Scaling Up

So far, we have only considered "toy grammars," small grammars that illustrate the key aspects of parsing. But there is an obvious question as to whether the approach can be scaled up to cover large corpora of natural languages. How hard would it be to construct such a set of productions by hand? In general, the answer is: very hard. Even if we allow ourselves to use various formal devices that give much more succinct representations of grammar productions, it is still extremely difficult to keep control of the complex interactions between the many productions required to cover the major constructions of a language. In other words, it is hard to modularize grammars so that one portion can be developed independently of the other parts. This in turn means that it is difficult to distribute the task of grammar writing across a team of linguists. Another difficulty is that as the grammar expands to cover a wider and wider range of constructions, there is a corresponding increase in the number of analyses that are admitted for any one sentence. In other words, ambiguity increases with coverage.

Despite these problems, some large collaborative projects have achieved interesting and impressive results in developing rule-based grammars for several languages. Examples are the Lexical Functional Grammar (LFG) Pargram project, the Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG) LinGO Matrix framework, and the Lexicalized Tree Adjoining Grammar XTAG Project.

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