Model of Syntactic Analysis: Data-Oriented Parsing
Institute for Logic, Language and Computation
University of Amsterdam
1012 VB Amsterdam, The Netherlands
presents a memory-based model of human syntactic processing: Data-Oriented
Parsing. After a brief introduction (section 1), it argues that
any account of disambiguation and many other performance phenomena
inevitably has an important memory-based component (section 2).
It discusses the limitations of probabilistically enhanced competence-grammars,
and argues for a more principled memory-based approach (section
3). In sections 4 and 5, one particular memory-based model is described
in some detail: a simple instantiation of the "Data-Oriented Parsing"
approach ("DOP1"). Section 6 reports on experimentally established
properties of this model, and section 7 compares it with other memory-based
techniques. Section 8 concludes and points to future work.
Could it be
the case that all of human language cognition takes place
by means of similarity- and analogy-based processes which operate
on a store of concrete past experiences? For those of us who are
tempted to give a positive answer to this question, one of the most
important challenges consists in describing the processes that deal
with syntactic structure.
who knows a language can understand and produce a virtually endless
variety of new and unforeseen utterances. To describe precisely
how people actually do this, is clearly beyond the scope of linguistic
theory; some kind of abstraction is necessary. Modern linguistics
has therefore focussed its attention on the infinite repertoire
of possible sentences (and their structures and interpretations)
that a person's conception of a language in principle allows:
the person's linguistic "competence".
effort to understand the nature of this "knowledge of language",
linguistic theory uses the artificial languages of logic and mathematics
as its paradigm sources of inspiration. Linguistic research proceeds
on the assumption that a language is a well-defined formal code
-- that to know a language is to know a non-redundant, consistent
set of rules (a "competence grammar"), which establishes unequivocally
which word sequences belong to the language, and what their pronunciations,
syntactic analyses and semantic interpretations are.
algorithms which are built for practical applications, or which
are intended as cognitive models, must address some of the problems
that linguistic competence grammars abstract away from. They cannot
just produce the set of all possible analyses of an input utterance:
in the case of ambiguity, they should pick the most plausible analysis;
if the input is uncertain (as in the case of speech recognition)
they should pick the most plausible candidate; if the input is corrupted
(by typos or spelling-mistakes) they should make the most plausible
which gives a plausible characterization of the set of possible
sentences of a language does no more (and no less) than provide
a rather broad framework within which many different models of an
individual's language processing capabilities ("performance models")
may be specified. To
investigate what a performance model of human language processing
should look like, we do not have to start from scratch. We may,
for instance, look at the ideas of previous generations of linguists
and psychologists, even though these ideas did not yet get articulated
as mathematical theories or computational models. If we do that,
we find one very common idea: that language users produce and understand
new utterances by constructing analogies with previously experienced
ones. Noam Chomsky has noted, for instance, that this view was held
by Bloomfield, Hockett, Jespersen, Paul, Saussure, and "many others"
(Chomsky 1966, p. 12).
appealing idea may be summarized as memory-based language-processing
(if we want to emphasize that it involves accessing representations
of concrete past language experiences), or as analogy-based
language-processing (if we want to draw attention to the nature
of the process that is applied to these representations). The project
of embodying it in a formally articulated model seems a worthwhile
challenge. In the next few sections of this paper we will discuss
empirical reasons for actually undertaking such a project, and we
will report on our first steps in that direction.
section therefore discusses in some detail one particular reason
to be interested in memory-based models: the problem of ambiguity
resolution. Section 3 will then start to address the technical challenge
of designing a mathematical and computational system which complies
with our intuitions about the memory-based nature of language-processing,
while at the same time doing justice to some insights about syntactic
structure which have emerged from the Chomskyan tradition.
As soon as
a formal grammar characterizes a non-trivial part of a natural language,
it assigns an unmanageably large number of different analyses to
almost every input string. This is problematic, because most of
these analyses are not perceived as plausible by a human language
user, although there is no conceivable clear-cut reason for a theory
of syntax or semantics to label them as deviant (cf. Church &
Patil, 1983; MacDonald et al., 1994; Martin et al., 1983.). Often,
it is only a matter of relative implausibility. A certain
interpretation may seem completely absurd to a human language user,
just because another interpretation is much more plausible.
problem gets worse if the input is uncertain, and the system must
explore alternative guesses about that. In spoken language understanding
systems we encounter a very dramatic instance of this phenomenon.
The speech recognition component of such a system usually generates
many different guesses as to what the input word sequence might
be, but it does not have enough information to choose between them.
Just filtering out the 'ungrammatical' candidates is of relatively
little help in this situation. The competence grammar of a language,
being a characterization of the set of possible sentences and their
structures, is clearly not intended to account for the disambiguation
behavior of language users. Psycholinguistics and language technology,
however, must account for such behavior; they must do this by embedding
linguistic competence grammars in a proper theory of language performance.
many different criteria that play a role in human disambiguation
behavior. First of all we should note that syntactic disambiguation
is to some extent a side-effect of semantic disambiguation.
People prefer plausible interpretations to implausible ones
-- where the plausibility of an interpretation is assessed with
respect to the specific semantic/pragmatic context at hand, taking
into account conventional world knowledge (which determines what
beliefs and desires we tend to attribute to others), social conventions
(which determine what beliefs and desires tend to get verbally expressed),
and linguistic conventions (which determine how they tend
to get verbalized).
If we bracket
out the influence of semantics and context, we notice another important
factor that influences human disambiguation behavior: the frequency
of occurrence of lexical items and syntactic structures. It has
been established that (1) people register frequencies and frequency-differences
(e.g. Hasher & Chromiak, 1977; Kausler & Puckett, 1980;
Pearlmutter & MacDonald, 1992), (2) analyses that a person has
experienced before are preferred to analyses that must be newly
constructed (e.g. Hasher & Zacks, 1984; Jacoby & Brooks,
1984; Fenk-Oczlon, 1989), and (3) this preference is influenced
by the frequency of occurrence of analyses: more frequent analyses
are preferred to less frequent ones (e.g. Fenk-Oczlon, 1989; Mitchell
et al., 1992; Juliano & Tanenhaus, 1993).
are not surprising -- they are predicted by general information-theoretical
considerations. A system confronted with an ambiguous signal may
optimize its behavior by taking into account which interpretations
are more likely to be correct than others -- and past occurrence
frequencies may be the most reliable indicator for these likelihoods.
probabilistic competence-grammars to data-oriented parsing
previous section we saw that the human language processing system
seems to estimate the most probable analysis of a new input sentence,
on the basis of successful analyses of previously encountered ones.
But how is this done? What probabilistic information does the system
derive from its past language experiences? The set of sentences
that a language allows may best be viewed as infinitely large, and
probabilistic information is used to compare alternative analyses
of sentences never encountered before. A finite set of probabilities
of units and combination operations must therefore be used to characterize
an infinite set of probabilities of sentence-analyses.
can only be solved if a more basic, non-probabilistic one is solved
first: we need a characterization of the complete set of possible
sentence-analyses of the language. As we saw before, that is exactly
what the competence-grammars of theoretical syntax try to provide.
Most probabilistic disambiguation models therefore build directly
on that work: they characterize the probabilities of sentence-analyses
by means of a "stochastic grammar", constructed out of a competence
grammar by augmenting the rules with application probabilities derived
from a corpus. Different syntactic frameworks have been extended
in this way. Examples are Stochastic Context-Free Grammar (Suppes,
1970; Sampson, 1986; Black et al., 1992), Stochastic Lexicalized
Tree-Adjoining Grammar (Resnik, 1992; Schabes, 1992), Stochastic
Unification-Based Grammar (Briscoe & Carroll, 1993) and Stochastic
Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (Brew, 1995).
enhanced competence grammar of this sort defines all sentences of
a language and all analyses of these sentences. It also assigns
probabilities to each of these sentences and each of these analyses.
It therefore makes definite predictions about an important class
of performance phenomena: the preferences that people display when
they must choose between different sentences (in language production
and speech recognition), or between alternative analyses of sentences
of these predictions, however, is necessarily limited. Stochastic
grammars assume that the statistically significant language units
coincide exactly with the lexical items and syntactic rules employed
by the competence grammar. The most obvious case of frequency-based
bias in human disambiguation behavior therefore falls outside their
scope: the tendency to assign previously seen interpretations rather
than innovative ones to platitudes and conventional phrases. Platitudes
and conventional phrases demonstrate that syntactic constructions
of arbitrary size and complexity may be statistically important,
also if they are completely redundant from the point of view of
a competence grammar.
grammars which define their probabilities on minimal syntactic units
thus have intrinsic limitations as to the kind of statistical distributions
they can describe. In particular, they cannot account for the statistical
biases which are created by frequently occurring complex structures.
