The primary purpose of this aspect is to directly influence the hearer's future non-communicative actions, as in the case of requests (``Move the train to Dansville'' and ``Please speak more slowly'') and suggestions (``how about going through Corning''). There are many verbs in English that describe variations of these acts that differ in strength, including acts like command, request, invite, suggest and plead. These distinctions in strength are not fully captured in the current annotation scheme.
Figure 2: Decision Tree for Influencing-addressee-future-action
A rough test to see if an utterance is in this aspect is to see whether the hearer could coherently respond with ``I can't do that''. This test includes some utterances such as ``tell me the time'' that do not belong in this category because they only involve requesting information. In addition, there are some examples where an utterance is in this class but the test fails. For instance, in TRAINS, say the participants are discussing how to get some oranges to Bath, and one says ``There's an engine at Avon'', suggesting that they could use that engine to move the oranges. This utterance falls into this aspect but could not be followed by ``I can't do that'', although the variant ``I can't use that engine'' is fine. Questions only belong in this class if they suggest a course of action in addition to asking a question. For instance, in TRAINS, the question ``how long will it take if we go through Corning'' is sometimes used to suggest that they move a train through Corning. All questions obligate the hearer to reply, but this is not sufficient in itself to mark a question as having the Influencing-addressee-future-action aspect.
This annotation scheme makes the distinction between an Action-directive, which obligates the listener to either perform the requested action or communicate a refusal or inability to perform the action, and an Open-option, which suggests a course of action but puts no obligation on the listener.
As stated above, Action-directives may vary in strength, from commands, such as ``Open the door'', to pleading, such as ``I beg you not to go to the party'', but in each case the hearer is obligated to either perform the action or respond to the request. While not all Action-directives are responded to, not responding would be considered to be rude. Open-options, on the other hand, can be responded to but also can be ignored without any negative effect since no obligation beyond normal conversational constraints is placed on the listener.
For example, the first utterance below is an Open-option (abbreviated here as OO) because B does not need to address it and can coherently answer with utt2.
utt1 OO A: There is an engine in Elmira utt2 Action-dir B: Let's take the engine from Bath.
On the other hand, in the following example utt1 is an Action-directive and B should explicitly refuse the suggestion if it is not adopted.
utt1 Action-dir A: Let's use the engine in Elmira. utt2 Reject(utt1) B: No utt3 Action-dir B: Let's take the engine from Bath.
An example of an Open-option utterance from a furniture purchasing domain is shown below. Here what the speaker means is ``we could buy my red sofa or my blue sofa''.
Action-directive A: Let's buy the living room furniture first. B: OK OO, Assert,Offer I have a red sofa for $150 or a blue one for $200.
Here is another example of an Open-option utterance from the TRAINS domain.
Assert A: I need to get the train at Avon to Bath. OO B: You could go through Corning.