1996 SALS-SIG Seminars

1996 SALS-SIG Seminars

SALS-SIG Research Seminar

Home ButtonPeople ButtonDOTG Buttonltg buttonEmail MRI

Repairing Conversational Misunderstandings and Non-Understandings

Graeme Hirst
Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto

When: Friday, 17th May 1996

Time: 2:00pm

Where: Room E6A102, Macquarie University


Participants in a discourse sometimes fail to understand one another, but, when aware of the problem, collaborate upon or negotiate the meaning of a problematic utterance. To address nonunderstanding, we have developed two plan-based models of collaboration in identifying the correct referent of a description: one covers situations where both conversants know of the referent, and the other covers situations, such as direction-giving, where the recipient does not. In the models, conversants use the mechanisms of refashioning, suggestion, and elaboration, to collaboratively refine a referring expression until it is successful. To address misunderstanding, we have developed a model that combines intentional and social accounts of discourse to support the negotiation of meaning. The approach extends intentional accounts by using expectations deriving from social conventions in order to guide interpretation. Reflecting the inherent symmetry of the negotiation of meaning, all our models can act as both speaker and hearer, and can play both the role of the conversant who is not understood or misunderstood and the role of the conversant who fails to understand.

This is joint work with Susan McRoy, Peter Heeman, Philip Edmonds, and Diane Horton.


Graeme Hirst is the author of two books and many papers in computational linguistics, and is book review editor of "Computational Linguistics".

Enquiries: Maria Milosavljevic 9850 6345 mariam@mpce.mq.edu.au

Last modified: July 1997
Back to the top of this page