(For a more detailed discussion regarding some specific formalisms,
see Bod (1995, Ch. 3).) The obvious way to remedy this, is to allow
redundancy: to specify statistically significant complex structures
as part of a "phrasal lexicon", even though the grammar could already
generate these structures in a compositional way. To be able to
do that, we need a grammar formalism which builds
up a sentence structure out of explicitly specified component structures:
a "Tree Grammar" (cf. Fu 1982). The simplest kind of Tree Grammar
that might fit our needs is the formalism known as Tree Substitution
Substitution Grammar describes a language by specifying a set of
arbitrarily complex "elementary trees". The internal nodes of these
trees are labelled by non-terminal symbols, the leaf nodes by terminals
or non-terminals. Sentences are generated by a "tree rewrite process":
if a tree has a leaf node with a non-terminal label, substitute
on that node an elementary tree with that root label; repeat until
all leaf nodes are terminals.
Grammars can be arbitrarily redundant: there is no formal reason
to disallow elementary trees which can also be generated by combining
other elementary trees. Because of this property, a probabilistically
enhanced TSG could model in a rather direct way how frequently occurring
phrases and structures influence a language user's preferences and
expectations: we could design a very redundant TSG, containing elementary
trees for all statistically relevant phrases, and then assign the
proper probabilities to all these elementary trees.
If we want
to explore the possibilities of such Stochastic Tree Substitution
Grammars (STSG's), the obvious next question is: what are the statistically
relevant phrases? Suppose we have a corpus of utterances sampled
from the population of expected inputs, and annotated with labelled
constituent trees representing the contextually correct analyses
of the utterances. Which subtrees should we now extract from this
corpus to serve as elementary trees in our STSG?
very well be constraints on the form of cognitively relevant subtrees,
but currently we do not know what they are. Note that if we only
use subtrees of depth 1, the TSG is non-redundant: it would be equivalent
to a CFG. If we introduce redundancy by adding larger subtrees,
we can bias the analysis of previously experienced phrases and patterns
in the direction of their previously experienced structures. We
certainly want to include the structures of complete constituents
and sentences for this purpose, but we may also want to include
many partially lexicalized syntactic patterns.
statistical constraints on the elementary trees that we want to
consider? Should we only employ the most frequently occurring ones?
That is not clear either. Psychological experiments have confirmed
that the interpretation of ambiguous input is influenced by the
frequency of occurrence of various interpretations in one's past
experience . Apparently, the individual occurrences of these interpretations
had a cumulative effect on the cognitive system. This implies that,
at the time of a new occurrence, there is a memory of the previous
occurrences. And in particular, that at the time of the second occurrence,
there is a memory of the first. Frequency effects can only build
up over time on the basis of memories of unique occurrences. The
simplest way to allow this to happen is to store everything.
arrive at a memory-based language processing model, which employs
a corpus of annotated utterances as a representation of a person's
past language experience, and analyses new input by means of an
STSG which uses as its elementary trees all subtrees that can be
extracted from the corpus, or a large subset of them. This approach
has been called Data-Oriented Parsing (DOP). As we
just summarized it, this model is crude and underspecified, of course.
To build working sytems based on this idea, we must be more specific
about subtree selection, probability calculations, parsing algorithms,
and disambiguation criteria. These issues will be considered in
the next few sections of this paper.
we do that, we should zoom out a little bit and emphasize that we
do not expect that a simple STSG model as just sketched will
be able to account for all linguistic and psycholinguistic phenomena
that we may be interested in. We employ Stochastic Tree Substitution
Grammar because it is a very simple kind of probabilistic grammar
which allows us nevertheless to take into account the probabilities
of arbitrarily complex subtrees. We do not believe that a corpus
of contextless utterances with labelled phrase structure trees is
an adequate model of someone's language experience, nor that syntactic
processing is necessarily limited to subtree-composition. To build
more adequate models, the corpus annotations will have to be enriched
considerably, and more complex processes will have to be allowed
in extracting data from the corpus as well as in analysing the input.
approach proposed here should thus be distinguished from the specific
instantiations discussed in this paper. We can in fact articulate
the overall idea fairly explicitly by indicating what is involved
in specifying a particular technical instantiation (cf. Bod, 1995).
To describe a specific "data-oriented processing" model, four components
must be defined:
- a formalism
for representating utterance-analyses,
- an extraction
function which specifies which fragments or abstractions of
the utterance- analyses may be used as units in constructing
an analysis of a new utterance,
- the combination
operations that may be used in putting together new utterances
out of fragments or abstractions,
- a probability
model which specifies how the probability of an analysis of
a new utterance is computed on the basis of the occurrence-frequencies
of the fragments or abstractions in the corpus.
this way, the data-oriented processing framework allows for a wide
range of different instantiations. It then boils down to the hypothesis
that human language processing is a probabilistic process that operates
on a corpus of representations of past language experiences -- leaving
open how the utterance-analyses in the corpus are represented, what
sub-structures or other abstractions of these utterance-analyses
play a role in processing new input, and what the details of the
probabilistic calculations are.
DOP models are typically concerned with syntactic disambiguation,
and employ readily available corpora which consist of contextless
sentences with syntactic annotations. In such corpora, sentences
are annotated with their surface phrase structures as perceived
by a human annotator. Constituents are labeled with syntactic category
symbols: a human annotator has designated each constituent as belonging
to one of a finite number of mutually exclusive classes which are
considered as potentially inter-substitutable.
necessarily occurs against the background of an annotation convention
of some sort. Formally, this annotation convention constitutes a
grammar, and in fact, it may be considered as a competence grammar
in the Chomskyan sense: it defines the set of syntactic structures
that is possible. We do not presuppose, however, that the
set of possible sentences, as defined by the representational formalism
employed, coincides with the set of sentences that a person will
judge to be grammatical. The competence grammar as we construe
it, must be allowed to overgenerate: as long as it generates a superset
of the grammatical sentences and their structures, a properly designed
probabilistic disambiguation mechanism may be able to distinguish
grammatical sentences and grammatical structures from their ungrammatical
or less grammatical alternatives. An annotated corpus can thus be
viewed as a stochastic grammar which defines a subset of the sentences
and structures allowed by the annotation scheme, and which assigns
empirically motivated probabilities to each of these sentences and
paper thus explores the properties of some varieties of a language-processing
model which embodies this approach in a stark and simple way. The
model demonstrates that memory-based language-processing is possible
in principle. For certain applications it performs better already
than some probabilistically enhanced competence-grammars, but its
main goal is to serve as a starting point for the development of
further refinements, modifications and generalizations.
A Simple Data-Oriented Parsing Model: DOP1
We will now
look in some detail at one simple DOP model, which is known as DOP1
(Bod 1992, 1993a, 1995). Consider a corpus consisting of only two
trees, labeled with conventional syntactic categories:
1. Imaginary corpus of two trees.
can be extracted from the trees in such a corpus. The subtrees we
consider are: (1) the trees of complete constituents (including
the corpus trees themselves, but excluding individual terminal nodes);
and (2) all trees that can be constructed out of these constituent
trees by deletiing proper subconstituent trees and replacing them
by their root nodes.
extracted from a corpus defines a Stochastic Tree Substitution Grammar.
The stochastic sentence generation process of DOP1 employs only
one operation for combining subtrees, called "composition", indicated
o. The composition-operation identifies the leftmost nonterminal
leaf node of one tree with the root node of a second tree, i.e.,
the second tree is substituted on the leftmost nonterminal
leaf node of the first tree. Starting out with the "corpus"
of Figure 1 above, for instance, the sentence "She saw the dress
with the telescope", may be generated by repeated application
of the composition operator to corpus subtrees in the following
2. Derivation and parse for "She
saw the dress with the telescope"
derivations, involving different subtrees, may of course yield the
same parse tree; for instance:
3/4. Two other derivations of the same parse for
"She saw the dress with the telescope".
Note also that,
given this example corpus, the sentence we considered is ambiguous;
by combining other subtrees, a different parse may be derived, which
is analogous to the first rather than the second corpus sentence.
the probability of substituting a subtree t on a specific
node as the probability of selecting t among all corpus-subtrees
that could be substituted on that node. This probability is equal
to the number of occurrences of t, |t|, divided by
the total number of occurrences of subtrees t' with the same
root label as t. Let r (t) return the root label
of t. Then we may write:
node substitution is independent of previous substitutions, the
probability of a derivation D = t1
o . .
. o tn is
computed by the product of the probabilities of the subtrees
of a parse tree is the probability that it is generated by any of
its derivations. The probability of a parse tree T is thus
computed as the sum of the probabilities of its distinct derivations
may be viewed as a measure for the average similarity between
a sentence analysis and the analyses of the corpus utterances: it
correlates with the number of corpus trees that share subtrees
with the sentence analysis, and also with the size of these
shared fragments. Whether this measure constitutes an optimal way
of weighing frequency and size against each other, is a matter of
Computational Aspects of DOP1
We now consider
the problems of parsing and disambiguation with DOP1. The algorithms
we discuss do not exploit the particular properties of Data-Oriented
Parsing; they work with any Stochastic Tree-Substitution Grammar.
that creates a parse forest for an input sentence is derived from
algorithms that exist for Context-Free Grammars, which parse an
input sentence of n words in polynomial (usually cubic) time.
