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Review of  Perspectives on Dialogue in the New Millennium

Reviewer: Martí Quixal
Book Title: Perspectives on Dialogue in the New Millennium
Book Author: Peter Kühnlein Hannes Rieser Henk Zeevat
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Issue Number: 15.738

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Date: Wed, 25 Feb 2004 16:03:38 +0100 (CET)
From: Martí Quixal
Subject: Perspectives on Dialogue in the New Millenium

EDITOR: Kühnlein, Peter; Rieser, Hannes; Zeevat, Henk
TITLE: Perspectives on Dialogue in the New Millennium
SERIES: Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 114
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2003

Martí Quixal Martínez, Grup de Lingüística Computacional,
Departament de Traducció i Interpretació, Universitat
Pompeu Fabra

"Perspectives on Dialogue in the New Millennium" is a
selection of 19 papers out of the 30 papers that were
presented during BI-DIALOG (a meeting point for
researchers trying to further understand dialog, as well
as generating applicational spin-offs), held in Bielefeld
in 2001. According to the book's editors, they contain (in
some cases dramatic) changes with respect to the
original ones. The book seems to be appropriate for
readers with a minimum background knowledge in both
theoretical semantics and pragmatics, and their
computational counterparts. It is far from being an
introduction to dialog (systems), neither from a
theoretical standpoint, nor from an implementational
standpoint. However, it is for sure a representative
collection of papers that "documents the busy development
in the field of research on dialog" (in the editors'

The disciplines that can be more clearly distinguished as
taking part in the development of dialog theory and praxis
are: theoretical and computational semantics and
pragmatics, artificial intelligence and computer science,
and a range of disciplines that could be gathered under
the label cognitive sciences (or to how humans conceive
the state or situation of things). All of them are
represented in this volume.

The first three papers are devoted to the study of
strategies or formalisms to account for the inter-relation
among semantics, pragmatics and the construction of

The first one of them is written by A. Lascarides and N.
Asher, and is entitled "Imperatives in dialogue". Their
main point is the utilization of a dynamic discourse
semantics in order to capture discourse effects as a by-
product of discourse update. The dynamicity of semantics
is assured by the semantic definition and formalisation of
rhetorical relations such as narration, (default)-
consequence, explanation, correction, etc. Their proposal
is formalised in Segmented Discourse Representation Theory
(SDRT). In this paper, the authors defend a modular
approach for the modelling of reasoning, which is "an
attempt to do justice to the complexity of interaction
between the information sources that contribute to

The second paper is written by J. Ginzburg, I. Sag and M.
Purver, and is entitled "Integrating conversational move
types in the grammar of conversation". The paper argues in
favour of integrating conversational move types (CMT) in
grammatical analysis of conversation --within the
framework of Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar. Their
inclusion of CMTs in grammar analysis is based on both
lexical and pragmatic facts --though they admit certain
points are still to be further clarified. The enlarging of
the formalism consists --among others-- in introducing a
type "illocutionary-rel" as part of the HPSG type
hierarchy, and a set of derivation constraints.

The third paper is written by C. Sassen, and is entitled
"An HPSG-based representation model for illocutionary acts
in crisis talk". This paper focuses on explaining and
implementing illocutionary acts in spontaneous speech. The
author extends the semantics of HPSG in order to handle
illocutionary acts in crisis talk. Her extension includes
a set of rules for handling the distance between an
utterance, its meaning, and its logical form. She enlarges
the SEM-attribute with pieces of information such as
point, presupposition(s), sincerity, strength, etc. Thus
incorporating some of the Searlean conversation

The following eight papers are related to rather
(linguistic-)theoretical aspects of dialogue. Speech acts
is the connecting theme among the first four of them:
three of them are related to presuppositions and the last
one is devoted to how certain speech acts can be
considered part of semantics. The second four papers (of
this group of eight) are devoted to miscellaneous aspects
related to the explanation of human dialogue: politeness
as a perlocutionary act, models of intentions, context
dependent interpretation and implicit dialogue acts, and
linguistic non-linguistic context.

The fourth paper (in absolute figures) is written by R.
van der Sandt, and is entitled "Denial and
presupposition". The main goal of this paper is to shed
some light in the formalisation and conceptualisation of
presupposition denials. The author distinguishes between
denials and negations as two different concepts. Denial is
opposed to assertion, and negative sentences are
confronted with positive ones. Both denials and assertions
may be achieved (as speech act concepts) by any of the two
types of sentences (positive or negative). He presents two
possible accounts of presupposition denial, which in his
view differ conceptually in the fact that one of them (the
echo-analysis) "attributes the effect [of presupposition
denials] to the discourse function of negatory force"
while the other one (the anaphoric theory of
presupposition) supports a treatment of "presuppositional
expressions as anaphoric expressions". The modularity and
further generalization power of the first makes him adopt.
In addition, he admits that "a formal implementation of
his proposal [in DRT] would require a non-trivial
extension of the DRT apparatus.

