Disambiguation And Grammar As Emergent Soft Constraints (1999)
When reading a sentence such as The diplomat threw the ball in the ballpark for the princess" our interpretation changes from a dance event to baseball and back to dance. Such on-line disambiguation happens automatically and appears to be based on dynamically combining the strengths of association between the keywords and the two senses. Subsymbolic neural networks are very good at modeling such behavior. They learn word meanings as soft constraints on interpretation, and dynamically combine these constraints to form the most likely interpretation. On the other hand, it is very difficult to show how systematic language structures such as relative clauses could be processed in such a system. The network would only learn to associate them to specific contexts and would not be able to process new combinations of them. A closer look at understanding embedded clauses shows that humans are not very systematic in processing grammatical structures either. For example, "The girl who the boy who the girl who lived next door blamed hit cried" is very difficult to understand, whereas "The car that the man who the dog that had rabies bit drives is in the garage" is not. This difference emerges from the same semantic constraints that are at work in the disambiguation task. In this chapter we will show how the subsymbolic parser can be combined with high-level control that allows the system to process novel combinations of relative clauses systematically, while still being sensitive to the semantic constraints.
In Brian J. MacWhinney, editors, Workshop on Thought and Language, 20-31, Iizuka, Japan, 1999. Department of Artificial Intelligence, Kyushu Institute of Technology.

Marshall R. Mayberry III Ph.D. Alumni marty mayberry [at] gmail com
Risto Miikkulainen Faculty risto [at] cs utexas edu