These parsers use a chart or well-formed substring table. They take
as input a set of context-free rewrite rules and a sentence and
produce as output a chart of labeled phrases. A labeled phrase is
a sequence of words labeled with a category symbol which denotes
the syntactic category of that phrase. A chart-like parse forest
can be obtained by including pointers from a category to the other
categories which caused it to be placed in the chart. Algorithms
that accomplish this can be found in e.g. Kay (1980), Winograd (1983),
Jelinek et al. (1990).
parsing approach can be applied to parsing with Stochastic Tree-Substitution
Grammars if we note that every elementary tree t of the STSG
can be viewed as a context-free rewrite rule: root(t)
> yield(t) (cf. Bod
1992). In order to obtain a chart-like forest for a sentence parsed
with an STSG, we label the phrases not only with their syntactic
categories but with their full elementary trees. Note that in a
chart-like forest generated by an STSG, different derivations that
generate identical trees do not collapse. We will therefore talk
about a derivation forest generated by an STSG (cf. Sima'an
et al. 1994).
show what such a derivation forest may look like. Assume an example
STSG which has the trees in Figure 5 as its elementary trees. A
chart parser analysing the input string abcd on the basis
of this STSG, will then create the derivation forest illustrated
in Figure 6. The visual representation is based on Kay (1980): every
entry (i,j) in the chart is indicated by an edge and
spans the words between the i-th and the j-th position
of a sentence. Every edge is labeled with linked elementary trees
that constitute subderivations of the underlying subsentence. (The
probabilities of the elementary trees, needed in the disambiguation
phase, have been left out.)
5. Elementary trees of an example STSG.
6. Derivation forest for the string abcd.
Note that some
of the derivations in the forest generate the same tree. By exhaustively
unpacking the forest, four different derivations generating two
different trees are obtained. Both trees are generated twice, by
different derivations (with possibly different probabilities).
forest defines all derivations (and thereby all parses) of the input
sentence. Disambiguation now consists in choosing the most likely
parse within this set of possibilities. The stochastic model of
DOP1 as described above specifies a definite disambiguation criterion
that may be used for this purpose: it assigns a probability to every
parse tree by accumulating the probabilities of all its different
derivations; these probabilities define the most probable parse
(MPP) of a sentence.
expect that the most probable derivation (MPD) of a sentence, which
is simpler to compute, often yields a parse which is identical to
the most probable parse. If this is indeed the case, the MPD may
be used to estimate the MPP (cf. Bod 1993a, Sima'an 1995). We now
discuss first the most probable derivation and then the most probable
most probable derivation
A cubic time
algorithm for computing the most probable derivation of a sentence
can be designed on the basis of the well-known Viterbi algorithm
(Viterbi 1967; Jelinek et al. 1990; Sima'an 1995). The basic idea
of Viterbi is the elimination of low probability subderivations
in a bottom-up fashion. Two different subderivations of the same
part of the sentence whose resulting subparses have the same root
can both be developed (if at all) to derivations of the whole sentence
in the same ways. Therefore, if one of these two subderivations
has a lower probability, it can be eliminated.
of the most probable derivation from a chart generated by an STSG
can be accomplished by selecting at every chart-entry the most probable
subderivation for each root-node, while the other subderivations
for that root-node are eliminated. We will not give the full algorithm
here, but its structure can be gleaned from the algorithm which
computes the probability of the most derivation:
1: Computing the probability of the most probable derivation
Given an STSG,
let S denote its start non-terminal, R denote its
set of elementary trees, and P denote its probability function
over the elementary trees. Let us assume for the moment that the
elementary trees of the STSG are in Chomsky Normal Form (CNF), i.e.
every elementary tree has either two frontier nodes both labeled
by non-terminals, or one frontier node labeled by a terminal. An
elementary tree t that has root label A and a sequence
of ordered frontier labels H is represented by A>t
H. Let the triple <A, i, j> denote
the fact that non-terminal A is in chart entry (i,
j) after parsing the input string W1,...,Wn;
this implies that the STSG can derive the substring Wi+1,...,Wj,
starting with an elementary tree that has root label A. The
probability of the MPD of string W1,...,Wn,
represented as PPMPD, is computed recursively
if we drop the CNF assumption, we may apply exactly the same strategy.
And by introducing some bookkeeping to keep track of the subderivations
which yield the highest probabilities at each step, we get an algorithm
which actually computes the most probable derivation. (For some
more detail, see Sima'an et al. 1994.)
most probable parse
The most probable
parse tree of a sentence cannot be computed in deterministic polynomial
time: Sima'an (1996b) proved that for STSG's the problem of computing
the most probable parse is NP-hard. This does not mean, however,
that every disambiguation algorithm based on this notion is necessarily
intractable. We will now investigate to what extent tractability
may be achieved if we forsake analytical probability calculations,
and are satisfied with estimations instead.
the derivation forest specifies a statistical ensemble of derivations,
we may employ the Monte Carlo method (Hammersley & Handscomb
1964) for this purpose: we can estimate parse tree probabilities
by sampling a suitable number of derivations from this ensemble,
and observing which parse tree results most frequently from these
seen that a best-first search, as accomplished by Viterbi, can be
used for computing the most probable derivation from the derivation
forest. In an analogous way, we may conduct a random-first
search, which selects a random derivation from the derivation forest
by making, for each node at each chart-entry, a random choice between
the different alternative subtrees on the basis of their respective
substitution probabilities. By iteratively generating several random
derivations we can estimate the most probable parse as the parse
which results most often from these derivations. (The probability
of a parse is the probability that any of its derivations occurs.)
According to the Law of Large Numbers, the most frequently generated
parse converges to the most probable parse as we increase the number
of derivations that we sample.
is exemplified by the following algorithm (Bod 1993b, 95):
2: Sampling a random derivation
Given a derivation
forest of a sentence of n words, consisting of labeled entries
(i,j) that span the words between the ith
and the jth
position of the sentence. Every entry is labeled with elementary
trees, each with its probability and, for every non-terminal leaf
node, a pointer to the relevant sub-entry. (Cf. Figure 6 in Section
5.1 above.) Sampling a derivation from such a chart consists of
choosing at random one of the elementary trees for every root-node
at every labeled entry (e.g. bottom-up, breadth-first):
length := 1 to n do
start := 0 to n - length do
each root node X in chart-entry (start, start
+ length) do
at random a tree from the distribution of elementary trees with
root node X;
the other elementary trees with root node X from this chart-entry
randomly pruned derivation forest trivially defines one "random
derivation" for the whole sentence: take the elementary tree of
n) and recursively substitute the elementary subtrees of
the relevant sub-entries on non-terminal leaf nodes.
The parse tree
that results from this derivation constitutes a first guess for
the most probable parse. A more reliable guess can be computed by
sampling a larger number of random derivations, and selecting the
parse which results most often from these derivations. How large
a sample set should be chosen?
first consider the probability of error: the probability that the
parse that is most frequently generated by the sampled derivations,
is in fact not equal to the most probable parse. An upper bound
for this probability is given by
the different values of i are indices corresponding to the
different parses, 0
is the index of the most probable parse, pi
is the probability of parse i; and N is the
number of derivations that was sampled (cf. Hammersley & Handscomb
bound on the probability of error becomes small if we increase N,
but if there is an i with pi close to p0
if there are different parses in the top of the sampling distribution
that are almost equally likely), we must make N very large
to achieve this effect. If there is no unique most probable parse,
the sampling process will of course not converge on one outcome.
In that case, we are interested in all of the parses that outrank
all the other ones. But also when the probabilities of the most
likely parses are very close together without being exactly equal,
we may be interested not in the most probable parse, but
in the set of all these almost equally highly probable parses. This
reflects the situation in which there is an ambiguity which cannot
be resolved by probabilistic syntactic considerations.
therefore, that the task of a syntactic disambiguation component
is the calculation of the probability distribution of the various
possible parses, and only in the case of a forced choice experiment
we choose the parse with the highest probability from this distribution
(cf. Bod & Scha 1997). When we estimate this probability distribution
by statistical methods, we must establish the reliability of this
estimate. This reliability is characterized by the probability of
significant errors in the estimates of the probabilities of the
If a parse
has probability pi, and we try to estimate
the probability of this parse by its frequency in a sequence of
N independent samples, the variance in the estimated probability
is pi(1 - pi)/N.
Since 0 < pi ² 1, the variance is
always smaller than or equal to 1/(4N). Thus, the standard
error s, which is the square root of the variance, is always
smaller than or equal to 1/(2 sqrt(N)). This allows us to
calculate a lower bound for N given an upper bound for s,
by N ³ 1/(4 square(s)).
