Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Modelling Speech Acts in Conversational Discourse

By Amanda Schiffrin


Computational pragmatics and dialogue analysis is currently a rapid growing area of research in computational linguistics. Over the past five years or so, initiatives in modelling pragmatic aspects of dialogue have led to considerably improved spoken language dialogue systems � so much so in fact that constrained human-computer interaction no longer seems out of the question.\ud \ud One of the main drawbacks to such systems however is highlighted by the word "constrained". Human communication is seldom confined to answering questions or solving problems within a restricted field (such as train timetable enquiries, or route finding, for instance). How can one tell whether theories of dialogue that work well in domain specific, task-oriented dialogue, can be scaled up or expanded to deal with natural conversation?\ud \ud In this dissertation I have carried out a critical survey of the various approaches to speech act modelling, detailing what I think are the strengths and weaknesses in the current theories. One very promising approach is that of using speech act analysis as a means of interpreting a speaker's intentions in producing an utterance. This then forms the basis for determining a hearer's response (following certain rules of conversational co-operation). I go on to present what is intended as a preliminary model, which is designed to capture the characteristic relationship and interaction of speech acts in conversational dialogue, especially those features which preceding research has failed to represent. Speech acts are defined by means of schemata that match the state of the prevailing conversational context space. Each possible contexgt space is specified in the model for the performance of a particular speech act or acts; the representation of the context space is then updated accordingly.\ud \ud I illustrate the theoretical model using real conversation, collected during the course of this research, and compare its performance against the analysis of a "benchmark" conversation, highlighting where the model falls short and how it could be improved in the future. I will argue that the model provides a powerful formalism for the characterisation of a wide variety of different basic speech acts

Publisher: School of Computing (Leeds)
Year: 2005
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (1978). A
  2. (2001). A Bayesian approach to dialogue act classification’,
  3. (1995). A computational treatment of conversational contexts in the theory of speech acts.
  4. (2000). A Corpus-Based Approach to the Study of Speaking Style’,
  5. (2000). A formal model of conversational game theory’,
  6. (1997). A framework for argumentation-based negotiation’,
  7. (2000). A plan based agent architecture for interpreting natural language dialogue’,
  8. (1987). A plan recognition model for subdialogues in conversation’,
  9. (1974). A simplest systematics for the organisation of turn-taking in conversation’,
  10. (1993). A speech-based route enquiry system built from general-purpose components’,
  11. (1977). A structure for plans and behaviour.
  12. (1993). A survey of gesture recognition techniques.
  13. (1995). An activity-based approach to pragmatics’,
  14. (1996). An ascription-based approach to speech acts’,
  15. (1999). An efficient statistical speech act type tagging system for speech translation systems’,
  16. (1994). An introduction to functional grammar.
  17. (1997). Analysing casual conversation.
  18. (1987). Analysing conversation: Rules and units in the structure of talk.
  19. (1998). Analyszing and predicating patterns of DAMSL utterance tags’, AAAI Spring
  20. (1994). Approaches to discourse.
  21. (1992). Approaches to natural language discourse processing’,
  22. (1965). Aspects of the theory of syntaxl.
  23. (1996). Assessing agreement on classification tasks: The kappa statistic’,
  24. (1986). Attention, intentions, and the structure of discourse’,
  25. (1997). Belief ascription in mixed initiative dialogue’,
  26. (2002). Best practice gesture, facial expression, and cross-modality coding schemes for inclusion in the workbench.
  27. (1991). Beyond literal meaning: The psychology of allusion’,
  28. (1982). Beyond question answering’
  29. (1961). Categories of the Theory of Grammar’,
  30. (1987). Collaborative turn sequences: sentence construction and social action. Irvine:
  31. (1983). Computational models of discourse.
  32. (1973). Computer models of thought and language.
  33. (1976). Computer power and human reason.
  34. (1995). Constructions: A construction grammar approach to argument structure.
  35. (1980). Content Analysis.
  36. (1989). Contributing to discourse’,
  37. (1992). Conversation acts in task-oriented spoken dialogue.
  38. (1997). Conversational actions and discourse situations’,
  39. (1981). Conversational organization: Interaction between speakers and hearers.
