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REQUEST: A Natural Language Question-Answering System

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1 Author(s)
W. J. Plath ; IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, N.Y. 10598, USA

Request is an experimental Restricted English QUESTion-answering system that can analyze and answer a variety of English questions, spanning a significant range of syntactic complexity, with respect to a small Fortune-500-type data base. The long-range objective of this work is to explore the possibility of providing nonprogrammers with a convenient and powerful means of accessing information in formatted data bases without having to learn a formal query language. To address the somewhat conflicting requirements of understandability for the machine and maximum naturalness for the user, request uses a language processing approach featuring: 1) the use of restricted English; 2) a two-phase, complier-like organization; and 3) linguistic analysis based on a transformational grammar. The present paper explores the motivation for this approach in some detail and also describes the organization, operation, and current status of the system.

Note: The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Incorporated is distributing this Article with permission of the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) who is the exclusive owner. The recipient of this Article may not assign, sublicense, lease, rent or otherwise transfer, reproduce, prepare derivative works, publicly display or perform, or distribute the Article.  

Published in:

IBM Journal of Research and Development  (Volume:20 ,  Issue: 4 )