Discoursey Things

A Discussion at the Capitol Hill meeting, January 2017


Discourse adverbs/short answers

FZZ: This session is inspired by the need to process Luis’s corpus. A collection of sentences from a Chinese textbook used at NTU (Level 1). 796 unique sentences, from dialogues. First problem: Lots of fragments — terms of address, greetings, other phatic communication (thank you, you’re welcome). Can either stand on their own, or appear sentence-initially or sentence-finally. Looking for inspiration from the ERG … and from Dan directly.

FZZ: In ERG, these terms tend to be called ‘discourse adverbs’. Types:

EMB: Is there really a yes?

FZZ/SSH: Yes: shi4 or the short form of the verb. But this is tricky, since it looks like a clause with missing arguments. Should we call all of these adverbs, or should we treat them as verby?

DPF: Do you mean in the bought/not bought case?

LMC: What is the semantics of these?

DPF: The semantics of yes is very similar to the semantics of probably or maybe — a modifier of the clause, but pointed out at the discourse. You might say that hello isn’t actually an adverb, but I don’t really care. It seems to fit in the same places. If I was a bit more careful, I’d say “discourse particle” and not pretend to care about the part of speech assignment. Doesn’t have much other pos behavior — just at the edge, or standing by itself. Function is to express speaker’s attitude towards the content of the sentence, or to wrap something around that sentence.

DPF: The shortened verb examples you give. That looks to me like something where the ERG isn’t going to be that helpful, since we don’t have the phenomenon (except in can in Singlish). I don’t have info about the range of distribution. Are you staying from Monday till Tuesday can you answer From Monday — ditransitive preposition, can you just say one of the arguments? Same with ditransitive verbs. What’s the range of fragmentation you can impose, how much can be dropped, is this kind of dropping also used elsewhere? That whole class of responses to a question is an interesting but separate problem. True, comes up a lot in face to face conversations and pretty much nowhere else. You should decide if that’s where you want to devote a lot of your time. … this is a difficult problem of mapping across sentences, and very restricted in its distribution (to f2f conversation).

EMB: My first pass would be to license the fragments with some sort of pumping rule that gives you the discourse particle use of these, but not try to match the verbs to the preceding context.

LCM: I would be happy with that too. Want to deal with the unfulfilled arguments, but leave the anaphora resolution to some further PhD thesis. Can we treat it as an adverb and still keep the arguments there?

DPF: Example?

FZZ: Example: Do you have have business? Have, I have something, S

DPF: Are you going to give that whole thing to your parser?

FZZ: This is a huge problem in Chinese. Undersegmented in the Chinese PTB.

DPF/EMB: Agree that 100 character sentences is silly, but including the fragment meaning yes as a sentence-initial adverb not silly. Linguistic question.

PX/LCM/FZZ: have, I have something is one sentence, but then the rest is a separate sentence.

DPF: So something that takes you3 and turns you3 into a sentence-modifier.

FZZ: So a pumping rule?

DPF: Yes, and I suspect you’ll find very strong syntactic constraints on what you can find there. For example, probably at without its object, even if you don’t get that in Chinese. So the pumping rule selects for things that don’t otherwise occur on their own. You can also have aspect. Can you have more?

LCM/EMB: Yes negation.

DPF: What about ditransitives—can you say give a book, followed by a further sentence with that same intonation pattern.

FZZ: That first element can only take aspect, negation and probably some scopal modifiers.

LCM: How do you draw the distinction between these and two sentences that are just juxtaposed: Did you give him the book?/I gave the book. I met him at three.

EMB: To keep ambiguity down, only apply the pumping rule to the things that need it — that can’t appear otherwise in that form.

GCS: Flag these rules so that they only apply when we’re in this genre.

FZZ: Doing this.

DPF: Convenient to have a complementarity in the distribution. If the sequence of characters can already be a clause, you don’t need to do anything more. If you have just zai4 at the start of a sentence, you need to add something like this pumping rule. Seems to me it would be wise to constraint it to only apply when it gives you new coverage.

LCM: If I asked David, Did you buy vegetables and he says Buy-le. I got three eggplants.

EMB: There are some things the grammar doesn’t already parse, but they don’t need the pumping rule. They can just combine with comma-marked coordination.

GCS: I have a library of grammar books about Thai that say that that means yes, even though it can be every verb in the lexicon.

EMB: So they’re teaching you pragmatics. But the teaching grammars aren’t interested in telling you what’s syntax and what’s pragmatics.

PX: You really need to separate the set of words only used as a response, v. other phrases that are shortened or omitted.