For instance, we obtain a standard error s ² 0.05 if N
arrive at the following algorithm:
3: Estimating the parse probabilities
Given a derivation
forest of a sentence and a threshold sM
for the standard error:
:= the smallest integer larger than 1/(4 square(sM))
repeat N times:
sample a random derivation from the derivation forest;
parse generated by this derivation;
the conditional probability given the sentence by pi
:= #(i) / N
In the case
of a forced choice experiment we select the parse with the highest
probability from this distribution. Rajman (1995) gives a correctness
proof for Monte Carlo disambiguation; he shows that the probability
of sampling a parse i from a derivation forest of a sentence
w is equal to the conditional probability of i given
Note that this
algorithm differs essentially from the disambiguation algorithm
given in Bod (1995), which increases the sample size until the probability
of error of the MPP estimation has become sufficiently small. That
algorithm takes exponential time in the worst case, though this
was overlooked in the complexity discussion in Bod (1995). (This
was brought to our attention in personal conversation by Johnson
(1995) and in writing by Goodman (1996, 1998).)
algorithm (from Bod & Scha 1996, 1997) therefore focuses on
estimating the distribution of the parse probabilities; it assumes
a value for the maximally allowed standard error (e.g. 0.05), and
samples a number of derivations which is guaranteed to achieve this;
this number is quadratic in the chosen standard error. Only in the
case of a forced choice experiment, the most frequently occurring
parse is selected from the sample distribution.
In the past
few years, several optimizations have been proposed for disambiguating
with STSG. Sima'an (1995, 1996a) gives an optimization for computing
the most probable derivation which starts out by using only the
CFG-backbone of an STSG; subsequently, the constraints imposed by
the STSG are employed to further restrict the parse space and to
select the most probable derivation. This optimization achieves
linear time complexity in STSG size without risking an impractical
increase of memory-use. Bod (1993b, 1995) proposes to use only a
small random subset of the corpus subtrees (5%) so as to reduce
the search space for computing the most probable parse. Sekine and
Grishman (1995) use only subtrees rooted with S or NP categories,
but their method suffers considerably from undergeneration. Goodman
(1996) proposes a different polynomial time disambiguation strategy
which computes the so-called "maximum constituents parse" of a sentence
(i.e. the parse which maximizes the expected number of correct constituents)
rather than the most probable parse or most probable derivation.
However, Goodman also shows that the "maximum constituents parse"
may return parse trees that cannot be produced by the subtrees of
DOP1 (Goodman 1996: 147). Chappelier & Rajman (1998) and
Goodman (1998) give some optimizations for selecting a random derivation
from a derivation forest. For a more extensive discussion of these
and some other optimization techniques see Bod (1998a) and Sima'an
Experimental Properties of DOP1
In this section,
we establish some experimental properties of DOP1. We will do so
by studying the impact of various fragment restrictions.
on the ATIS corpus
We first summarize
a series of pilot experiments carried out by Bod (1998a) on a set
of 750 sentence analyses from the Air Travel Information System
(ATIS) corpus (Hemphill et al. 1990) that were annotated in the
Penn Treebank (Marcus et al. 1993).  These
experiments focussed on tests about the Most Probable Parse as defined
by the original DOP1 probability model. 
Their goal was not primarily to establish how well DOP1 would perform
on this corpus, but to find out how the accuracies obtained by "undiluted"
DOP1 compare with the results obtained by more restricted STSG-models
which do not employ the complete set of corpus subtrees as their
the blind testing method, dividing the 750 ATIS trees into a 90%
training set of 675 trees and a 10% test set of 75 trees. The division
was random except for one constraint: that all words in the test
set actually occurred in the training set. 
The 675 training set trees were converted into fragments (i.e. subtrees)
and were enriched with their corpus probabilities. The 75 sentences
from the test set served as input sentences that were parsed with
the subtrees from the training set and disambiguated by means of
the algorithms described in the previous section. The most probable
parses were estimated from probability distributions of 100 sampled
derivations. We use the notion of parse accuracy as our accuracy
metric, defined as the percentage of the most probable parses that
are identical to the corresponding test set parses.
the MPP estimation is a fairly costly algorithm, we have not yet
been able to repeat all our experiments for different training-set/test-set
splits, to obtain average results with standard deviations. We made
one exception, however. We will very often be comparing the results
of an experiment with the results obtained when employing all
corpus-subtrees as elementary trees; therefore, it was important
to establish at least that the parse accuracy obtained in this fashion
(which was 85%) was not due to some unlikely random split.
On 10 random
training/test set splits of the ATIS corpus we achieved an average
parse accuracy of 84.2% with a standard deviation of 2.9%. Our 85%
base line accuracy lies thus solidly within the range of values
predicted by the more extentensive experiment.
of overlapping fragments: MPP vs. MPD
model of DOP1 can generate the same parse in many different ways;
the probability of a parse must therefore be computed as the sum
of the probabilities of all its derivations. We have seen, however,
that the computation of the Most Probable Parse according to this
model has an unattractive complexity, whereas the Most Probable
Derivation is much easier to compute. We may therefore wonder how
often the parse generated by the Most Probable Derivation is in
fact the correct one: perhaps this method constitutes a good approximation
of the Most Probable Parse, and can achieve very similar parse accuracies.
And we cannot exclude that it might yield even better accuracies,
if it somehow compensates for bad properties of the stochastic model
of DOP1. For instance, by summing up over probabilities of several
derivations, the Most Probable Parse takes into account overlapping
fragments, while the Most Probable Derivation does not. It is not
a priori obvious whether we do or do not want this property.
calculated the accuracies based on the analyses generated by the
Most Probable Derivations of the test sentences. The parse accuracy
obtained by the trees generated by the Most Probable Derivations
was 69%, which is lower than the 85% base line parse accuracy obtained
by the Most Probable Parse. We conclude that overlapping fragments
play an important role in predicting the appropriate analysis of
of fragment size
Next, we tested
the impact of the size of the fragments on the parse accuracy. Large
fragments capture more lexical/syntactic dependencies than small
ones. We investigated to what extent this actually leads to better
predictions of the appropriate parse. We therefore performed experiments
with versions of DOP1 where the fragment collection is restricted
to subtrees with a certain maximum depth (where the depth of a tree
is defined as the length of the longest path from the root to a
leaf). For instance, restricting the maximum depth of the subtrees
to 1 gives us fragments that cover exactly one level of constituent
structure, which makes DOP1 equivalent to a stochastic context-free
grammar (SCFG). For a maximal subtree depth of 2, we obtain fragments
that also cover two levels of constituent structure, which capture
some more lexical/syntactic dependencies, etc. The following table
shows the results of these experiments, where the parse accuracy
for each maximal depth is given for both the most probable parse
and for the parse generated by the most probable derivation (the
accuracies are rounded off to the nearest integer).
1. Accuracy increases if larger corpus fragments are used
The table shows
an increase in parse accuracy, for both the most probable parse
and the most probable derivation, when enlarging the maximum depth
of the subtrees. The table confirms that the most probable parse
yields better accuracy than the most probable derivation, except
for depth 1 where DOP1 is equivalent to an SCFG (and where every
parse is generated by exactly one derivation). The highest parse
accuracy reaches 85%.
of fragment lexicalization
We now consider
the impact of lexicalized fragments on the parse accuracy. By a
lexicalized fragment we mean a fragment whose frontier contains
one or more words. The more words a fragment contains, the more
lexical (collocational) dependencies are taken into account. To
test the impact of lexicalizationon the parse accuracy, we performed
experiments with different versions of DOP1 where the fragment collection
is restricted to subtrees whose frontiers contain a certain maximum
number of words; the maximal subtree depth was kept constant at
are particularly interesting since we can simulate lexicalized grammars
in this way. Lexicalized grammars have become increasingly popular
in computational linguistics (e.g. Schabes 1992; Srinivas &
Joshi 1995; Collins 1996, 1997; Charniak 1997; Carroll & Weir
1997). However, all lexicalized grammars that we know of restrict
the number of lexical items contained in a rule or elementary tree.
It is a significant feature of the DOP approach that we can straightforwardly
test the impact of the number of lexical items allowed.
table shows the results of our experiments, where the parse accuracy
is given for both the most probable parse and the most probable
2. Accuracy as a function of the maximum number of words in fragment
The table shows
an initial increase in parse accuracy, for both the most probable
parse and the most probable derivation, when enlarging the amount
of lexicalization that is allowed. For the most probable parse,
the accuracy is stationary when the maximum is enlarged from 4 to
6 words, but it increases again if the maximum is enlarged to 8
words. For the most probable derivation, the parse accuracy reaches
its maximum already at a lexicalization bound of 4 words. Note that
the parse accuracy deteriorates if the lexicalization bound exceeds
8 words. Thus, there seems to be an optimal lexical maximum for
the ATIS corpus. The table confirms that the most probable parse
yields better accuracy than the most probable derivation, also for
different lexicalization sizes.
of fragment frequency
We may expect
that highly frequent fragments contribute to a larger extent to
the prediction of the appropriate parse than very infrequent fragments.
