Laura Kallmeyer

Tree Description Grammars and Underspecified Representations

Dissertation Universität Tübingen


In this thesis, a new grammar formalism called (local) Tree Description Grammar (TDG) is presented that generates tree descriptions. This grammar formalism brings together some of the central ideas in the context of Tree Adjoining Grammars (TAG) on the one hand, and approaches to underspecified semantics for scope ambiguities on the other hand.

First a general definition of TDGs is presented, and afterwards a restricted variant called local TDGs is proposed. Since the elements of a local TDG are tree descriptions, an extended domain of locality as in TAGs is provided by this formalism. The tree descriptions generated by local TDGs are such that the dominance relation (i.e. the reflexive and transitive closure of the parent relation) need not be fully specified. Therefore the generation of suitable underspecified representations for scope ambiguities is possible.

The generative capacity of local TDGs is greater than the one of TAGs. Local TDGs are even more powerful than set-local multicomponent TAGs (MC-TAG). However, the generative capacity of local TDGs is restricted in such a way that only semilinear languages are generated. Therefore these languages are of constant growth, a property generally ascribed to natural languages. Local TDGs of different rank can be distinguished depending on the form of derivation steps that are possible in these grammars. This leads to a hierarchy of local TDGs. For the classes of this hierarchy, a pumping lemma is proven.

In order to describe the relation between two languages, synchronous local TDGs are introduced. The synchronization with a second local TDG does not increase the generative power of the grammar in the sense that each language generated by a local TDG that is part of a synchronous pair of local TDGs, also can be generated by a single local TDG. This formalism of synchronous local TDGs is used to describe a syntax-semantics interface for a fragment of French which illustrates the derivation of underspecified representations for scope ambiguities with local TDGs. In this framework, island constraints for quantifier scope ambiguities arise as a natural consequence of the locality of the grammar.

Laura Kallmeyer. Last modified 9 November 1999