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Proceedings Paper

Reference And Description In Natural Language
Author(s): Alan N. Steinberg
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Paper Abstract

We propose a theory for modeling the semantic and pragmatic properties of natural language expressions used to refer. The sorts of expressions to be discussed include proper names, definite noun phrases and personal pronouns. We will focus in this paper on such expressions in the singular, having discussed elsewhere procedures for extending the present sort of analysis to various plural uses of these expressions. Propositions involving referential expressions are formally redefined in a second order predicate calculus, in which various semantic and pragmatic factors involved in establishing and interpreting references are modeled as rules of inference. Uses of referential utterances are differentiated according to the means used for individuating the object referred to. Analyses are provided for anaphoric, contextual, demonstrative, introductory and citational individuative devices. We analyze sentences like 'The man [or John] is wise' as conditionals of the form 'Whatever is uniquely a man [or named "John"] relevant to the present discourse is wise'. So modeled, the presupposition of existence (which historically has concerned much logical analysis of such sentences) is represented as a conversational implicature of the sort which obtains from any proposition of the form '(P -> Q)' to the corresponding `P'. This formalization is intended to serve as part of an empirical theory of natural language phenomena. Being an empirical theory, ours will strive to model the greatest possible diversity of phenomena using a minimum of formal apparatus. Such a theory may provide a foundation for automatic systems to predict and replicate natural language phenomena for purposes of text understanding and synthesis.

Paper Details

Date Published: 29 March 1988
PDF: 13 pages
Proc. SPIE 0937, Applications of Artificial Intelligence VI, (29 March 1988); doi: 10.1117/12.947016
Show Author Affiliations
Alan N. Steinberg, The Analytic Sciences Corporation (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 0937:
Applications of Artificial Intelligence VI
Mohan M. Trivedi, Editor(s)

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