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From Abstract Syntax to Universal Dependencies

Journal article
Authors Kolachina Prasanth
Aarne Ranta
Published in Linguistic Issues in Language Technology
Volume 13
Issue 3
Pages 1-57
ISSN 1945-3590
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Computer Science and Engineering (GU)
Pages 1-57
Language en
Keywords multilingual grammars, universal dependencies, abstract syntax
Subject categories Linguistics, Computer Science


Abstract syntax is a semantic tree representation that lies between parse trees and logical forms. It abstracts away from word order and lexical items, but contains enough information to generate both surface strings and logical forms. Abstract syntax is commonly used in compilers as an intermediate between source and target languages. Grammatical Framework (GF) is a grammar formalism that generalizes the idea to natural languages, to capture cross-lingual generalizations and perform interlingual translation. As one of the main results, the GF Resource Grammar Library (GF-RGL) has implemented a shared abstract syntax for over 30 languages. Each language has its own set of concrete syntax rules (morphology and syntax), by which it can be generated from the abstract syntax and parsed into it. This paper presents a conversion method from abstract syntax trees to dependency trees. The method is applied for converting GF-RGL trees to Universal Dependencies (UD), which uses a common set of la- bels for different languages. The correspondence between GF-RGL and UD turns out to be good, and the relatively few discrepancies give rise to interesting questions about universality. The conversion also has po- tential for practical applications: (1) it makes the GF parser usable as a rule-based dependency parser; (2) it enables bootstrapping UD tree- banks from GF treebanks; (3) it defines formal criteria to assess the informal annotation schemes of UD; (4) it gives a method to check the consistency of manually annotated UD trees with respect to the anno- tation schemes; (5) it makes information from UD treebanks available for the construction and ranking of GF trees, which can improve GF applications such as machine translation. The conversion is tested and evaluated by bootstrapping two small treebanks for 31 languages, as well as comparing a GF version of the English Penn treebank with the UD version.

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