Inference in Text Understanding

Peter Norvig

The problem of deciding what was implied by a written text, of "reading between the lines" is the problem of inference. To extract proper inferences from a text requires a great deal of general knowledge on the part of the reader. Past approaches have often postulated an algorithm tuned to process a particular kind of knowledge structure (such as a script, or a plan). An alternative, unified approach is proposed. The algorithm recognizes six very general classes of inference, classes that are not dependent on individual knowledge structures, but instead rely on patterns of connectivity between concepts. The complexity has been effectively shifted from the algorithm to the knowledge base; new kinds of knowledge structures can be added without modifying the algorithm.

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