But while small fragments can occur very often, most larger fragments
typically occur once. Nevertheless, large fragments contain much
lexical/structural context, and can parse a large piece of an input
sentence at once. Thus, it is interesting to see what happens if
we systematically remove low-frequency fragments. We performed an
additional set of experiments by restricting the fragment collection
to subtrees with a certain minimum number of occurrences, but without
applying any other restrictions.
3. Accuracy decreases if lower bound on fragment frequency increases
(for the most probable parse).
presented in Table 3, indicate that low frequency fragments contribute
significantly to the prediction of the appropriate analysis: the
parse accuracy seriously deteriorates if low frequency fragments
are discarded. This seems to contradict common wisdom that probabilities
based on sparse data are not reliable. Since especially large fragments
are once-occurring events, there seems to be a preference in DOP1
for an occurrence-based approach if enough context is provided:
large fragments, even if they occur once, tend to contribute to
the prediction of the appropriate parse, since they provide much
contextual information. Although these fragments have very low probabilities,
they tend to induce the most probable parse because fewer fragments
are needed to construct a parse.
In Bod (1998a),
the impact of some other fragment restrictions is studied. Among
other things, it is shown there that the parse accuracy decreases
if subtrees with only non-head words are eliminated.
on larger corpora: the SRI-ATIS corpus and the OVIS corpus
In the following
experiments (summarized from Sima'an 1999) 
we only employ the most probable derivation rather than the most
probable parse. Since the most probable derivation can be computed
more efficiently than the most probable parse (see section 5), it
can be tested more extensively on larger corpora. The experiments
were conducted on two domains: the Amsterdam OVIS tree-bank (Bonnema
et al. 1997) and the SRI-ATIS tree-bank (Carter 1997). 
It is worth noting that the SRI-ATIS tree-bank differs considerably
from the Penn Treebank ATIS-corpus that was employed in the experiments
reported in the preceding subsection.
to acquire workable and accurate DOP1 models from larger tree-banks,
a set of heuristic criteria is used for selecting the fragments.
Without these criteria, the number of subtrees would not be manageable.
For example, in OVIS there are more than hunderd
and fifty million subtrees. Even when the subtree depth is limited
to e.g. depth five, the number of subtrees in the OVIS tree-bank
remains more than five million. The subtree selection criteria are
expressed as constraints on the form of the subtrees that are projected
from a tree-bank into a DOP1 model. The constraints are expressed
as upper-bounds on: the depth (d), the number of substitution-sites
(n), the number of terminals (l) and the number of consecutive terminals
(L) of the subtree. These constraints apply to all subtrees but
the subtrees of depth 1, i.e. subtrees of depth 1 are not subject
to these selection criteria. In the sequel we represent the four
upper-bounds by the short notation ddnnllLL.
For example, d4n2l7L3
denotes a DOP STSG obtained from a tree-bank such that every elementary
tree has at most depth 4, and a frontier containing at most 2 substitution
sites and 7 terminals; moreover, the length of any consecutive sequence
of terminals on the frontier of that elementary tree is limited
to 3 terminals. Since all projection parameters except for the upper-bound
on the depth are usually a priori fixed, the DOP1 STSG obtained
under a depth upper-bound that is equal to an integer i will
be represented by the short notation DOP(i).
the following evaluation metrics: Recognized (percentage of recognized
sentences), TLC (Tree-Language Coverage: the percentage of test
set parses that is in the tree language of the DOP1 STSG), exact
match (either syntactic/semantic or only syntactic), labeled bracketing
recall and precision (as defined in Black et al. 1991, concerning
either syntactic plus semantic or only syntactic annotation). Below
we summarize the experimental results pertaining to some of the
issues that are addressed in Sima'an (1999). Some of these issues
are similar to those addressed by the experiments with the most
probable parse on the small ATIS tree-bank in subsection 6.1, e.g.
the impact of fragment size. Other issues are orthogonal and supplement
the issues addressed in the experiments concerning the most probable
on the SRI-ATIS corpus
In this section
we report experiments on syntactically annotated utterances from
the SRI International ATIS tree-bank. The utterances of the tree-bank
originate from the ATIS domain (Hemphill et al. 1990). For the present
experiments, we have access to 13335 utterances that are annotated
syntactically (we refer to this tree-bank here as the SRI-ATIS corpus/tree-bank).
The annotation scheme originates from the linguistic grammar that
underlies the Core Language Engine (CLE) system in Alshawi (1992).
The annotation process is described in Carter (1997). For the experiments
summarized below, some of the training parameters were fixed: the
DOP models were projected under the parameters n2l4L3,
while the subtree depth bound was allowed to vary.
of 12335 trees and a test-set of 1000 trees were obtained by partitioning
the SRI-ATIS tree-bank randomly. DOP1 models with various depth
upper-bound values were trained on the training-set and tested on
the test-set. It is noteworthy that the present experiments are
extremely time-consuming: for upper-bound values larger than three,
the models become huge and very slow, e.g. it takes more than 10
days for DOP(4) to parse and disambiguate the test-set (1000 sentences).
This is despite of the subtree upper bounds n2l4L3,
which limit the total size of the subtree-set to less than three
hunderd thousand subtrees.
4. The impact of subtree depth (SRI-ATIS)
Table 4 (left-hand
side) shows the results for depth upper-bound values up to four.
An interesting and suprising result is that the exact-match of DOP(1)
on this larger and different ATIS tree-bank (46%) is very close
to the result reported in the preceding subsection. This also holds
for the DOP(4) model (here 82.70% exact-match vs. 84% on the Penn
Treebank ATIS corpus). More striking is that the present experiments
concern the most probable derivation while the experiments of the
preceding section concern the most probable parse. In the preceding
subsection, the exact-match of the most probable derivation did
not exceed 69%, while in this case it is 82.70%. This might be explained
by the fact that the availability of more data is more crucial for
the accuracy of the most probable derivation than the most probable
parse. This is certainly not due to a simpler tree-bank or
domain since the annotations here are as deep as those in the Penn
Treebank. In any case, it would be interesting to consider the exact
match that the most probable pare achieves on this tree-bank. This,
however, will remain an issue for future research because computing
the most probable parse is still infeasible on such large tree-banks.
of course here is still the impact of employing deeper subtrees.
Clearly, as the results show, the difference between the DOP(1)
(the SCFG) and any deeper DOP1 model is at least 23% (DOP(2)). This
difference increases to 36.70% at DOP(4). To validate this difference,
we ran experiments with a four-fold cross-validation experiment
that confirms the magnitude of this difference. In the right-hand
side of table 4 means and standard-deviations for two DOP1 models
are reported. Four independent partitions into test (1000 trees
each) and training sets (12335 trees each) were used here for training
and testing these DOP1 models. These results show a mean difference
of 24% exact-match between DOP(2) and DOP(1) (SCFG): a substantial
accuracy improvement achieved by memory-based parsing using DOP1,
above simply using the SCFG underlying the tree-bank (as for instance
in Charniak 1996).
on the OVIS corpus
OVIS ("Openbaar Vervoer Informatie Systeem") corpus contains 10000
syntactically and semantically annotated trees. For detailed information
concerning the syntactic and semantic annotation scheme of the OVIS
tree-bank we refer the reader to Bonnema et al. (1997). In acquiring
DOP1 models the semantic and syntactic annotations are treated as
one annotation in which the labels of the nodes in the trees are
a juxtaposition of the syntactic and semantic labels. Although this
results in many more non-terminal symbols (and thus also DOP model
parameters), Bonnema (1996) shows that the resulting syntactic+semantic
DOP models are better than the mere syntactic DOP1 models. Since
the utterances in the OVIS tree-bank are answers to questions asked
by a dialogue system, these utterances tend to be short. The average
sentence length in OVIS is 3.43 words. However, the results reported
in Sima'an (1999) concern only sentences that contain at least two
words; the number of those sentences is 6797 and their average length
is 4.57 words. All DOP1 models are projected under the subtree selection
while the subtree depth upper bound was allowed to vary.
It is interesting
here to observe the effect of varying subtree depth on the performance
of the DOP1 models on a tree-bank from a different domain. To this
end, in a set of experiments one random partition of the OVIS tree-bank
into a test-set of 1000 trees and a training set of 9000 was used
to test the effect of allowing the projection of deeper elementary
trees in DOP STSGs. DOP STSGs were projected from the training set
with upper-bounds on subtree depth equal to 1, 3, 4, and 5. Each
of the four DOP models was run on the sentences of the test-set
(1000 sentences). The resulting parse trees were then compared to
the correct test set trees.
