Discourse representation theory

Discourse representation theory

Discourse Representation Theory (DRT) is a framework for exploring meaning under a formal semantics approach. One of the main differences between DRT-style approaches and traditional Montagovian approaches is that DRT-style approaches include a level of abstract mental representations (discourse representation structures, DRS) within its formalism, which gives it an intrinsic ability to handle meaning across sentence boundaries. DRT was created by Hans Kamp in 1981. A very similar theory was developed independently by Irene Heim in 1982, under the name of File Change Semantics (FCS).


Discourse Representation Structures

In DRT are discourse representation structures (DRS) which represent a hearer's mental representation of a discourse as it unfolds over time. There are two critical components to a DRS:

  • A set of discourse referents representing entities which are under discussion.
  • A set of DRS conditions representing information that has been given about discourse referents

Consider the sentence (1) below:

(1) A farmer owns a donkey.

The DRS of (1) can be notated as (2) below:

(2) [x,y: farmer(x), donkey(y), owns(x,y)]

What (2) says is that there are two discourse referents, x and y, and three discourse conditions farmer, donkey, and owns, such that the condition farmer holds of x, donkey holds of y, and owns holds of the pair x and y.

Informally, the DRS in (2) is true in a given model of evaluation if and only if there are entities in that model which satisfy the conditions. So, if a model contains two individuals, and one is a farmer, the other is a donkey, and the first owns the second, the DRS in (2) is true in that model.

Uttering subsequent sentences result in the existing DRS being updated.

(3) He beats it.

Uttering (3) after (1) results in the DRS in (2) being updated as follows, in (4) (assuming a way to disambiguate which pronoun refers to which individual).

(4) [x, y: farmer(x), donkey(y), own(x,y), beat(x,y)]

Successive utterances of sentences work in a similar way, although the process is somewhat more complicated for more complex sentences such as sentences containing negation, and conditionals.

Donkey anaphora

In one sense, DRT offers a variation of first-order predicate calculus -- its forms are pairs of first-order formulae and the free variables that occur in them. In traditional natural language semantics, only individual sentences are examined, but the context of a dialogue plays a role in meaning as well. For example, anaphoric pronouns such as he and she rely upon previously introduced individual constants in order to have meaning. DRT uses variables for every individual constant in order to account for this problem. A discourse is represented in a discourse representation structure (DRS), a box with variables at the top and the sentences in the formal language below in the order of the original discourse. Sub-DRS can be used for different types of sentences.

One of the major advantages of DRT is its ability to account for donkey sentences (Geach 1962) in a principled fashion:

(5) Every farmer who owns a donkey beats it.

Sentence (5) can be paraphrased as follows: Every farmer who owns a donkey beats the donkey that he/she owns. Under a Montagovian approach, the indefinite a donkey, which is assumed to be inherently an existential quantifier, ends up becoming a universal quantifier, an unwelcome result because the change in quantificational force cannot be accounted for in any principled way.

DRT avoids this problem by assuming that indefinites introduce discourse referents which are stored in the mental representation and are accessible (or not, depending on the conditions) to expressions like pronouns and other anaphoric elements. Furthermore, they are inherently non-quantificational, and pick up quantificational force depending upon the context.

On the other hand, genuine quantifiers (e.g., 'every professor') bear scope. An 'every-NP' triggers the introduction of a complex condition of the form K1 → K2, where K 1 and K 2 are sub-DRSs representing the restriction and the scope of the quantification respectively.

Unlike true quantifiers, indefinite NPs just contribute a new DR (together with some descriptive material in terms of conditions on the DR), which is placed in a larger structure. This larger structure can be the top-level DRS or some sub-DRS according to the sentence-internal environment of the analyzed NP -- in other words, a level which is accessible to an anaphor that comes later.

See also

External links


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • DRT Discourse Representation Theory — Théorie de représentation du discours La théorie de représentation du discours (DRT) est un modèle théorique offrant une représentation du langage par l examen du contenu sémantique dépendant du contexte dans un discours. Il fut créé par Hans… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Discourse relation — A discourse relation (or rhetorical relation) is a description of how two segments of discourse are logically connected to one another. One method of modeling discourse involves a set of concepts that constitute segmented discourse representation …   Wikipedia

  • Theory of Deep Democracy — Theory of Deep DemocracyThe theory of deep democracy makes a distinction between merely formal and deeper forms of democracy. Formal democracy is an important part of deep democracy, but it is merely a beginning or a necessary condition. In order …   Wikipedia

  • Postmodernist theory — Lyotard, Baudrillard and others Thomas Docherty INTRODUCTION Philosophy has been touched by postmodernism. Philosophy, in the modern academy, is supposed to be the discipline of disciplines: it is philosophy which will be able to gather together …   History of philosophy

  • Knowledge representation — is an area in artificial intelligence that is concerned with how to formally think , that is, how to use a symbol system to represent a domain of discourse that which can be talked about, along with functions that may or may not be within the… …   Wikipedia

  • Queer theory — is a field of Gender Studies that emerged in the early 1990s out of the fields of gay and lesbian studies and feminist studies. Heavily influenced by the work of Michel Foucault, queer theory builds both upon feminist challenges to the idea that… …   Wikipedia

  • Pragmatic theory of truth — refers to those accounts, definitions, and theories of the concept truth that distinguish the philosophies of pragmatism and pragmaticism. The conception of truth in question varies along lines that reflect the influence of several thinkers,… …   Wikipedia

  • Communication theory — is a field of information and mathematics that studies the technical process of information[1] and the human process of human communication.[2] Contents 1 History 1.1 Origins …   Wikipedia

  • Critical theory — Horkheimer, Adorno, Habermas David Rasmussen HEGEL, MARX AND THE IDEA OF A CRITICAL THEORY Critical theory1 is a metaphor for a certain kind of theoretical orientation which owes its origin to Hegel and Marx, its systematization to Horkheimer and …   History of philosophy

  • Cultural schema theory — (Nishida, 1999) explains the familiar and pre acquainted knowledge one uses when entering a familiar situation in his/her own culture. Cultural schemas for social interaction are cognitive structures that contain knowledge for face to face… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.