Interpretation As Abduction


Hobbs, J. R., Stickel, M. E., Appelt, D. E., & Martin, P. (1993). Interpretation as abduction. Artificial intelligence, 63(1-2), 69-142.


Abduction is inference to the best explanation. In the TACITUS project at SRI we have developed an approach to abductive inference, called “weighted abduction,” that has resulted in a significant simplification of how the problem of interpreting texts is conceptualized. The interpretation of a text is the minimal explanation of why the text would be true. More precisely, to interpret a text, one must prove the logical form of the text from what is already mutually known, allowing for coercions, merging redundancies where possible, and making assumptions where necessary. It is shown how such “local pragmatics” problems as reference resolution, the interpretation of compound nominals, the resolution of syntactic ambiguity and metonymy, and schema recognition can be solved in this manner. Moreover, this approach of “interpretation as abduction” can be combined with the older view of “parsing as deduction” to produce an elegant and thorough integration of syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, one that spans the range of linguistic phenomena from phonology to discourse structure and accommodates both interpretation and generation. Finally, we discuss means for making the abduction process efficient, possibilities for extending the approach to other pragmatics phenomena, and the semantics of the weights and costs in the abduction scheme.

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