5. The impact of subtree depth (OVIS)
side of table 5 above shows the results of these DOP1 models. Note
that the recognition power (Recognized) is not affected by the depth
upper-bound in any of the DOP1 models. This is because all models
allowed all subtrees of depth 1 to be elementary trees. As the results
show, a slight accuracy degradation occurs when the subtree depth
upper bound is increased from four to five. This has been confirmed
separately by earlier experiments conducted on similar material
(Bonnema et al. 1997). An explanation for this degradation might
be that including larger subtrees implies many more subtrees and
sparse-data effects. It is not clear, therefore, whether this finding
contradicts the Memory-Based Learning doctrine that maintaining
all cases in the case-base is more profitable. It might equally
well be the case that this problem is specific for the DOP1 model
and the way it assigns probabilities to subtrees.
also shows the means and standard deviations (stds) of two DOP1
models on five independent partitions of the OVIS tree-bank into
training set (9000 trees) and test set (1000 trees). For every partition,
the DOP1 model was trained only on the training set and then tested
on the test set. We observe here the means and standard deviation
of the models DOP(1) (the SCFG underlying the tree-bank) and DOP(4).
Clearly, the difference between DOP(4) and DOP(1) observed in the
preceding set of experiments is supported here. However, the improvement
of DOP(4) on the SCFG in exact match and the other accuracy measures,
although significant, is disappointing: it is about 2.85% exact
match and 3.35% syntactic exact match. The improvement itself is
indeed in line with the observation that DOP1 improves on the SCFG
underlying the tree-bank. This can be seen as an argument for MBL
syntactic analysis as opposed to the traditional enrichment of "linguistic"
grammars with probabilities.
We have thus
seen that there is quite some evidence for our hypothesis that the
structural units of language processing cannot limited to a minimal
set of rules, but should be defined in terms of a large set of previously
seen structures. It is interesting to note that similar results
are obtained by other instantiations of memory-based language processing.
For example, van den Bosch & Daelemans (1998) report that almost
every criterion for removing instances from memory yields worse
accuracy than keeping full memory of learning material (for the
task of predicting English word pronunciation). Despite this interesting
convergence of results, there is a significant difference between
DOP and other memory-based approaches. We will go into this topic
in the following section.
probabilistic recursive MBL
In this section
we make explicit the relationship between the present Data Oriented
Processing (DOP) framework and the Memory-Based Learning framework.
We show how the DOP framework extends the general MBL framework
with probabilistic reasoning in order to deal with complex performance
phenomena such as syntactic disambiguation. In order to keep this
discussion concrete we also analyze the model DOP1, the first instantiation
of the DOP framework. Subsequently, we contrast the DOP model to
other existing MBL approaches that employ so called "flat" or "intermediate"
descriptions as opposed to the hierarchical descriptions used by
the DOP model.
In the Machine
Learning (ML) literature, e.g. Aamodt & Plaza (1994), Mitchell
(1997), various names, e.g. Instance-Based, Case-Based, Memory-Based
or Lazy, are used for a paradigm of learning that can be characterized
by two properties:
it involves a lazy learning algorithm that does not generalize
over the training examples but stores them, and
it involves lazy generalization during the application
phase: each new instance is classified (on its own) on basis of
its relationship to the stored training examples; the relationship
between two instances is examined by means of so called similarity
We will refer
to this general paradigm by the term MBL (although the term Lazy
Learning, as Aha (1998) suggests, might be more suitable). There
are various forms of MBL that differ in several respects. In this
study we are specifically interested in the Case-Based Reasoning
(CBR) variant of MBL (Kolodner 1993, Aamodt & Plaza 1994).
Reasoning differs from other MBL approaches, e.g. k-nearest
neighbor methods, in that it does not represent the instances
of the task concept  as real-valued points
in an n-dimensional Euclidean space; instead, CBR methods
represent the instances by means of complex symbolic descriptions,
e.g. graphs (Aamodt & Plaza 1994, Mitchell 1997). This implies
that CBR methods require more complex similarity functions. It also
implies that CBR methods view their learning task in a different
way than other MBL methods: while the latter methods view their
learning task as a classification problem, CBR methods view their
learning task as the construction of classes for input instances
by reusing parts of the stored classified training-instances.
to overviews of the CBR literature, e.g. Mitchell (1997), Aha &
Wettschereck (1997), there exist various CBR methods that address
a wide variety of tasks, e.g. conceptual designs of mechanical devices
(Sycara et al. 1992), reasoning about legal cases (Ashley 1990),
scheduling and planning problems (Veloso & Carbonell 1993) and
mathematical integration problems (Elliot & Scott 1991). Rather
than pursuing the infeasible task of contrasting DOP to each of
these methods, we will firstly highlight the specific aspects of
DOP as an extension to CBR. Subsequently we compare DOP to recent
approaches that extend CBR with probabilistic reasoning.
DOP framework and CBR
We will show
that the first three components of a DOP model as described in the
DOP framework of section 3 define a CBR method, and that the fourth
component extends CBR with probabilistic reasoning. To this end,
we will express each component in CBR terminology and then show
how this specifies a CBR system. The first component of DOP, i.e.
a formal representation of utterance-analyses, specifies the representation
language of the instances and classes in the parsing task, i.e.
the so called case description language. The second component,
i.e. fragments definition, defines the units that are retrieved
from memory when a class (tree) is being constructed for a new instance;
the retrieved units are exactly the sub-instances and sub-classes
that can be combined into instances and classes. The third component,
i.e. definition of combination operations, concerns the definition
of the constraints on combining the retrieved units into trees when
parsing a new utterance. Together, the latter two components define
exactly the retrieval, reuse and revision aspects
of the CBR problem solving cycle (Aamodt & Plaza 1994). The
similarity measure, however, is not explicitly specified in DOP
but is implicit in a retrieval strategy that relies on simple string
equivalence. Thus, the first three components of a DOP model specify
exactly a simple CBR system for natural language analysis, i.e.,
a natural language parser. This system is lazy: it does not generalize
over the tree-bank until it starts parsing a new sentence, and it
defines a space of analyses for a new input sentence simply by matching
and combining fragments from the case-base (i.e. tree-bank).
component of the DOP framework, however, extends the CBR approach
for dealing with ambiguities in the definition of the case description
language. It specifies how the frequencies of the units retrieved
from the case-base define a probability value for the utterance
that is being parsed. We may conclude that the four components of
the DOP framework define a CBR method that uses possibly recursive
case descriptions, string-matching for retrieval of cases, and
a probabilistic model for resolving ambiguity. The latter
property of DOP is crucial for the task that the DOP framework addresses:
disambiguation. Disambiguation differs from the task that mainstream
CBR approaches address, i.e. constructing a class for the input
instance. Linguistic disambiguation involves classification under
an ambiguous definition of the "case description language", i.e.,
the formal representation of the utterance analyses, which is usually
a grammar. Since the fragments (second component of a DOP model)
are defined under this "grammar", combining them by means of the
combination operations (third component) usually defines an ambiguous
CBR system: for classifying (i.e. parsing) a new instance (i.e.
sentence), this CBR system may construct more than one analysis
(i.e., class). The ambiguity of this CBR system is inherent to the
fact that it is often infeasible to construct an unambiguous natural
language formal representation of analyses. A DOP model solves this
ambiguity when classifying an instance by assigning a probability
value to every constructed class in order to select the most probable
one. Next we will show how these observations about the DOP framework
apply to the DOP1 model for syntactic disambiguation.
and CBR methods
In order to
explore the differences between the DOP1 model and CBR methods,
we will express DOP1 as an extension to a CBR parsing system. To
this end, it is necessary to identify the case-base, the instance-space,
the class-space, and the "similarity function" that DOP assumes.
In DOP, the training tree-bank contains <string, tree> pairs
that represent the classified instances, where string is
an instance and tree is a class.
A DOP model
memorizes in its case-base exactly the finite set of tree-bank trees.
When parsing a new input sentence, the DOP model retrieves from
the case-base all subtrees of the trees in its case-base and tries
to use them for constructing trees for that sentence. Let us refer
to the ordered sequence of symbols that decorate the leaf nodes
of a subtree as the frontier of that subtree. Moreover, let
us call the frontier of a subtree from the case-base a subsentential-form
from the tree-bank. During the retrieval phase, a DOP1 model retrieves
from its case-base all pairs <str, st>, where st
is a subtree of the tree-bank and the string str is its
frontier SSF. These subtrees are used for constructing classes,
i.e. trees, for the input sentence using the substitution-operation.
This operation enables constrained assemblage of sentences (instances)
and trees (classes). The set of sentences and the set of trees that
can be assembled from subtrees by means of substitution constitute
respectively the instance-space and the class-space of a DOP1 model.
instance-space and the class-space of a DOP1 model are defined by
the Tree-Substitution Grammar (TSG) that employs the subtrees of
the tree-bank trees as its elementary trees; this TSG is a recursive
device that defines infinite instance- and class-spaces.
