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Towards a declarative theory of discourse

Many of the problems with which current sentence-based natural language processing (NLP) systems are confronted with are due to the lack of an adequate theory of discourse: the interpretation of linguistic expressions is often determined by extra-sentential information. Systems that do not take such information into account will almost inevitably perform inadequately. This project set out to explore the possibility of developing a declarative theory of discourse, based on the notion of discourse grammar, and to implement this model. A particular concern was to develop a reversible formalism and show its use in processing and generation. Research and implementation work resulted in a discourse grammar that integrates work on discourse relations, temporal anaphora and nominal anaphora. The grammar includes a sentence-level module as well as discourse rules, and allows strings of discourses to be mapped into resolved representations. The grammars were developed in the typed feature system ALE. Other deliverables examine theoretical issues such as the need for discourse grammars, priority union as an alternative to higher-order unification, and the roles of reversibility, declarativity and monotonicity in discourse processing.

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The University of Edinburgh
2 Buccleuch Place
EH8 9LW Edinburgh
United Kingdom
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