Harry Bunt: Issues in the semantic annotation of quantification

Harry Bunt

Professor of Language and Artificial Intelligence
Tilburg University

Thursday Oct. 26 at 3:30
Volen 101

Quantification is ubiquitous in natural language: it occurs in every sentence. It occurs whenever a predicate P is applied to a set S of objects, where it gives rise to such questions as (1) To how many members of S is P applied? (2) Is P applied to individual members of S, or to S as a whole, or to certain subsets of S? (3) What is the size of S? (4) How is S determined by lexical, syntactic and contextual information? Moreover, if P is applied to combinations of members from different sets, issues of relative scope arise.

Quantification is a complex phenomenon, both from a semantic point of view and because of the complexity of the relation between the syntax and the semantics of quantification, and has been studied extensively by logicians, linguistics, and computational semanticists. Nowadays it is generally agreed that quantifier expressions in natural language are noun phrases, which is why quantification arises in every sentence.

The International Organization for Standardization ISO has in recent years started to develop annotation schemes for semantic phenomena, both in support of linguistic research in semantics and for building semantically more advanced NLP systems. The ISO-TimeML scheme (ISO 24617-1), based on Pustejovsky’s TimeML, was the first ISO standard that was established in this area; others concern the annotation of dialogue acts, discourse relations, semantic roles, and spatial information. Quantification is currently considered as a next candidate for an ISO standard annotation scheme. In this talk I will discuss some of the issues involved in developing such an annotation scheme, including the definition of an abstract syntax of the annotations, of concrete XML representations, and the semantics of the annotations.

Harry Bunt is professor of Linguistics and Computer Science at Tilburg University, The Netherlands. Before that he worked at Philips Research Labs. He studied physics and mathematics at the University of Utrecht and obtained a doctorate (cum laude) in Linguistics at the University of Amsterdam. His main areas of interest are computational semantics and pragmatics, especially in relation to (spoken) dialogue. He developed a framework for dialogue analysis called Dynamic Interpretation Theory, which has been the basis of an international standard for dialogue annotation (ISO 24617-2).

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