Pragmatic Question Answering: Generic versus Specific Responses

Debra T. Burhans

Asking questions is a fundamental human activity. Questions of the form What objects X have property Y?" can be viewed as having two types of responses: specific (extensional) and generic (intensional). A specific response to the question "Who got a raise this year?" is a list of individuals who got a raise this year. A generic response to this question is a description of the ,criteria used in determining who got a raise, for example, "all employees with greater than five years of service and good reviews". The focus of this research is to determine the circumstances that dictate whether a generic or specific referent constitutes the most appropriate response to a question.

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