  40. (1975). Conversational postulates’,
  41. (1984). Conversational style: Analyzing talk among friends.
  42. (1916). Cours de linguistique générale.
  43. (1998). Designing interactive speech systems: From first ideas to user testing.
  44. (1996). Dialog act classification with the help of prosody’, ICSLP-96,
  45. (1998). Dialog modeling in an agent-based framework’,
  46. (1997). Dialogue act classification using language models’,
  47. (2000). Dialogue act modeling for automatice tagging and recognition of conversational speech’,
  48. (1995). Dialogue acts in VERBMOBIL.
  49. (2000). Dialogue games are recipes for joint action’,
  50. (1983). Dialogue games: An approach to discourse analysis.
  51. (1988). Dialogue games: Conventions of human interaction’,
  52. (1996). Dialogue management in a mixed-initiative, cooperative spoken language system’,
  53. (1997). Dialogue management in speech recognition applications.
  54. (2001). Dialogue pragmatics and context specification’ in
  55. (1983). Dialogues on the psychology of language and thought: Conversations with Noam Chomsky ... [et al.].
  56. (1992). Direction of fit’,
  57. (1972). Directions in sociolinguistics: The ethnography of communication.
  58. (1978). Discourse analysis.
  59. (1983). Discourse analysis. Cambridge:
  60. (1987). Discourse markers. Cambridge:
  61. (1990). Discourse processing and commonsense plans’ in
  62. (2000). Discourse structure and intention recognition’ in
  63. (1999). Discourse structure and the logic of conversation’ in
  64. (1989). Distinguishing questions by contour in speech recognition tasks’,
  65. (1997). Draft of DAMSL: Dialog act markup in several layers.
  66. (2000). Dynamic interpretation and dialogue theory’ in
  67. (1995). Dynamic interpretation in text and dialogue’
  68. (1997). Effects of variable initiative on linguistic behaviour in human-computer spoken natural language dialogue’,
  69. (1979). Elements of a plan-based theory of speech acts’,
  70. (1981). Elements of discourse understanding. Cambridge:
  71. (1990). Elephant
  72. (1997). Eliminating deceptions and mistaken belief to infer conversational implicature’,
  73. (1994). English conversation. Describing English Language Series, London:
  74. (1974). Error-correction as an interactional discourse’,
  75. (1979). Exchange structure: Discourse analysis monographs no.
  76. (1989). Explanations and communicative constraints in naturally occurring discourse.
  77. (1984). Extended person-machine interfaces’,
  78. (2000). Festschrift in Honor of Gösta Bruce.
  79. (1994). First steps toward statistical modeling of dialogue to predict the speech act type of the next utterance’,
  80. (2000). First-order inference and the interpretation of questions and answers’,
  81. (2000). Flexible speech act based dialogue management’,
  82. (1975). Formal semantics of natural language: Papers from a colloquium sponsored by the King’s College Research Centre, Cambridge. Cambridge:
  83. (1994). Formalizing the cooperative problem solving process’,
  84. (1999). Foundations and theories of rational agency.
  85. (1985). Foundations of illocutionary logic. Cambridge:
  86. (1993). From discourse to logic.
  87. (1985). Getting computers to talk like you and me: discourse context, focus and semantics (an ATN model).
  88. (1996). Handbook of Contemporary Semantic Theory.
  89. (1982). Hearers and speech acts’,
  90. (1976). Hearing lips and seeing voices’,
  91. (1962). How to do things with words.
  92. (1998). Identifying speech acts in context’,
  93. (2001). Illocutionary force and degrees of strength in language use’,
  94. (1996). Indirect speech acts and their use in three channels of communication’,
  95. (1975). Indirect speech acts’ in
  96. (1986). Inferring domain plans in question-answering.
  97. (1994). Inferring linguistic structure in spoken language’,
  98. (1989). Information dialogues as communicative action in relation to partner modelling and information processing’ in
  99. (1998). Integrating MindNet with HAL’,
  100. (1990). Intention is choice with commitment’,
  101. (1957). Intention.
  102. (1983). Intentionality: an essay in the philosophy of mind. Cambridge:
  103. (1990). Intentions in communication.
  104. (2001). Interaction of visual cues for prominence’, Working Papers,
  105. (1967). Interaction ritual: Essays on face-to-face behaviour.
