Learning for Semantic Parsing Using Statistical Machine Translation Techniques (2005)
Semantic parsing is the construction of a complete, formal, symbolic meaning representation of a sentence. While it is crucial to natural language understanding, the problem of semantic parsing has received relatively little attention from the machine learning community. Recent work on natural language understanding has mainly focused on shallow semantic analysis, such as word- sense disambiguation and semantic role labeling. Semantic parsing, on the other hand, involves deep semantic analysis in which word senses, semantic roles and other components are combined to produce useful meaning representations for a particular application domain (e.g. database query). Prior research in machine learning for semantic parsing is mainly based on inductive logic programming or deterministic parsing, which lack some of the robustness that characterizes statistical learning. Existing statistical approaches to semantic parsing, however, are mostly concerned with relatively simple application domains in which a meaning representation is no more than a single semantic frame.

In this proposal, we present a novel statistical approach to semantic parsing, WASP, which can handle meaning representations with a nested structure. The WASP algorithm learns a semantic parser given a set of sentences annotated with their correct meaning representations. The parsing model is based on the synchronous context-free grammar, where each rule maps a natural-language substring to its meaning representation. The main innovation of the algorithm is its use of state-of-the-art statistical machine translation techniques. A statistical word alignment model is used for lexical acquisition, and the parsing model itself can be seen as an instance of a syntax-based translation model. In initial evaluation on several real-world data sets, we show that WASP performs favorably in terms of both accuracy and coverage compared to existing learning methods requiring similar amount of supervision, and shows better robustness to variations in task complexity and word order.

In future work, we intend to pursue several directions in developing accurate semantic parsers for a variety of application domains. This will involve exploiting prior knowledge about the natural-language syntax and the application domain. We also plan to construct a syntax-aware word-based alignment model for lexical acquisition. Finally, we will generalize the learning algorithm to handle context-dependent sentences and accept noisy training data.
unpublished. Doctoral Dissertation Proposal, University of Texas at Austin.

Yuk Wah Wong Ph.D. Alumni ywwong [at] cs utexas edu