Principle-Based Interpretation of Natural Language Quantifiers

Samuel S. Epstein

This paper describes a working prototype that determines possible relative quantifier scopes and pronoun bindings for natural language sentences, with coverage of a variety of problematic cases. The prototype parses a significant fragment of English, positing empty categories and deriving various relationships among constituents in addition to dominance. It applies cross-linguistically valid principles of Government-Binding theory to compute a set of "Logical Forms" for each sentence it parses, and to derive possible relative quantifier scopes from these Logical Forms. It then translates sentences into an enriched predicate logic. Simple principles apply to these translations to determine possibilities for interpretation of pronouns as bound variables. The prototype’s scope and binding modules correspond transparently to elements of a principle-based grammar. Principles apply as filters. All processing is nevertheless highly efficient. The computational techniques employed in the prototype may find wider application in principle-based language processing.

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