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Interpreting Vague Utterances in Context

Matthew Stone

Tuesday, October 26, 2004, 01:00pm - 02:00pm

Rutgers University, Computer Science and Cognitive Science

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We use the interpretation of vague scalar predicates like "small" as
an illustration of the ability of systematic semantic models of
dialogue context to derive useful, fine-grained utterance
interpretations from radically underspecified semantic forms.  Our
account involves two principles.  We model pragmatic reasoning as a
general process that infers consistent collaborative intentions to
explain agents' contributions to joint activity.  We interpret vague
predicates by recovering salient scales and relevant distinctions
along them from the dialogue context.  Given this framework, we can
infer implicit standards of comparison for vague scalar predicates
through completely general pragmatics, yet closely constrain the
intended meaning to within a natural range.  Our account connects
closely with dynamic models from formal semantics, but we have
implemented it exactly in a natural language interface for describing
spatial actions.

Matthew Stone