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This aspect concerns the actions that speakers take in order to make sure that they are understanding each other as the conversation proceeds. There are many levels of ``understanding'', ranging from merely hearing the words to fully identifying the speaker's intention. Here we group most of these levels together so that if the hearer is said to have understood the speaker, then the hearer knows what the speaker meant by the utterance.

Utterances that explicitly indicate a problem in understanding the antecedent are labeled as Signal-non-understanding. As an applicability test for Signal-non-understanding, you should be able to roughly paraphrase a Signal-non-understanding utterance as ``What did you say/mean?''. Note that not all clarification questions signal non-understanding. Clarification questions labeled as Hold in the Agreement aspect involve acquiring additional information about how or why something was requested or proposed, and do not signal misunderstanding. Below are some examples of questions that are Signal-non-understanding (SNU) utterances.

Context: utt1: A: Take the train to Dansville
  SNU            B: Huh?.                  (i.e., What did you say?)
  SNU            B: What did you say?.     (i.e., What did you say?)
  SNU            B: to Dansville?          (i.e., What did you say?)
  SNU            B: did you say Dansville? (i.e., What did you say?)
  SNU            B: Dansville, New York?   (i.e., What did you mean?)
  SNU            B: Which train?           (i.e., What did you mean?)

On the other hand, responses that query how to comply with the speaker's request/proposal, or that question its desirability (``why are we doing this'') are marked as Hold acts at the Agreement level and are not marked as Signal-non-understanding:

Context: utt1: A: Take the train to Dansville?
  Hold(utt1)     B: through Avon?     (i.e, How shall we take the train)
  Hold(utt1)     B: to get the oranges? (i.e., Why are we taking the train)
  Hold(utt1)     B: Should it leave immediately? 
                    (i.e., When should we take the train)

Utterances that explicitly signal understanding are marked with a Signal-understanding tag. Note that any utterance that doesn't explicitly indicate non-understanding implicitly indicates understanding. You do not need to mark such cases. Rather, there are some specific mechanisms used to explicitly signal understanding that we are interested in. Note in many cases, such utterances may also count as Accept acts at the understanding level. However, the examples below are Signal-understanding utterances (acknowledgments) that are not acceptances.

Acknowledgments are utterances consisting of short phrases such as ``okay'', ``yes'', and ``uh-huh'', that signal that the previous utterance was understood without necessarily signaling acceptance, as in

Context:   utt1: s: Take the Avon train to Dansville
  Ack(utt1)  utt2: u: Okay
  Hold(utt1) utt3     But wouldn't using the Bath train be faster?

Sometimes an acknowledgment interrupts a sentence as in the example below.

          utt1: u: if I take the engine and a boxcar from Elmira
  Ack(utt1) utt2: s: yes
            utt3: u: how long will that take

Another common case involves acknowledgments that are performed while the other agent is still speaking, which are often called backchannel responses. An example here is

          utt1: u: The we take the engine at Avon [to Bath](1) for the oranges
  Ack(utt1) utt2: s: [uh-huh](1)

Of course, many times an acknowledgment also counts as an acceptance in which case it will be marked at both levels. In cases where it is uncertain whether the acknowledgment accepts the antecedent, then the utterance can still be marked unambiguously as an acknowledge, and can be labeled as a possible accept using the uncertainty modifier at the agreement level, as in

Assert                   utt1: s: It would take two hours [assuming](1) you have 
                                     an engine at Bath
  Ack(utt1), Accept(utt1)? utt2: u: [okay](1)

The Repeat-rephrase tag is used for utterances that repeat or paraphrase what was just said in order to signal that the speaker has been understood. Like acknowledgments, Repeat-rephrases do not necessarily make any further commitment as to whether the responder agrees with or believes the antecedent.

                      utt1: s: do you need the bananas [in boxcars](1) at Bath
  Repeat-rephrase(utt1) utt2: u: [the bananas](1)

Sometimes a listener will show understanding by finishing or adding to the clause that a speaker is in the middle of constructing. Such phenomena are marked with the Completion tag as shown in the example below. Here u completes s's sentence; s then goes on to finish the sentence himself using the suggested completion. Note, completions also include cases where another speaker makes an extension (but not completion) to the current phrase being uttered.

utt1: s: so you've got the engines at Elmira and uh [](1) Avon
  utt2: u: [Avon](1)

The Correct-misspeaking tag is used for utterances that by offering a correction indicate that the hearer believes that the speaker has not said what he or she actually intended. In the example below, u misspeaks by saying ``engine E'' instead of ``engine E one'' and s offers a correction.

                    utt1: u: so we should move the engine at Avon engine E to
  Corr-misspeak(utt1) utt2: s: engine E one
  Accept(utt2)        utt3: u: E one to Bath

This category only applies to cases where another speaker makes a correction. If u had corrected himself then no Correct-misspeaking label would be applied to this section of the dialog. There is currently no dimension in this scheme for annotating such speech repairs.

next up left folder
Next: Answer Up: Backward Looking Function Previous: Agreement

Mark Core
Mon Sep 22 20:05:25 EDT 1997