Discourse Interpretation and the Scope of Operators
ROCHESTER UNIV NY DEPT OF COMPUTER SCIENCE
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The problem of ambiguity is central to any theory of language interpretation, whether we are interested in language processing in humans or in developing a usable natural language processing system. Psycholinguistic evidence suggests that human subjects are able to choose an interpretation when necessary, and that competing factors are involved in this choice however, no theory of language interpretation deals satisfactorily with the combinatorial explosion paradox-the fact that no matter how ambiguous natural language sentences are, they are usually interpreted without significant effort. The main idea presented in this dissertation is that the scope preferences observed in the literature are not the result of an independent scope disambiguation module, but of independent interpretation processes such as definite description interpretation or the interpretation of modals. None of these interpretive procedures is especially concerned with scope disambiguation, but the result of these inferences is that relations of contextual dependency such as anaphoric reference or presuppositionality become part of the common ground the scope preferences observed in the literature reflect these relations of dependency. The dissertation includes a formal proposal concerning the representation of contextual dependency, and its impact on the semantics of sentence constituents.