However, this TSG, which represents the "runtime" expansion of DOP's
case-base, does not generalize over the CFG that underlies the tree-bank
(the case description language), since the two grammars have equal
string-languages (instance-spaces) and equal tree-languages (class-spaces).
that DOP1 attaches to the subtrees in the TSG are induced from the
frequencies in the tree-bank and can be seen as subtree weights.
Thus, the STSG that a DOP model projects from a tree-bank can be
viewed as an infinite runtime case-base containing instance-class-weight
triples that have the form <SSF, subtree, probability>.
The task implemented
by a DOP1 model is disambiguation: the identification of
the most plausible tree that the TSG assigns to the input
sentence. Syntactic disambiguation is indeed a classification task
in the presence of an infinite class-space. For an input
sentence, this class-space is firstly limited to a finite set by
the (usually) ambiguous TSG: only trees that the TSG constructs
for that sentence by combining subtrees from the tree-bank are in
the specific class-space of that sentence. Subsequently, the tree
with the highest probability (according to the STSG) in this limited
space is selected as the most plausible one for the input sentence.
To understand the matching and retrieval processes of a DOP1 model,
let us consider both steps of disambiguation separately.
first step, i.e. parsing, the similarity function that DOP1 employs
is a simple recursive string-matching procedure. First, all
substrings of the input sentence are matched against SSFs in the
case-base (i.e. the TSG) and the subtrees corresponding to the matched
SSFs are retrieved; every substring that matches an SSF is replaced
by the label of the root node of the retrieved subtree (note that
there can be many subtrees retrieved for the same SSF, their roots
replace the substring as alternatives). This SSF-matching and subtree-retrieval
procedure is recursively applied to the resulting set of strings
until the last set of strings does not change.
speaking, this "recursive matching process" is usually implemented
as a parsing algorithm that constructs an efficient representation
of all trees that the TSG assigns to the input sentence, called
the parse-forest that the TSG constructs for that sentence (see
the role of probabilities in the similarity function?
than employing a Euclidean or any other metric to measure the distance
between the input sentence and the sentences in the case-base, DOP1
resorts to a recursive matching process where similarity between
SSFs is implemented as simple string-equivalence. Beyond parsing,
which can be seen as the first step of disambiguation, DOP1 faces
the ambiguity of the TSG, which follows from the ambiguity of the
CFG underlying the tree-bank (i.e. the case description language
definition). This is one important point where DOP1 deviates from
mainstream CBR methods that usually employ unambiguous definitions
of the case description language, or resort to (often ad hoc) heuristics
that give a marginal role to disambiguation.
language processing it is usually not feasible to construct unambiguous
grammars. Therefore, the parse-forest that the parsing process constructs
for an input sentence usually contains more than one tree. The task
of selecting the most plausible tree from this parse-forest, i.e.
syntactic disambiguation, constitutes the main task addressed by
performance models of syntactic analysis such as DOP1. For disambiguation,
DOP1 ranks the alternative trees in the parse-forest of the input
sentence by computing a probability for every tree. Subsequently,
it selects the tree with the highest probability from this space.
It is interesting to consider how the probability of a tree in DOP1
relates to the matching process that takes place during parsing.
parse-tree, we may view each derivation that generates it as a "successful"
combination of subtrees from the case-base; to every such combination
we assign a "matching-score" of 1. All sentence-derivations that
generate a different parse-tree (including the ones that generate
a different sentence) receive matching-score 0. The probability
of a parse-tree as computed by DOP1 is in fact the expectation value
(or mean) of the scores (with respect to this parse-tree) of all
derivations allowed by the TSG; this expectation value weighs the
score of every derivation by the probability of that derivation.
The probability of a derivation is computed as the product of the
probabilities of the subtrees that participate in it. Subtree probabilities,
in their turn, are based on the frequency counts of the subtrees
and are conditioned on the constraint embodied by the tree-substitution
description of DOP1 in CBR terminology shows that the following
aspects of DOP1 are not present in other mainstream CBR methods:
(i) both the instance- and class-spaces are infinite and
are defined in terms of a recursive matching process embodied
by a TSG-based parser that matches strings by equality, and then
retrieves and combines the subtrees associated with the matching
strings using the substitution-operation, (ii) the CBR task of constructing
a tree (i.e. class) for a input sentence is further complicated
in DOP1 by the ambiguity of this TSG, (iii) the "structural
similarity function" that most other CBR methods employ is, therefore,
implemented in DOP as a recursive process that is complemented by
spanning a probability distribution over the instance- and
class-spaces in order to facilitate disambiguation, and (iv) the
probabilistic disambiguation process in DOP1 is conducted globally
over the whole sentence rather than locally on parts of the
sentence. Hence we may characterize DOP1 as a lazy probabilistic
recursive CBR classifier that addresses the problem of global
sentential-level syntactic disambiguation.
and recent probabilistic extensions to CBR
within the CBR approach advocates extending CBR with probabilistic
reasoning. Waltz and Kasif (1996) and Kasif et al. (forthcoming)
refer to the framework that combines CBR with probabilistic reasoning
with the name Memory-Based Reasoning (MBR). Their arguments for
this framework are based on the need for systems to be able to adapt
to rapidly changing environments "where abstract truths are at best
temporary or contingent". This work differs from DOP in at least
two important ways: (i) it assumes a non-recursive finite class-space,
and (ii) it employs probabilistic reasoning for inducing so called
"adaptive distance metrics" (these are distance metrics that automatically
change as new training material enters the system) rather than for
imply that this approach does not take note of the specific aspects
of the disambiguation task as found in natural language parsing,
e.g., the need for recursive symbolic descriptions and that disambiguation
lies at the hart of any performance task. The syntactic ambiguity
problem, thus, has an additional dimension of complexity next to
the dimensions that are addressed by the mainstream ML literature.
vs. other MBL approaches in NLP
In this section
we will concentrate on contrasting DOP to some MBL methods that
are used for implementing natural language processing (NLP) tasks.
Firstly we briefly address the relatively clear differences between
methods based on variations of the k-Nearest Neighbor (k-NN)
approach and DOP. Subsequently we discuss more thoroughly the recently
introduced Memory-Based Sequence Learning (MBSL) method (Argamon
et al. 1998) and how it relates to the DOP model.
From the description
of CBR methods earlier in this section, it became clear that the
main difference between k-NN methods and CBR methods is that
the latter employ complex data structures rather than feature vectors
for representing cases. As mentioned before, DOP's case description
language is further enhanced by recursion and complicated by ambiguity.
Moreover, while k-NN methods classify their input in a partitioning
of a real-valued multi-dimensional Euclidean space, the CBR methods
(including DOP) must construct a class for an input instance.
The similarity measures in k-NN methods are based on measuring
the distance between the input instance and each of the instances
in memory. In DOP, this measure is simplified during parsing to
string-equivalence and complicated during disambiguation by a probabilistic
ranking of the alternative trees of the input sentence. Of course,
it is possible to imagine a DOP model that employs k-NN methods
during the parsing phase, so that the string matching process becomes
more complex than simple string-equivalence. In fact, a simple version
of such an extension of DOP has been studied in Zavrel (1996) --
with inconclusive empirical results due to the lack of suitable
extensions and enhancements of the basic k-NN methods (Daelemans
et al. 1999a) have been applied to limited forms of syntactic analysis
(Daelemans et al. 1999b). This work employs k-NN methods
for very specific syntactic classification tasks (for instance for
recognizing NP's or VP's, and for deciding on PP-attachment or subject/object
relations), and then combines these classifiers into shallow parsers.
The classifiers carry out their task on the basis of local information;
some of them (e.g. subject/object) rely on preprocessing of the
input string by other classifiers (e.g. NP- and VP-recognition).
This approach has been tested successfully on the individual classification
tasks and on shallow parsing, yielding state-of-the-art accuracy
differs from the DOP approach in important respects. First of all,
it does not address the full parsing problem; it is not intended
to deal with with arbitrary tree structures derived from an arbitrary
corpus, but hardcodes a limited number of very specific syntactic
notions. Secondly, the classification decisions (or disambiguation
decisions) are based on a limited context which is fixed in advance.
Thirdly, the approach employs similarity metrics rather than stochastic
modeling techniques. Some of these features make the approach more
efficient than DOP, and therefore easier to apply to large tree-banks.
But at the same time this method shows clear limitations if we look
at its applicability to general parsing tasks, or if we consider
the disambiguation accuracy that can be achieved if only local information
is taken into account .
Sequence Learning vs. DOP
Sequence Learning (MBSL), described in Aragamon et al. (1998)
can be seen as analogous to a DOP model at the level of flat non-recursive
linguistic descriptions. It is interesting to pursue this analogy
by analysing MBSL in terms of the four components that constitute
a DOP model (cf. the end of section 3 above). Since MBSL is a new
method that seems closer to DOP1 than all other MBL methods discussed
in this volume, we will first summarize how it works before we compare
it with DOP1.
an MBSL system works on the basis of a corpus of utterances annotated
with labelled constituent structures. It assumes a different representation
of these structures, however: an MBSL corpus consists of bracketed
strings. Each pair of brackets delimits the borders of a substring
of some syntactic category, e.g., Noun Phrase (NP) or Verb Phrase
(VP). For every syntactic category, a separate MBSL system is constructed.
