The Computational Analysis of the Syntax and Interpretation of "Free" Word Order in Turkish

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Hoffman, Beryl

In this dissertation, I examine a language with “free” word order, specifically Turkish, in order to develop a formalism that can capture the syntax and the context-dependent interpretation of “free” word order within a computational framework. In “free” word order languages, word order is used to convey distinctions in meaning that are not captured by traditional truth-conditional semantics. The word order indicates the “information structure”, e.g. what is the “topic” and the “focus” of the sentence. The context-appropriate use of “free” word order is of considerable importance in developing practical applications in natural language interpretation, generation, and machine translation. I develop a formalism called Multiset-CCG, an extension of Combinatory Categorial Grammars, CCGs, (Ades/Steedman 1982, Steedman 1985), and demonstrate its advantages in an implementation of a data-base query system that interprets Turkish questions and generates answers with contextually appropriate word orders. Multiset-CCG is a context-sensitive and polynomially parsable grammar that captures the formal and descriptive properties of “free” word order and restrictions on word order in simple and complex sentences (with discontinuous constituents and long distance dependencies). Multiset-CCG captures the context-dependent meaning of word order in Turkish by compositionally deriving the predicate-argument structure and the information structure of a sentence in parallel. The advantages of using such a formalism are that it is computationally attractive and that it provides a compositional and flexible surface structure that allows syntactic constituents to correspond to information structure constituents. A formalism that integrates information structure and syntax such as Multiset-CCG is essential to the computational tasks of interpreting and generating sentences with contextually appropriate word orders in “free” word order languages.

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University of Pennsylvania Institute for Research in Cognitive Science Technical Report No. IRCS-95-17.
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