Effects and handlers in natural language

Jiří Maršík 1, 2
2 SEMAGRAMME - Semantic Analysis of Natural Language
Inria Nancy - Grand Est, LORIA - NLPKD - Department of Natural Language Processing & Knowledge Discovery
Abstract : In formal semantics, researchers assign meanings to sentences of a natural language. This work is guided by the principle of compositionality: the meaning of an expression is a function of the meanings of its parts. These functions are often formalized using the [lambda]-calculus. However, there are areas of language which challenge the notion of compositionality, e.g. anaphoric pronouns or presupposition triggers. These force researchers to either abandon compositionality or adjust the structure of meanings. In the first case, meanings are derived by processes that no longer correspond to pure mathematical functions but rather to context-sensitive procedures, much like the functions of a programming language that manipulate their context with side effects. In the second case, when the structure of meanings is adjusted, the new meanings tend to be instances of the same mathematical structure, the monad. Monads themselves being widely used in functional programming to encode side effects, the common theme that emerges in both approaches is the introduction of side effects. Furthermore, different problems in semantics lead to different theories which are challenging to unite. Our thesis claims that by looking at these theories as theories of side effects, we can reuse results from programming language research to combine them.This thesis extends [lambda]-calculus with a monad of computations. The monad implements effects and handlers, a recent technique in the study of programming language side effects. In the first part of the thesis, we prove some of the fundamental properties of this calculus: subject reduction, confluence and termination. Then in the second part, we demonstrate how to use the calculus to implement treatments of several linguistic phenomena: deixis, quantification, conventional implicature, anaphora and presupposition. In the end, we build a grammar that features all of these phenomena and their interactions.
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Jiří Maršík. Effects and handlers in natural language. Computation and Language [cs.CL]. Université de Lorraine, 2016. English. ⟨NNT : 2016LORR0322⟩. ⟨tel-01417467v3⟩

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