Given a corpus containing bracketed strings of part-of-speech tags
(pos-tags), an MBSL system stores all  the
substrings that contain at least one bracket together with their
occurrence counts; such substrings are called tiles. Moreover,
the MBSL system stores all substrings stripped from the brackets
together with their occurrence count. The positive evidence in the
corpus for a given tile is computed as the ratio between the occurrence
count of the tile to the total occurrence count of the substring
obtained by stripping the tile from the brackets.
MBSL system is prompted to assign brackets to a new input sentence,
it assigns all possible brackets to the sentence and then it computes
the positive evidence for every pair of brackets on basis of its
stored corpus. To this end, every subsequence of the input sentence
surrounded by a (matching) pair of brackets is considered a candidate.
A candidate together with the rest of the sentence is considered
a situated candidate. To evaluate the positive evidence for
a situated candidate, a tiling of that situated candidate is attempted
on basis of the tiles that are stored. When tiling a situated candidate,
tiles are retrieved from storage and placed such that they cover
it entirely. Only tiles of sufficient positive evidence are retrieved
for this purpose (a threshold on sufficient evidence is used). To
specify how a cover is exactly obtained, it is necessary to define
the notion of connecting tiles (with respect to a situated
candidate). We say that a tile partially covers a situated
candidate if the tile is equivalent to some substring of that situated
candidate; the substring is then called a matching substring of
the tile. Given a situated candidate and a tile T1 that partially
covers it, tile T2 is called connecting to tile T1
iff T2 also partially-covers the situated candidate and the
matching substrings of T1 and T2 overlap without being
included in each other, or are adjacent to each other in the situated
candidate. The shortest substring of a situated candidate that is
partially covered by two connecting tiles is said to be covered
by the two tiles; we also say that the two tiles constitute a cover
of that substring. The notion of a cover is then generalized to
a sequence of connecting tiles: a sequence of connecting tiles is
an ordered sequence of tiles such that every tile is connecting
to the tile that precedes it in that sequence. Hence, a cover of
the situated candidate is a sequence of connecting tiles that covers
it entirely. Crucially, there can be many different covers of a
score for a situated candidate is a function of the evidence for
the various covers that can be found for it in the corpus. MBSL
estimates this score by a heuristic function that combines various
statistical measures concerning properties of the covers e.g., number
of covers, number of tiles in a cover, size of overlap between tiles,
etc. In order to select a bracketing for the input sentence, all
possible situated candidates are ranked according to their scores.
Starting with the situated candidate with the highest score C,
the bracketing algorithm removes all other situated candidates that
contain a pair of brackets that overlaps with the brackets in C.
This procedure is repeated iteratively until it stabilizes. The
remaining set of situated candidates defines a bracketing of the
It is interesting
to look at MBSL from the perspective of the DOP framework. Let us
first consider its representation formalism, its fragment extraction
function and its combination operation. The formalism that MBSL
employs to represent utterance analyses is a part-of-speech--tagging
of the sentences together with a bracketing that defines the target
syntactic category. The fragments are the tiles that can be extracted
from the training corpus. The combination operation is an operation
that combines two tiles such that they connect. We cannot extend
this analogy to include the covers, however, because MBSL considers
the covers locally with respect to every situated candidate. If
MBSL would have employed covers for a whole consistent bracketing
of the input sentence, MBSL covers would have corresponded to DOP
derivations, and consistent bracketings to parses. Another important
difference between MBSL and DOP shows up if we look at the way in
which "disambiguation" or pruning of the bracketing takes place
in MBSL. Rather than employing a probabilistic model, MBSL resorts
to local heuristic functions with various parameters that must be
tuned in order to achieve optimal results.
MBSL and DOP are analogous but nevertheless rather different MBL
methods for dealing with syntactic ambiguity. The differences can
be summarized by (i) the locally-based (MBSL) vs. globally-based
(DOP) ranking strategy of alternative analyses, and (ii) the ad
hoc heuristics for computing scores (MBSL) vs. the stochastic model
(DOP) for computing probabilities.
that the combination operation employed by the MBSL system allows
a kind of generalization over the tree-bank that is not possible
in DOP1. Because MBSL allows tiling situated candidates using tiles
that contain one bracket (either a left or a right bracket) the
matching pairs of brackets that result from a series of connecting
tiles may delimit a string of part-of-speech-tags that cannot be
constructed by nested pairs of matching brackets from the tree-bank
(which is a kind of substitution-operation of bracketed strings).
to MBSL, DOP1's tree substitution-operation generates only SSFs
that can be obtained by nesting SSFs from the tree-bank under the
restrictive constraints of the substitution-operation. This implies
that each pair of matching brackets that corresponds to an SSF is
a matching pair of brackets that can be found in the tree-bank.
DOP1 generates exactly the same set of trees as the CFG underlying
the tree-bank, while MBSL generalizes beyond the string-language
and the tree-language of this CFG. It is not obvious, however, that
MBSL operates in terms of the most felicitous representation of
hierarchic surface structure, and one may wonder to what extent
the generalizations produced in this way are actually useful.
we close off this section, we should emphasize that DOP-models do
not necessarily lack all generalization power. Some extensions of
DOP1 have been developed that learn new subtrees (and SSFs) by allowing
mismatches between categories (in particular between SSFs and part-of-speech-tags).
For instance, Bod (1995) discusses a model which assigns non-zero
probabilities to unobserved lexical items on the basis of Good-Turing
estimation. Another DOP-model (LFG-DOP) employs a corpus annotated
with LFG-structures, and allows generalization over feature values
(Bod & Kaplan 1998). We are currently investigating the design
of DOP-models with more powerful generalization capabilities.
In this paper
we focused on the Memory-Based aspects of the Data Oriented Parsing
(DOP) model. We argued that disambiguation is a central element
of linguistic processing that can be most suitably modelled by a
memory-based learning model. Furthermore, we argued that this model
must employ linguistic grammatical descriptions and that it should
employ probabilities in order to account for the psycholinguistic
observations concerning the central role that frequencies play in
linguistic processing. Based on these motivations we presented the
DOP model as a probabilistic recursive Memory-Based model
for linguistic processing. We discussed some computational aspects
of a simple instantiation of it, called DOP1, that aims specifically
at syntactic disambiguation.
summarized some of our empirical and experimental observations concerning
DOP1 that are specifically related to its Memory-Based nature. We
conclude that these observations provide convincing evidence for
the hypothesis that the structural units for language processing
should not be limited to a minimal set of grammatical rules but
that they must be defined in terms of a (redundant) space of linguistic
relations that are encountered in an explicit "memory" or "case-base"
that represents linguistic experience. Moreover, although many of
our empirical observations support the argument for a purely memory-based
approach, we encountered other empirical observations that exhibit
the strong tension that exists between this argument and various
factors that are encountered in practice e.g. data-sparseness. We
may conclude, however, that our empirical observations do support
the idea that "forgetting exceptions is harmful" (Van den Bosch
& Daelemans 1998).
we analyzed the DOP model within the MBL paradigm and contrasted
it to other MBL approaches within NLP and outside it. We concluded
that despite the many similarities between DOP and other MBL models,
there are major differences. For example, DOP1 distinguishes itself
from other MBL models in that (i) it deals with a classification
task involving infinite instance spaces and class spaces described
by an ambiguous recursive grammar, and (ii) it employs a disambiguation
facility based on a stochastic extension of the syntactic case-base.
employed a cleaned-up version of this corpus in which mistagged
words had been corrected by hand, and analyses with so-called
pseudo-attachments had been removed.
(1998a) also presents experiments with extensions of DOP1 that
generalize over the corpus fragments. DOP1 cannot cope with unknown
(1995, 1998a) shows how to extend the model to overcome this limitation.
experiments in Sima'an (1999) concern a comparison between DOP1
and a new model, called Specialized DOP (SDOP). Since this comparison
is not the main issue here, we will summarize the results concerning
the DOP1 model only. However, it might be of interest here to
mention the conclusions of the comparison. In short, the SDOP
model extends the DOP1 model with automatically inferred subtree-selection
criteria. These criteria are determined by a new learning algorithm
that specializes the annotation of the training tree-bank to the
domain of language use represented by that tree-bank. The SDOP
models acquired from a tree-bank are substantially smaller than
the DOP1 models. Nevertheless, Sima'an (1999) shows that the SDOP
models are at least as accurate and have the same coverage as
SRI-ATIS tree-bank was generously made available for these experiments
by SRI International, Cambridge (UK).
concept is a function; members of its domain are called instances
and members of its range are called classes. The task or target
concept is the function that the learning process tries to estimate.
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