LCM: Do you have any verbs that disallow argument drop?

DPF: What’s an example of such a verb?

FZZ: kan (‘look’ or ‘see’) can take a full clause as its object, but that one can’t drop its argument.

EMB: Same in ERG, right? DPF: Yes.

DPF: Can you use that verb all by itself as an answer to a question?

PX: You won’t be able to list them all.

EMB: Can you put them in the other order? Long first, short difference.

SSH: Some can also repeat — dui4 dui4 dui4, shi4 shi4 shi4

PX: Some have very general meaning, and you can list those.

FZZ: That’s one end, then there’s the verbs that can’t occur on their own.

FCB: Worried about (spurious) ambiguity in cases where something is both listed as discourse adverb and a verb that can go through the pumping rule.

LCM: To Emily’s question — weird, but is it pragmatic or syntactic?

EMB: Pick an example from this data, where they didn’t use the same verb in both clause.

LCM/FZZ: Can’t find those.

FCB: What about a modal w a main verb.

LCM: Can you buy eggplants? Can. I love eggplants.

DPF: Can you use can by itself in a story? Not simulating a dialogue?

LCM: If can is argument-drop plus in FZZ’s grammar…

EMB: What about I woke up today, and I said to myself, “Today, can.“

FZZ/PX: Yes, that’s okay.

EMB: So that’s evidence that can can occur with argument dropping, outside the ‘yes’ usage.

LCM/EMB: Try to construct examples with zai. Everyday I woke up and looked for presents under the tree. They weren’t there they weren’t there. This morning, I woke up and thought “zai”. Meaning surely that there will be presents there.

FZZ/PX: Can’t say that.

FZZ: Can construct an example with zai in the context with overt subjects and complements and then dropping more arguments at each repetition.

EMB: That’s a different kind of availability of dropping of arguments. Some phenomena, like VPE in English, are very sensitive to the linguistic discourse context, others less so. So it seems we have a difference between zai and keyi.

GCS: I think it’s about context, not about questions, which are just one kind of context. Question for Dan — does the ERG represent each sentence as starting with no context.

DPF: It is a sentence grammar. It assumes that the fundamental unit that the grammar is concerned with building sentences.

GCS: So you rule out anything that requires connections to context.

DPF: Not rule it out, just leave it unaccounted for. Like it’s cold meaning no (in the context of are you comfortable?).

EMB: A perhaps sharper example is ellipsis_rel, which the grammar doesn’t try to resolve, just leaves it for a later component.


EMB: the cat is parsed by the ERG.

GCS: Not with root_strict.

DPF/EMB: Still parses.

GCS: But what is the point of root_strict then?

DPF: It is useful to me in some applications (e.g. the grammar checker) to know when something is a clause.

FZZ: What’s the unknown_rel there?

DPF: NPs don’t have truth values. Truth values have to have predications.

EMB: The unknown_rel is a flag to the discourse processor that there is something to resolve.

FCB: Schlangen & Lascarides have a system that takes these things and unifies them together into a discourse.

GCS: If you say Who meowed/the cat… what’s the event?

EMB/DPF/FCB: Meowing!

GCS: So why an event?

DPF: We assert that propositions are what can be true or false, and they always introduce an eventuality. It’s an axiom. It’s Davidsonian.

GCS: The diagnostic that would prove me right and you wrong is whether there is any response that does not invoke an event for the cat.

DPF: You can think of it usefully as anaphora.


FZZ: A new topic: Vocative terms at the beginning of the sentence. SSH has an analysis of speaker and addressee in the ICONS structure. To handle vocatives, we have a pumping rule that makes NPs into ADVPs, introducing an addressee_rel. But that’s in the RELS, so we have addressee linked to 2nd person pronoun in the main clause in the ICONS and also the addresee_p_rel in the RELS from the pumping rule.

Zhangsan, ni lai le

FZZ: Do we need an additional step to link Zhangsan and you together for coreference?

EMB: I don’t think so. That’s not grammatically required coreference. I thought you were going to ask whether it’s strange to have something in both ICONS and RELS … but maybe that’s the info you need to link them (in postprocessing).

DPF: I do addressee_p_rel in the ERG in the RELS. The vocative has to hook in somewhere. I haven’t experimented with addressee in the ICONS. Need some way to join the NP describing the people you’re talking to and the message you are saying to them.

FZZ: qeq?

DPF: No, it’s not scopal.

FZZ: What about between addressee and the pronoun?

DPF: I don’t think we care about that here. I saw a guy and he was tall. Not a grammatical property.

DPF: Can you have addressee like everybody in the room, open your books?

