New Release of the Contextors Parser

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We thought it would be good to let you know what we have been up to in the last few months, besides publishing posts on our website. Well, we have been very busy improving our parser and the conjugators that are based on it. Some of the new features were added thanks to the sentences you tried on our Voice Conjugator and Tense Conjugator, which made us aware of problems we had overlooked.

Adjuncts and locative complements are now supported

We have recently expanded the coverage of the Contextors Parser to include adjuncts and locative complements. Adjuncts are phrases that provide information about, among other things, the location and time of the events designated by the verb. Locative complements are phrases that provide the starting point (source) and endpoint (goal) of the events designated by motion verbs (walk, run, chase, jump, etc.).

Adding adjuncts and locative complements to our parser has expanded our Voice Conjugator’s and Tense Conjugator’s coverage. Before adjuncts and locative complements were added, a sentence containing these elements could not be parsed and therefore could not be paraphrased in the required voice or in other tenses. Now most of the sentences with these elements that have been given as input by our users are parsed and properly paraphrased. To give one example concerning the Voice Conjugator, the sentence Yesterday the piglet cleaned the floor , where yesterday is a temporal adjunct, is now paraphrased as Yesterday the floor was cleaned by the piglet .

A new type of passive conjugation

A second improvement to our Voice Conjugator that is the result of the addition of adjuncts is that one more type of passive is now generated. This is the passivization of location adjuncts, as exemplified below.

The piglets flew under the bridge
The bridge was flown under by the piglets

Support for switching of negative polarity item adjuncts

A third improvement to the Voice Conjugator that is related to adjuncts is that it can now switch between adjuncts that are negative polarity items, like ever, and their negative counterparts. We discuss this matter in detail in the post Voice Alternation and Negative Polarity Items, so here we will just give an example: whereas in the previous version of the Voice Conjugator, an active sentence like The piglet no longer visits anyone was wrongly paraphrased in the passive as *Anyone is no longer visited by the piglet, the Voice Conjugator currently assigns to it the correct paraphrase, namely: No one is any longer visited by the piglet .

The piglet no longer visits anyone
No one is any longer visited by the piglet

Other modifications to the parser

In addition to the updates described above here are some of the other modifications that have been introduced to our parser and widgets:

  • We fixed some problems with the order of adverbs and auxiliaries in switching between voices.
  • We restricted the distribution of there as the dummy subject of an existential clause.
  • We allowed parses where not is attached to a non-finite clause, for example: The piglet insists on not giving up .
  • We limited the types of adjuncts that can appear in sentence-initial position.

Next on our development roadmap: content clauses

These days we are working on extending our parser’s range so that it also covers sentences containing content clauses (subordinate clauses). Content clauses may be declarative or interrogative and may realize different functions in the sentence. In (1) the content clauses are internal complements of the verb; in (2) they are subjects; and in (3) they are complements of prepositions.

    1. They claim [that they have never seen a piglet].
    2. They are trying to decide [which of the piglets should be entertained first].
    1. [That these are piglets] will be apparent from the way they communicate.
    2. [Whether this piglet is up for the task] is a difficult question.
    1. We should control the piglets before [they control us].
    2. I refuse to argue about [who is the cutest piglet].

Content clauses may undergo extraposition, a process whereby the original position of the content clause comes to be occupied by the dummy pronoun ‘it’, and the content clause itself moves toward the end of the sentence; for example: It is unclear [whether a piglet can reason] is derived from [Whether a piglet can reason] is unclear by extraposition of the bracketed clause. The next version of the parser will cover this phenomenon as well.

We also intend to add to our Voice Conjugator the passivization of content clauses functioning as internal complements, as in the example below:

We can infer from the pie in the kitchen [that the piglets live here]
[That the piglets live here] can be inferred from the pie in the kitchen.

Stay tuned…

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