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Semantic Syntax

Aliases: SeSyn

Keywords: Generative Semantics, Transformational Grammar, generation, natural language generation

Categories: Natural Language


Author(s): Nicolas Nicolov

Semantic Syntax (SESYN) is an integrated theory of natural language syntax and semantics. It is a direct continuation of Generative Semantics. SESYN is a rule system that establishes a (bidirectional) mapping between the meaning representation of sentences (called semantic analysis structures) and their surface realisation. The semantic analysis structures are higher-order predicate calculus trees and contain the lexical items for open class words. The surface structures are based on an orthodox version of Transformational Grammar. The rule system works as follows: first a semantic analysis structure is constructed using a set of formation rules. The formation rules are a grammar for the semantic analysis structures. Then, the semantic analysis structure is transformed into a surface structure using cyclic and post-cyclic transformational rules. The cyclic rules apply in a bottom-up way and are mostly lexicon-driven: predicates are lexically marked for the cyclic rules they induce. The post-cyclic rules are largely structure-driven and apply in linear order as defined by the grammar. There is a limited number of highly constrained transformation rules. In SESYN there is no surface syntax grammar. Instead, a grammar for the semantic structure is used, coupled with a transformational component--SESYN is a procedural framework. SESYN is formally precise and achieves a high degree of empirical success. Exact rule systems are available for a number of languages (English, French, Dutch, German) and more are being developed.


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