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How to Juggle Discourse Obligations

By Anthony Jameson and Thomas Weis (1996)

In R. Meyer-Klabunde & C. von Stutterheim (Eds.), Proceedings des Symposiums “Konzeptuelles und semantisches Wissen in der Sprachproduktion” [Proceedings of the symposium “Conceptual and Semantic Knowledge in Language Production”] (pp. 171–185). Heidelberg/Mannheim, Germany: Reports from the Collaborative Research Center 245, “Language and Situation”.


In the context of dialog, one challenge for natural language generation is that of dealing with discourse obligations such as those created by questions, promises, and even silences. The present paper presents new methods for (a) representing discourse obligations, (b) determining which ones are created by a given dialog move, (c) determining how the status of an existing obligation is changed by a new move, and (d) taking existing and resulting obligations into account in the generation of new moves. The task of choosing a dialog move (which may consist of a signal for the user to produce the next utterance) is conceptualized in terms of the maximization of expected utility. This quantitative approach makes it possible to do justice to observations such as the following: (a) Discourse obligations lead to trade-offs with the system’s other dialog goals. (b) Obligations differ in terms of their importance and the time within which they are to be fulfilled. (c) The severity of the consequences of nonfulfillment of an obligation depends on the relationship between the obligated speaker’s moves and the total set of existing obligations.


Paper:  [PDF File]

BibTeX entry

  year = {1996},
  author = {{Jameson}, Anthony and
            {Weis}, Thomas},
  editor = {{Meyer-Klabunde}, Ralf and
            {von Stutterheim}, Christiane},
  title = {How to Juggle Discourse Obligations},
  booktitle = {{Proceedings des Symposiums ``Konzeptuelles und semantisches Wissen in der
    Sprachproduktion'} [{Proceedings} of the Symposium ``{C}onceptual and {S}emantic {K}nowledge in {L}anguage
  address = {Heidelberg/Mannheim, Germany},
  publisher = {Reports from the Collaborative Research Center 245, ``Language and Situation'},
  pages = {171--185}}