Rhetorical Structure Theory: A Framework for the Analysis of Texts
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA MARINA DEL REY INFORMATION SCIENCES INST
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Rhetorical Structure Theory is a theory of text organization which provides a framework for an analysis of text. The theory is based on the understanding that a text is not merely a string of clauses, but consists instead of hierarchically organized groups of clauses that stand in various relations to one another. These rhetorical relations can be described functionally in terms of the purposes of the writer and the writers assumptions about the reader. They hold between two adjacent parts of a text, where, typically, one part is nuclear and one a satellite. An analysis of a text consists in identifying the relations holding between successively larger parts of the text, yielding a natural hierarchical description of the rhetorical organization of the text. The paper informally outlines RSTs mechanisms and applications, which include studies of clause combining, coherence and assertional effects of discourse structure. RST characteristically provides comprehensive analyses rather than selective commentary. RST is insensitive to text size, and has been applied to a wide variety of sizes of text. Keywords Artificial intelligence, Computational linguistics, Discourse, Discourse analysis, Discourse structure, Linguistics, Natural language, Text structures.