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Exploring Dimensions of Meaning in Human-Robot Dialogue
Wednesday, April 12, 2023, 11:00 am-12:00 pm Calendar
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Hey, Robot, can you move forward into that room? There are multiple dimensions of meaning to a single utterance like this that must be interpreted in order for a robot to respond appropriately. One dimension is the content of the instruction: here, this involves movement to a particular destination. Second, the robot must understand what the speaker is trying to do with this utterance in the conversational context and what that obligates the robot to do in response.  Is the speaker posing a question of ability that should be answered by supplying this information? Or is the speaker giving a politely phrased command that should just be executed by the robot? The appropriate response in this case is tied directly to a third dimension of meaning. The third dimension involves interpretation of this instruction with respect to the robot’s physical surroundings, including grounding the linguistic representation to the things around it—What room is being referred to? Is it possible for the robot to enter the room, or is it blocked in some way? This talk explores the use of symbolic representations to make each of these three dimensions of meaning accessible to autonomous systems participating in collaborative, situated natural language dialogue.


Claire Bonial is a computational linguist specializing in the murky world of event semantics—What’s happening? Who is doing what to whom? When? Where? Why? In her efforts to make this world computationally tractable, she has collaborated on the development of a variety of benchmark Natural Language Processing corpora critical to automatic analysis of events, including PropBank, VerbNet, and Abstract Meaning Representation. Bonial has operationalized these resources for advancements in language and situation understanding for autonomous systems. Bonial received her Ph.D. in Linguistics and Cognitive Science in 2014 from the University of Colorado Boulder and began her current position in the Army Research Directorate of the Army Research Laboratory in 2015.

This talk is organized by Rachel Rudinger