The fifth paper is written by J. Spenader, and is
entitled "Between binding and accommodation". The main
goal of this paper is to analyse whether there is a need
to distinguish binding, bridging and accommodation as
three different operations. For such purpose, the author
reviews several of the proposals made in that respect
(grouping them in lexical or encyclopaedic based
approaches and functional based approaches) and a series
of (bridging) annotation studies. Eventually, she presents
some work conducted in the annotation of certain discourse
strategies on spoken language data, looking for a
complementation of the annotation work done for written
text, as well as for validation of the presented theories.
After going over a number of interesting and picky
examples, she concludes that "bridging examples are very
different from binding and accommodation". However, she
proposes that bridging should be newly defined, for which
she herself gives a (provisional) definition, specially in
order to better capture aspects such as under- and over-
generation of anchors or links when looking for concrete
samples of bridging relations.

The sixth paper is written by A. Capone, and is entitled
"Theories of presuppositions and presuppositional
clitics". This paper is divided in two parts. The first
one is a miscellaneous overview of some aspects regarding
presupposition theory, where some of the proposed theories
for presupposition projection, and its main features and
some problems are mentioned. The second part, not
consistently related to the first one (in my view),
handles some aspects about presuppositional clitics, by
which is meant the (im)possibility of using clitics in
certain discourse contexts (examples from Italian).

The seventh paper is written by E. Oishi, and is entitled
"Semantic meaning and four types of speech act". The
author considers the question regarding truth-conditional
meaning and non-truth-conditional meaning. In contrast to
previous theories, she proposes that by extending the
scope of semantic meaning straightforward truth-
conditional meaning can be regarded as a kind of
conventional meaning. Inspired in Austin (1953), the
author hypothesizes the existence of four different speech
acts (stating, placing, casting and instancing) which help
her explaining some differences between both truth-
conditional meaning and non-truth-conditional meaning
remaining at the level of semantics.

The eighth paper is written by M. Terkourafi, and is
entitled "Generalised and particularised implicatures of
linguistic politeness". It basically dwells on the several
linguistic strategies used in order to communicate and
understand politeness. The author analyses how implicatures
of politeness can be calculated in several contexts, and
eventually concludes that particularised implicatures can
be drawn at several stages in the inferential process, but
this is not the case for generalised (politeness)
implicatures that arise from conventionalised language uses.

The ninth paper is written by W. Mann, and is entitled
"Models of intentions in language". The goal of this paper
is to encourage researchers in the field of intentions
modelling to set aside the idea that one model of
intentions suffices for explaining the number of
observable communicative situations (labelled by its
author as the Single Comprehensive Model Fallacy). In
contrast, the author supports the elaboration of partial
models, although he acknowledges the need for determining
aspects such as sets of attributes of intentions, or
devices in order to establish which models would more
advisable to be used in certain communicative contexts.

The tenth paper is written by J. Kreutel and C. Matheson,
and is entitled "Context-dependent interpretation and
implicit dialogue acts". The paper theorizes and presents
an algorithm for dealing with implicit acceptance acts in
dialogue modelling. Their algorithm (formalised and
implemented as an extension of the work done in the TRINDI
project) assigns context dependent dialogue acts using
certain update rules, context-(in)dependent interpretation
rules, and context accommodation rules for handling
information states. Their claim is that dialogue
participants do act even in situations where they do not
seem to be intending, whereas the representation of
obligations provides means for determining characteristic
states in the course of dialogue.

The eleventh paper is written by K. Fischer, and is
entitled "Notes on analysing context". This paper focuses
on "how speaker make use of contextual factors in human-
robot communication". It briefly overviews motivation and
previous studies regarding the need of handling context in
dialogue situations. Moreover, it presents the analysis of
an experiment by which 15 different subjects were asked to
interact with a robot, where the goal was to make the
robot move to certain places within the experimentation
room. The author looks for a matching between a theory
previously proposed by Clark (1996) and the observations
arising from the experimental situation, and eventually
draws some interesting conclusions regarding the
corroboration of Clark's classification.

Although some of the previous systems where framed within
the implementation of human-machine dialogue systems, none
of them was a presentation in itself of such a system. The
following five papers are centred on the development of
human-machine dialogue systems.

The twelfth paper is written by A. Knoll, and is entitled
"A basic system for multimodal robot instruction". The
paper briefly sketches some theoretical aspects regarding
the incorporation of natural language in architectures for
human-robot interaction (front-end approach vs.
communicator or incremental approach). In addition, it
presents an experiment in which human subjects are asked
to communicate with a robot so that the machine finally
builds up a series of elements of a toy construction set.
Interestingly the system incorporates multimodal
interaction, which results, according the results, in a
"very natural way" of communication.

