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YANLI: A Powerful Natural Language Front-End Tool

By John C. Glasgow I


An important issue in achieving acceptance of computer sys-tems used by the nonprogramming community is the ability to communicate with these systems in natural language. Of-ten, a great deal of time in the design of any such system is devoted to the natural language front end. An obvious way to simplify this task is to provide a portable natural language front-end tool or facility that is sophisticated enough to allow for a reasonable variety of input; allows modification; and, yet, is easy to use. This paper describes such a tool that is based on augmented transition networks (ATNs). It allows for user input to be in sentence or nonsentence form or both, provides a detailed parse tree that the user can access, and also provides the facility to generate responses and save in-formation. The system provides a set of ATNs or allows the user to construct ATNs using system utilities. The system is written in Franz Lisp and was developed on a DEC VAX 1 l/ 780 running the ULTRIX-32 operating system. Augmented Transition Networks The system is named YANLI in (shameless) imitation of “yet another compiler compiler ” (YACC) (Johnson 1984). The programs are similar in that at the heart of both pro-grams is a parser whose grammar is definable and serves as the “source code ” for the parser. Additionally, both programs can perform actions at any step during the parsing of input. However, YACC uses a bottom-up (left-to-right) parsing method and is comfortable with the grammars that conveniently describe programming languages, and YANLI has a top-down parser based on ATNs and is intended to parse a subset of common English. YANLI is actually a set of tools for the development of ATNs together with several built-in ATNs that describe a subset of English

Year: 2016
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