FZZ: That’s my next question. How constrained the rule be? Right now, I’m being very safe and only allowing humans and names. But I don’t want to open this up. It will overgenerate.

DPF: Parsing will give you too many analyses?

FZZ: Parsing is okay — can say sentence initial, must have a comma.

DPF: You won’t have generation trouble, unless the input MRS has addressee_p_rel. It’s not a semantically empty rule, so it won’t fire in the generator unless it sees the licensing from the semantics.

EMB: I think the problem is going to be with topic, comment sentences. Elephants, trunks are big.

FZZ: Right, because topics often have commas.

DPF: Children, it’s time for bed. That’s just got to be ambiguous, and that’s probably right.

EMB: As your grammar gets bigger you get more ambiguity.

FCB: Can we treat this as vagueness, where vocative is just a resolution of ‘topic’?

DPF: What do you see in the MRS for Elephants, ears are big.

FZZ: This is not covered yet.

FCB: If we carefully give that a vague name, could maybe assimilate to vocatives.

Strategies for constraining parser search space

FZZ: We also found quite long sentences, surprising for this intro textbook.

LCM: Do you ever decide to split long sentences in English, based on commas?

FCB: We will be talking about things to do to make grammars faster tomorrow.

FZZ: And here is one with lots of classifiers that are also legitimate nouns, with coordination, which gives too much ambiguity.

PX: Chinese has lots of run on sentences. First thing you have to do is segment them.

GCS: First thing you have to do is recognize that there is not a cultural imperative to split sentences with punctuation.

FCB: You said with confidence something about the beginning of the sentence.

FZZ: We have left periphery working…

FCB: What about the complement of ‘say’, ‘think’.

EMB: Certain verbs effectively introduce root contexts.

FCB: And are you sure that topics are always all the way to left? What about Prehistoric times, elephants, hair was long; nowadays, elephants, hair is short.

PX: Not that common.

FCB/FZZ: Okay, just single topics for now.

EMB: In the Wambaya grammar, I had an initial position (left of the second position occupied by the aux/clitic cluster) and then a few phenomena that target a position before that.

DPF: Yes, Mary, do go to the store.

FZZ: That’s sad.

DPF: Like Emily said, just create specific constructions that oddly can take this left-peripheral construction as its right daughter.

FZZ: Can I ask for a clever solution for this: Can we use punctuation as a boundary cue to block coordination across it? This is a special punctuation for enumerated coordinated things. Can we make use of this information?

DPF: One mechanism is to record the presence of that punctuation mark and push it up as the phrase goes upward. In the ERG, done with the PUNCT feature recording the presence over various punctuation marks, and then carry that upwards. Coordination rule can then reject conjuncts with something like that.

EMB/GCS: What about GML?

DPF: That’s human annotated.

EMB: But I think FZZ is saying she can get some of that from the commas.

GCS: Introduce the comma as a separate word, and the build rules that take that single character and dispose of it. Less invasive in terms of the feature structures (don’t need PUNCT everywhere). Opt in rather than opt out.

FZZ: I’m treating it as an implicit coordinator already.

GCS: You need a separate type for the comma which is non-linguistic.

FZZ: But then how do you bring in the info that it’s a coordinator? Unless I have a rule specifically for this thing.

GCS: Yes. That’s the proposal.

EMB: You don’t know about the stuff to the left of the first comma, but between N and N+1st comma is definitely a constituent, etc.

GCS: Then my solution is applicable.

FZZ: But how do I get the coordination info back in?

GCS: Is the comma really carrying that meaning?

LCM: You can also have NN compounds with coordinated noun phrases. Should that be legit?

DPF: I have a toy, candy and hot-dog store.

DPF: I think this is a doomed enterprise. You’ll eventually find coordinated structures with recursive coordination. The three groups of people, A, B, and C, D, E and F, G, H and I. do you know?

FZZ: The example of that in my corpus is using different punctuation.

EMB: I think the proposed solution will still work.

DPF: No, in toy, candy, and banana store, banana store is not a constituent, and insisting on it would block something that should parse if there’s another comma after store.

FZZ: Different kinds of commas…

DPF: I went to a toy, candy and banana store, a pineapple and grapefruit store, and … Not a good thing to put in the grammar.

EMB: My solution isn’t the grammar. It’s automatically created GML.

GCS: My solution isn’t about insisting on particular constituents, but blocking some of the others.

EMB: Would be helpful for FZZ to see GCS’s tdl.

CapitolHillDiscourse (last edited 2017-01-06 00:04:33 by EmilyBender)

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