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Food Quality and Preference 18 (2007) 265–274 www.elsevier.com/locate/foodqual

Defining sensory descriptors: Towards writing guidelines based on terminology
A. Giboreau
a,*

, C. Dacremont b, C. Egoroff c, S. Guerrand d, I. Urdapilleta e, D. Candel f, D. Dubois g

b

a ADRIANT, 54 rue Lamartine, 75009 Paris, France ´ ENSBANA-CESG, Universite de Bourgogne, 1 esplanade Erasme, 21000 Dijon,France c ´ PSA Peugeot Citroen, DRIA, 2 route de Gizy, 78943 Velizy Villacoublay, France ¨ d SNCF, DRT, 45 rue de Londres, 75379 Paris Cedex 08, France e ´ Laboratoire Cognition et usage, Universite Paris VIII, France f ´ CNRS HTL Universite Paris 7, 2 Place Jussieu, C. 7034, 75251 Paris, France g CNRS LAM-LCPE, 11 rue Lourmel, 75015 Paris, France

Received 11 February 2005; received in revisedform 2 December 2005; accepted 31 December 2005 Available online 2 October 2006

Abstract Descriptive analysis relies upon the use of sensory descriptors. They are words generally associated to a definition aimed at helping their understanding. However, the writing rules for such definitions remain implicit. The present work is a collaborative attempt from sensory analysts and linguists to getfurther insight into how definitions are elaborated. Definition formulations were analyzed according to linguistic criteria, syntactic (type and number of nouns, verbs and adjectives) as well as semantic ones (relations of synonymy, metaphor or analogy between the descriptors and their definitions). Such a linguistic analysis was performed on one hundred descriptor definitions collected from varioussources. The selected list of descriptors referred to both food and non-food products as well as visual, olfactory, gustative, tactile and acoustic properties. From these analyses and a terminology expertise developed in linguistics and psycholinguistics, we suggest a set of explicit guidelines to elaborate more accurate definitions of sensory descriptors. These guidelines concern the structure andcontent of definitions. Ó 2006 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Keywords: Sensory descriptors; Definitions; Semantics; Linguistics; Psycholinguistics

1. Introduction 1.1. The context of sensory definitions Sensory evaluation concerns the interpretation of what the senses – sight, olfaction, taste, touch, audition – inform about the product. Except in the case of free choice profiling, not addressed here,the general framework of descriptive analysis aims at a consensual use by the panel (and
*

Corresponding author. Tel.: +33 156 026 312; fax: +33 156 026 319. E-mail address: giboreau@lesensolier.com (A. Giboreau). URL: www.lesensolier.com (A. Giboreau).

sometimes the elaboration) of a common list of descriptors. The selected descriptors should therefore account for and adequately refer tohuman perception of the (sensory) properties of the product. At the same time and in an ideal way, descriptors should be veridical labels adequately denoting the products as well as their properties. Yet, the verbalization of sensory properties is a questionable issue as simple word meanings do not exactly (regularly) fit to concepts nor to personal experiences. The account of perceptual experiencein one language is not a simple carbon copy of a given reality or of its unique mental representation; it is rather a semantic expression associated to a diversity of individual’s feelings and linguistic resources. For

0950-3293/$ - see front matter Ó 2006 Published by Elsevier Ltd. doi:10.1016/j.foodqual.2005.12.003

266

A. Giboreau et al. / Food Quality and Preference 18 (2007) 265–274instance, when considering one descriptor, panelists often discuss and negotiate their agreement from different concepts as well as its labeling during training. The major function of training can therefore be seen as achieving concepts alignment between subjects variations, and to provide product references that explicitly illustrates the core as well as the borderlines of the concept...
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