Natural Language Input for a Computer Problem Solving System
Author(s)Bobrow, Daniel G.
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The STUDENT problem solving system, programmed in LISP, accepts as input a comfortable but restricted subset of English which can express a wide variety of algebra story problems. STUDENT finds the solution to a large class of these problems. STUDENT can utilize a store of global information not specific to any one problem, and may make assumptions about the interpretation of ambiguities in the wording of the problem being solved. If it uses such information or makes any assumptions, STUDENT communicates this fact to the user. The thesis includes a summary of other English language questions-answering systems. All these systems, and STUDENT, are evaluated according to four standard criteria. The linguistic analysis in STUDENT is a first approximation to the analytic portion of a semantic theory of discourse outlined in the thesis. STUDENT finds the set of kernel sentences which are the base of the input discourse, and transforms this sequence of kernel sentences into a set of simultaneous equations which form the semantic base of the STUDENT system. STUDENT then tries to solve this set of equations for the values of requested unknowns. If it is successful it gives the answers in English. If not, STUDENT asks the user for more information, and indicates the nature of the desired information. The STUDENT system is a first step toward natural language communication with computers. Further work on the semantic theory proposed should result in much more sophisticated systems.