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This paper briefly describes the major features of the DRAGON speech understanding system. DRAGON makes systematic use of a general abstract model to represent each of the knowledge sources necessary for automatic recognition of continuous speech. The model--that of a probabilistic function of a Markov process--is very flexible and leads to features which allow DRAGON to function despite high error rates from individual knowledge sources. Repeated use of a simple abstract model produces a system which is simple in structure, but powerful in capabilities.