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Indirect Speech Acts and Politeness: A Computational Approach

Liliana Ardissono - Guido Boella - Leonardo Lesmo
Dipartimento di Informatica - Università di Torino
Corso Svizzera n.185 - 10149 Torino - Italy
Phone: +39-11-7429111; E-mail: {liliana, lesmo}

This paper appeared on the Proc. of the 17th Cognitive Science Conference, Pittsburgh, 1995


This paper describes a framework for the representation and interpretation of indirect speech acts, relating them to the politeness phenomenon, with particular attention to the case of requests. The speech acts are represented as actions of a plan library and are activated on the basis of the presence of syntactic and semantic information in the linguistic form of the input utterance. The speech act analyzer receives in input the semantic representation of the input sentence and uses the politeness indicators to climb up the decomposition and generalization hierarchies of acts encoded in the library. During this process, it eliminates the indicators and collects the negated presuppositions (represented as effects of the indirect speech act) that characterize the politeness forms. Some cyclic paths in the hierarchy allow the system to cope with complex sentences including nested politeness indicators. In the proper places of the hierarchy the semantic representation of the input sentence is converted into a domain action in order to start-up, when needed, the domain-level plan recognition process.

Guido Boella Dottorando
Thu Oct 31 15:35:12 MET 1996