[MUD-Dev] English grammar thoughts

bruce at puremagic.com bruce at puremagic.com
Mon Oct 22 19:47:10 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


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Original message: http://www.kanga.nu/archives/MUD-Dev-L/2001Q4/msg00303.php

On Fri, 19 Oct 2001 20:01:21 -0700 (PDT)
Par Winzell <zell at skotos.net> wrote:

> Here's a question for those of you who have played with parsers
> and grammars and all that fun stuff. I'm trying to coerce the
> Skotos parser into a single syntactic model -- a fairly simple
> one; most everything should be on the form
 
> ... examples snipped ..
 
> So, like many before me have surely done, I'm trying to figure out
> the smallest set of grammatical constructs required to represent
> precisely this set of expressions. I'm a little weak on the
> terminology and I'd love some help.

natural language parsing isn't one of my strong points, but a
couple of weeks ago, I saw one of the people working on FaerieMUD
working with a library from CMU:

  http://www.link.cs.cmu.edu/link/

-- begin quote --
   The Link Grammar Parser is a syntactic parser of English, based
   on link grammar, an original theory of English syntax. Given a
   sentence, the system assigns to it a syntactic structure, which
   consists of a set of labeled links connecting pairs of words.  As
   of August 2000, we are releasing version 4.1 of the parser. Among
   the new features of this version is a system which derives a
   "constituent" representation of a sentence (showing noun phrases,
   verb phrases, etc.).

   As of April 2001, we are releasing a Windows version of version
   4.1 of the parser.

   We have made the entire system available for download on the
   web. The system is written in generic C code, and runs on any
   platform with a C compiler. There is an application program
   interface (API) to make it easy to incorporate the parser into
   other applications.

   The parser has a dictionary of about 60000 word forms.  It has
   coverage of a wide variety of syntactic constructions, including
   many rare and idiomatic ones.  The parser is robust; it is able
   to skip over portions of the sentence that it cannot understand,
   and assign some structure to the rest of the sentence. It is able
   to handle unknown vocabulary, and make intelligent guesses from
   context and spelling about the syntactic categories of unknown
   words. It has knowledge of capitalization, numerical expressions,
   and a variety of punctuation symbols.
--- end quote ---

Is it suitable for use in a MUD? I don't know.

Some questions that I have about the whole subject that I'm unclear
about:

 * What is the performance hit like for a system like Link?
 * Can a check be done for "simple" commands that can use a
   simpler parser if needed and avoid the increased overhead?
 * What is the memory overhead like?
 * How well do these systems deal with the poor grammar,
   spelling, etc that most people seem to have?
 * How much is the current research directed at handling
   full sentences?  Will that same research work well
   in a command-driven environment like a MUD?

If anyone answers those, feel free to toss in the questions that I'm
too ignorant to know to ask. :)

 - Bruce

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