Modality in Dialogue: Planning, Pragmatics and Computation

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Stone, Matthew

Natural language generation (NLG) is first and foremost a reasoning task. In this reasoning, a system plans a communicative act that will signal key facts about the domain to the hearer. In generating action descriptions, this reasoning draws on characterizations both of the causal properties of the domain and the states of knowledge of the participants in the conversation. This dissertation shows how such characterizations can be specified declaratively and accessed efficiently in NLG. The heart of this dissertation is a study of logical statements about knowledge and action in modal logic. By investigating the proof-theory of modal logic from a logic programming point of view, I show how many kinds of modal statements can be seen as straightforward instructions for computationally manageable search, just as Prolog clauses can. These modal statements provide sufficient expressive resources for an NLG system to represent the effects of actions in the world or to model an addressee whose knowledge in some respects exceeds and in other respects falls short of its own. To illustrate the use of such statements, I describe how the SPUD sentence planner exploits a modal knowledge base to assess the interpretation of a sentence as it is constructed incrementally.

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University of Pennsylvania Institute for Research in Cognitive Science Technical Report No. IRCS-98-23.
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