  106. (1996). Interrogatives: Questions, facts and dialogue’,
  107. (1998). Intonation and dialogue context as constraints for speech recognition’,
  108. (1995). Introducing classroom interaction.
  109. (1997). Knowledge-based Action Representations for Metaphor and Aspect
  110. (1997). KQML as an agent communication language’ in
  111. (1969). Language and philosophy: A symposium.
  112. (1980). Language and tact (Pragmatics and beyond series).
  113. (1983). Language as a cognitive process.
  114. (1999). Languageprocessing strategies and mixed-initiative dialogues’,
  115. (1975). Learning how to mean.
  116. (1997). Lifelike computer characters: The Persona project at Microsoft’,
  117. (1979). Linguistic communication and speech acts.
  118. (1972). Linguistics and natural logic’ in
  119. (1975). Logic and conversation’
  120. (1983). Making sense of nonce sense’ in Flores d’Arcais,
  121. (2000). MATE dialogue annotation guidelines.
  122. (1971). Mathematical models of dialogue’,
  123. (1998). Meaning and speech acts. Web published document,
  124. (1990). Mind and cognition.
  125. (1972). Models of the interaction of language and social life’ in
  126. (1967). Mood and language game’, Synthese,
  127. (1995). Mood, speech acts and context.
  128. (2000). More than just another pretty face: Embodied conversational interface agents’,
  129. (1969). Natural and formal language’ in
  130. (1987). Natural language understanding. Menlo Park,
  131. (1996). Negotiation through argumentation - a preliminary report’,
  132. (1992). Not gender difference but the difference gender makes: the politics of explaining sex differences in language’
  133. (1994). Obligations and options in dialogue’,
  134. (1970). On declarative sentences’
  135. (1976). On some questions and ambiguities in conversation.
  136. (1992). On the semantics and pragmatics of linguistic feedback’,
  137. (1996). On the success of speech acts and negotiating commitments’,
  138. (1974). On the very idea of a conceptual scheme’,
  139. (1973). Opening up closings’,
  140. (1998). Overview of the Maya Spoken Language System’,
  141. (1986). Parallel distributed processing: Explorationsin the microstructure of cognition.
  142. (1965). Pathological and normal language.
  143. (1971). Performative-constative’
  144. (2000). Perlocutions: The Achilles’ heel of speech act theory’,
  145. (1953). Philosophical investigations.
  146. (1995). Phonetic Explanations for Cross-Linguistic Prosodic Similarities’,
  147. (1985). Plan parsing for intended response recognition in discourse’,
  148. (1985). Plan recognition and discourse analysis: An integrated approach for understanding dialogues.
  149. (1985). Planning English sentences. Cambridge:
  150. (1990). Plans for discourse’ in
  151. (1983). Pragmatics. Cambridge:
  152. (1996). Predicting dialgogue acts for a speech-to-speech translation system’, ICSLP-96,
  153. (1988). Presequences and indirection’,
  154. (1983). Principles of pragmatics.
  155. (1998). Probabilistic dialogue act extraction for concept based multilingual translation systems’, ICSLP-98,
  156. (1977). Propositional structure and illocutionary force: A study of the contribution of sentence meaning to speech acts. Hassocks:
  157. (1999). Proverb comprehension: The primacy of literal meaning’,
  158. (1987). Psychosemantics: The problem of meaning in the philosophy of mind.
  159. (1978). Questions and politeness: Strategies in social interaction. Cambridge:
  160. (1996). Real-time American Sign Language recognition from video using hidden Markov models,
  161. (1983). Recognising intentions from natural language utterances’
  162. (1995). Relevance: Communication and cognition.
  163. (1976). Replies and responses’,
  164. (1986). Role switching in interaction’,
  165. (1968). Selected papers of J.R. Firth 1952-9.
  166. (1972). Semantic theory.
  167. (1977). Semantics (Vols.
  168. (1972). Semantics of natural language.
  169. (1968). Sequencing in conversational openings’,
  170. (1978). Sequential aspects of storytelling in conversation’,
  171. (1996). Skating on thin ice: Literal meaning and understanding idioms in conversation’,
  172. (1997). Software agents. AAAI/Cambridge:
  173. (1972). Some grammatical correlates of felicity conditions and presuppositions.
