Can Discourse Relations be Identified Incrementally?

IJCNLP 2017  ·  Frances Yung, Hiroshi Noji, Yuji Matsumoto ·

Humans process language word by word and construct partial linguistic structures on the fly before the end of the sentence is perceived. Inspired by this cognitive ability, incremental algorithms for natural language processing tasks have been proposed and demonstrated promising performance. For discourse relation (DR) parsing, however, it is not yet clear to what extent humans can recognize DRs incrementally, because the latent {`}nodes{'} of discourse structure can span clauses and sentences. To answer this question, this work investigates incrementality in discourse processing based on a corpus annotated with DR signals. We find that DRs are dominantly signaled at the boundary between the two constituent discourse units. The findings complement existing psycholinguistic theories on expectation in discourse processing and provide direction for incremental discourse parsing.

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