Learning Content Selection Rules for Generating Object Descriptions in Dialogue

P. W. Jordan and M. A. Walker

IA fundamental requirement of any task-oriented dialogue system is the ability to generate object descriptions that refer to objects in the task domain. The subproblem of content selection for object descriptions in task-oriented dialogue has been the focus of much previous work and a large number of models have been proposed. In this paper, we use the annotated COCONUT corpus of task-oriented design dialogues to develop feature sets based on Dale and Reiter's (1995) incremental model, Brennan and Clark's (1996) conceptual pact model, and Jordan's (2000b) intentional influences model, and use these feature sets in a machine learning experiment to automatically learn a model of content selection for object descriptions. Since Dale and Reiter's model requires a representation of discourse structure, the corpus annotations are used to derive a representation based on Grosz and Sidner's (1986) theory of the intentional structure of discourse, as well as two very simple representations of discourse structure based purely on recency. We then apply the rule-induction program RIPPER to train and test the content selection component of an object description generator on a set of 393 object descriptions from the corpus. To our knowledge, this is the first reported experiment of a trainable content selection component for object description generation in dialogue. Three separate content selection models that are based on the three theoretical models, all independently achieve accuracies significantly above the majority class baseline (17%) on unseen test data, with the intentional influences model (42.4%) performing significantly better than either the incremental model (30.4%) or the conceptual pact model (28.9%). But the best performing models combine all the feature sets, achieving accuracies near 60%. Surprisingly, a simple recency-based representation of discourse structure does as well as one based on intentional structure. To our knowledge, this is also the first empirical comparison of a representation of Grosz and Sidner's model of discourse structure with a simpler model for any generation task.

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