The thirteenth paper is written by O. Lemon, A. Bracy, A.
Gruenstein and S. Peters, and is entitled "An information
state approach in a multi-modal dialogue system for human-
robot conversation". This paper discusses several aspects
regarding multimodal human-robot conversations. In
addition, it presents the architecture of the Open Agent
Architecture, which incorporates from a speech recognition
system to an interactive map display over speech
synthesis, linguistic parsing and language generation
modules. An interesting aspect of the system is that by
means of updating information states it manages to a more
flexible strategy for modelling and processing

The fourteenth paper is written by B. Ludwig, and is
entitled "Dialogue understanding in dynamic domains". This
paper presents a strategy for computing dialogue
situations from a pragmatics first perspective within
dynamic applications. This research work relies on the
idea that dialogue can be determined "by dynamically
changing content of the belief structures of the dialogue
participants. The implementation bases on a set of minimal
set of communicative acts and a number of orthogonal
conditions for updating belief structures in order to
compute dialogue progress.

The fifteenth paper is written by R. Copper, S. Ericsson,
Staffan Larson and I. Lewin, and is entitled "An
information state update approach to collaborative
negotiation". The paper presents a strategy for dealing
with collaborative negotiation within a GoDiS
implementation. The authors start by analyzing a previous
proposal --Sidner (1994),-- and try to overcome some of
its shortcomings. Their proposal reduces considerably the
number of dialogue moves needed to handle the (sub-)domain
presented in the paper --only four central primitive moves
are needed. In addition, their proposal is flexible with
respect to the degree of optimism (or pessimism) with
which participant's contributions have to be interpreted.
Last but not least, they introduce a distinction between
negotiation of alternatives and negotiation of uptake, for
which they point out a feasible solution.

The sixteenth paper is written by D. Schlangen, A.
Lascarides and A. Copestake, and is entitled "Resolving
Underspecification using Discourse Information". The paper
aims at investigating the interaction between
compositional semantics, goals, and discourse structure in
task-oriented dialogues, namely in the domain of fixing
appointments. Their main thesis is that information can
flow either from resolving the semantic underspecification
to computing the rhetorical relation, or vice versa. The
proposal is in the framework of Segmented Discourse
Representation Theory and is implemented using LKB.

The last three papers centre on theoretical aspects of
dialogue formalisation. The first one of them centres on
the interpretation of coordinated sentences, whereas the
two following ones are centred on the use of specific
discourse markers both in German and English.

The seventeenth paper is written by A. Benz, and is
entitled "On coordinating interpretations -- optimality
theory and rational interaction". The author tries to
clarify the relation between a model approaching anaphora
resolution within a theory of rational interaction and
bidirectional Optimality Theory. It defends that anaphora
resolution can be seen as a translation problem where a
set of "original" sentences must be handled with a set of
translating formulas. The result of such an operation must
be a balance between a best form chosen by the speaker and
a most preferred meaning chosen by the listener. The whole
process is conducted and determined by the communicative
situation and the dialogue state.

The eighteenth paper is written by E. Karagjosova, and is
entitled "Modal particles and the common ground". The
paper centres on the analysis of the meaning of certain
German modal particles. The author tries to distinguish
the amount of inherent meaning in such modal particles
from that amount of meaning that they acquire in context.
Finally the author suggests that the contribution of the
modal particles to utterance meaning can be captured by
framework that considers the basic meaning of the
particle, the illocution of the utterance the modal
particle occurs in, and the function of the utterance in

The nineteenth paper is written by T. Tenbrink & F.
Schilder, and is entitled "(Non-)Temporal concepts
conveyed by before, after, and then in dialogue". The
papers aims at analyzing the use of before, after and then
as indicators of temporal order. They review previous
analyses, and explore some corpora in order to check real
uses. They eventually conclude that there is clear
presence of time sense in the use of such words, either
precedence or proximality. Moreover, they prove that
discourse relations are required for determining the
semantics of those words. Finally, they conclude that the
presence of a time reference shall have effects on their


Austin, J.L. (1953) How to talk -- some simple ways.
Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society. [Reprinted in:
J.O. Urmson & G.J. Warnock (Eds.), Philosophical papers
(pp. 134-135). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Clark (1996) Using language. Cambridge University Press.

Sidner (1994) An artificial discourse language for
collborative negotiation. In Proceedings of the
fourteenth National Conference of the American
Association for Artificail Intelligence (AAAI-94) (pp.

Martí Quixal is PhD student in the program Cognitive
Science and Language at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in
Barcelona. He works at the GLiCom research group
in the development of robust
low-level linguistics-based parsers. He is currently
working in the implementation of NLP-enhanced error
detection tools for second language learners, and is
interested in introducing partial semantic or pragmatic
information in texts in order to detect errors beyond the
morphosyntactic level.