ERCIM News No.26 - July 1996 - INRIA

Man-Machine Dialogues and Language

by Jean-Marie Pierrel and Laurent Romary

The Dialogue project at CRIN-CNRS and INRIA Lorraine aims at designing man-machine dialogue systems based on a real linguistic communication. To do so, we are conducting studies on the kind of relations which may link language with the overall environment in which the dialogue actually occurs.

The approach adopted by the Dialogue project is based upon pluridisciplinary research in the domain of pragmatics, which attempts to combine linguistic descriptions with the constraints of a real implementation. As we are still far from the realisation of systems which would cover the whole scope of natural language, one of the difficulties that has to be faced is to evaluate how much a user will accept, within a given context, to interact with a system which can only understand a subset of a given language.

We are thus addressing two complemen-tary aspects: Reference and Dialogue

Our aim is to provide a user with the linguistic means needed to communicate instructions to a system. In this context, two essential problems have to be solved: These two questions have to be combined with the very nature of the kind of applications we consider. In general, the users have to deal with information which is presented to them through a graphical interface; this has encouraged us to carry out specific research on: In this framework, we have proposed an original model for reference interpretation based on a contrastive perspective which can provide some information concerning the underlying intention of the user behind different referring acts. In addition, work has been conducted on the analysis and interpretation of gestural trajectories associated with linguistic expressions. We are also carrying out some specific studies in lexical semantics to investigate whether it is possible to design a generic framework for the description of the underlying lexicon, despite the ever changing nature of the tasks we are working with.

Software architecture for dialogue management

The results obtained from the basic studies described above have been used to design new software architectures in order to integrate contextual constraints that guide the recognition phase of a given utterances. These architectures have been tested within several national (contracts with the French company Thomson-DASM and the DRET) and international (European Esprit Projects Multiworks and ROARS) projects.

Further information on the Dialogue project can be found at our web site:

Please contact:
Jean-Marie Pierrel - INRIA-Lorraine
Tel: +33 8359 2001
or Laurent Romary - INRIA-Lorraine
Tel: +33 8359 2037

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