Natural Language Specifications from UML Class Diagrams', The Requirements Engineering Journal, Vol 13, Issue 1, pp.1-18.


Early phases of software development are known to be problematic, difficult to manage and errors occurring during these phases are expensive to correct. Many systems have been developed to aid the transition from informal Natural Language requirements to semi- structured or formal specifications. Fur-thermore, consistency checking is seen by many software engineers as the solu-tion to reduce the number of errors occurring during the software development life cycle and allow early verification and validation of software systems. How-ever, this is confined to the models developed during analysis and design and fails to include the early natural language requirements. This excludes proper user involvement and creates a gap between the original requirements and the updated and modified models and implementations of the system. To improve this process, we propose a system that generates natural language specifications from UML class diagrams. We first investigate the variation of the input lan-guage used in naming the components of a class diagram based on the study of a large number of examples from the literature and then develop rules for re-moving ambiguities in the subset of natural language used within UML. We use WordNet, a linguistic ontology, to disambiguate the lexical structures of the UML string names and generate semantically sound sentences. Our system is developed in Java and is tested on an independent though academic case study.


Generating Natural Language Specification from UML class diagrams was one of the first works in this area. Since its publication, the paper was cited 37 times and ignited a proliferation of research papers. Some quotes from these citations refer to the work as “One important paper in this SLR” (1); “The work adds another benefit: the automatic generation of natural language requirements for maintenance purposes (1)”; “The work introduce another interesting line of work in the SLR: natural language generation systems (1)” ; “Our examples of generated text are inspired by the work done by [Meziane et al. 16]. (2)                 

(1)   Joaquín Nicolás, Ambrosio Toval, On the generation of requirements specifications from software engineering models: A systematic literature review, Information and Software Technology, Volume 51, Issue 9, September 2009, Pages 1291-1307

(2)   Håkan Burden and Rogardt Heldal. 2011. Natural language generation from class diagrams. InProceedings of the 8th International Workshop on Model-Driven Engineering, Verification and Validation (MoDeVVa), Stephan Weißleder, Levi Lúcio, Harald Cichos, and Frédéric Fondement (Eds.). ACM, New York, NY, USA


SEEK Members

External Authors

Nikos Athanasakis

Publication Details

Journal Name
The Requirements Engineering Journal

Vol 13, Issue 1