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Communicating with Databases in Natural Language - Wallace M.

Wallace M. Communicating with Databases in Natural Language - Ellis Horwood Limited, 1985. - 170 p.
Download (direct link): comumunicatingwthisdatabase1985.djvu
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INTELLECT [8] is a commercially available system developed from Harris’s ROBOT [21] The INTELLECT grammar is as independent of the application as
REL’s, but INTELLECT utilises a data-dictionaiy to impose informational restrictions upon its grammar
A problem for domain-independent systems such as REL and INTELLECT is the absence of English verbs from databases and data dictionaries. A few verbs, such as “report (on)”, “give (me)” are built into INTELLECT, but neither system can derive the meaning of a domain-dependent verb such as “fly” or “sail” from the data model Moreover such verbs have their own grammar which requires special sophisticated treatment.
The REL solution to the problem is to provide the grammatical framework (Case Analysis [11]) for parsing verbs and to supply only two basic verbs, “to be” and “to have”, in the core dictionary. We will see in (section ,3,3) how the user is able to define verbs in English
INTELLECT on the other hand does not distinguish nouns and verbs at all In fact INTELLECT does not attempt to analyse the English grammar of a query at all - most queries are equally well analysed by INTELLECT if they are reversed!
INTELLECT’S grammar is entirely dictated by its applicability restrictions. Consequently “Who sold a car?” and “Who was sold a car?” are indistinguishable to the system. On the other hand there are several advantages to the approach. Firstly, it requires little knowledge of linguistics to set up an application under INTELLECT, and secondly the system performs very well on ill-formed or telegraphic sentences such as “Chicago employees?”. Verbs are defined by the knowledge engineer, just like any other words, to map onto a particular data object
2.5 Other grammars
We have discussed a range of grammars in the context of the restrictions — structural and informational — imposed on each by the interface to the data model. The grammars of LADDER and PLANES are constructed around a particular application, whilst REL supplements a more syntactic grammar with advice from the data dictionary and database.
Other grammars have been written which are supported by a more sophisticated semantics such as preference semantics [52] or conceptual dependency [39], Although a pilot database enquiry system has been constructed using preference semantics (the Bari system [27]), these two theories are really not aimed at solving problems which are germane to database enquiry,
It is very useful if the grammar for an NLU can be easily extended. This enables the NLU to be adapted to particular dialects or the shorthands of individual users. It also enables the NLU to be updated when the information held in the database is extended. Finally it can provide for those natural language phrases that may just have been missed out in the original grammar.
The PLANES system has a powerful, and well documented, “network editor” called NETEDI [20]. NETEDI can take new sentence forms, which are rather like productions in LIFER, and automatically weld them into the ATN parser. NETEDI does, however, presume that the user knows about the grammar which is being extended. LIFER and REL can accept grammar extensions from users who are “neither linguists nor logicians” and who must therefore be able to add new definitions and paraphrases in terms of the system’s previous English subset
3.2 LIFER’s paraphrase mechanism
The neat design of LIFER’s parser enables LIFER to deal with paraphrases in a very powerful way. Suppose, for example, LIFER is told to accept
“For Santa Inez give me the length”
as a paraphrase for
“What is the length of the Santa Inez?”
LIFER will add more than the one sentence “For Santa Inez give me the length’ to its grammar. It will also add
“For oilers give me the draft”
“For Kitty Hawk class ships give me the location and commander”
In fact the grammar is extended to include a new production
The expression, “el”, is elicited from the meaning of the “model” sentence:
“What is the length of the Santa Inez?”
The reason “Santa Inez” can be generalised to “(SHIP)”, and “length” can be generalised to “(ATTRIBUTE)” in the paraphrase is that each has a match in the model sentence. Thus one paraphrase can extend the grammar to include a large number of new sentences
One problem with allowing linguistically naive users to extend the grammar is that gaps appear in its coverage: the new grammar may accept one sentence but not another, although they are phrased in a similar way.
3.3 REL definitions
The REL system accepts paraphrases not just for sentences, but for any grammatical category [46] , The same generalisation facility is again employed for any defined word that is written in quotes, e.g. DEF: MOST EMPTY “SHIP”:
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