  174. (1995). Speakers, listeners, and communication: Explorations in discourse analysis. Cambridge:
  175. (1981). Speech act assignment’ in
  176. (1991). Speech act theory, discourse structure and indirect speech acts.
  177. (1969). Speech acts: an essay in the philosophy of language. London:
  178. (1998). Speech recognition and sensory integration: A 240-year-old theorem helps explain how people and machines can integrate auditory and visual information to understand speech’,
  179. (1997). Statistical analysis of dialogue structure’,
  180. (1982). Strategies for Natural Language Processing. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  181. (1971). STRIPS: A new approach to the application of theorem proving to problem solving’,
  182. (1998). Supported coding schemes.
  183. (2002). Survey of Existing Gesture, Facial Expression, and Cross-modality Coding Schemes.
  184. (1997). SWITCHBOARD discourse language modeling project. Johns Hopkins LVCSR Workshop-97.
  185. (1997). SWITCHBOARD SWBD-DAMSL shallowdiscourse-function annotation.
  186. (1975). Syntax and semantics: Vol. 3 Speech acts.
  187. (1981). Systemic linguistics and discourse analysis: A multi-layered approach to exchange structure’
  188. (1989). Talking voices: Repetition, dialogue, and imagery in conversational discourse. Cambridge:
  189. (1978). Teaching language as communication.
  190. (1989). The articulate mammal: An introduction to psycholinguistics. London: Unwin Hyman.
  191. (1959). The language and thought of the child.
  192. (1983). The modularity of mind.
  193. (1975). The more it changes… on understanding language by watching it move through time’, Papers and Reports on Child Language Development,
  194. (2002). THE NITE WORKBENCH – A tool for annotation of natural interactivity and multimodal data’,
  195. (1979). The organization of purposeful dialogs’,
  196. (1971). The philosophy of language. London:
  197. (1977). The preference for selfcorrection in the organisation of repair in conversation’,
  198. (1986). The production of language in dialogue.
  199. (1997). The reliability of a dialogue structure coding scheme’,
  200. (1995). The repair of speech act misunderstanding by abductive inference’,
  201. (1999). The semantics/pragmatics interface from different points of view.
  202. (1966). The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. Garden City,
  203. (2000). The structure of multimodal dialogue.
  204. (1970). The study of language in its social context’,
  205. (1994). The TRAINS project: A case study in defining a conversational planning agent.
  206. (2001). The TRINDI book: Task oriented instructional dialogue.
  207. (1977). Therapeutic discourse: Psychotherapy as conversation.
  208. (1962). Thought and language. Cambridge,Mass.:
  209. (1996). Toward 3D hand tracking using a deformable model’,
  210. (1974). Toward a linguistic theory of speech acts.
  211. (1994). Toward better language models for spontaneous speech’,
  212. (1994). Towards a theory of cooperative problem solving’,
  213. (1975). Towards an analysis of discourse: The English used by teachers and pupils. London:
  214. (1998). Towards an axiomatization of dialogue acts’,
  215. (1997). Tracking initiative in collaborative dialogue interactions’,
  216. (1996). TRAINS-95: Towards a mixed-initiative planning assistant’
  217. (1999). Turn taking versus discourse structure’, in
  218. (1955). Two concepts of rules’,
  219. (1989). Two constraints of speech act interpretation’,
  220. (2000). Understanding idioms’,
  221. (1978). Understanding spoken language’ in
  222. (1978). Universals in language usage: Politeness phenomena’ in
  223. (1998). Unpublished (deposited with CogPrints – Cognitive Sciences Eprint Archive in
  224. (1996). Using corpora for language research: Studies in honour of Geoffrey Leech.
  225. (1984). Using language: The structures of speech acts.
  226. (1968). Utterer’s meaning, sentence-meaning and word-meaning’,
  227. (1990). Ways of communicating. Cambridge:
  228. (1990). What is communication?’
  229. (1983). What the speaker means: The recognition of speakers’ plans in discourse’,
  230. (1960). Word and object.
  231. (1978). Words and deeds: Problems in the theory of speech acts.

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.