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The Answer aspect is simply a binary dimension where utterances can be marked as complying with an info-request action in the antecedent. A standard question answer is shown below.

Info-request         utt1: u: can I take oranges um on tankers from Corning
  Assert, Answer(utt1) utt2: s: no you may not they must be in boxcars

Most questions are answered with one or more declarative sentences although it is possible to answer a question with an imperative as shown in the direction giving example below. Note this imperative-looking answer is also marked as an Assert act as its Forward Function is to provide information rather than to influence u's future action. In fact, answers by definition will always be asserts. The answer is also an Open-option because it describes one option for u's future action.

Info-request                      utt1: u: How do I get to Corning?
  Assert, Open-option, Answer(utt1) utt2: s: Go via Bath.

Questions generally cannot answer questions and are usually not answers. Mostly they are used for clarification and an answer is given later.

               utt1: u: How long will it take to go from Corning to Avon
               utt2: s: Which route do you want to take
  Answer(utt2) utt3: u: go through Bath
  Answer(utt1) utt4: s: it'll take 6 hours

Sometimes a speaker will answer an implicit or indirect question. The general rule of thumb is to consider whether the implicit or indirect question was obvious enough to obligate the hearer to respond with the information (i.e., the antecedent is an Info-request). The example below is similar to the previous one except that u has not asked a question and we would not mark utt1 as an Info-request. Thus s's utterance is an Action-directive, a request, and is not considered an Answer that gives information and makes a suggestion.

Assert           utt1: u: I need to get the train to Corning.
  Action-directive utt2: s: Go via Bath.

Of course there are borderline cases where these distinctions are a matter of degree. For instance, if u says ``I don't know how to get oranges to Corning'', in many contexts this strongly suggests an implicit question and implies that a response like ``You could get them from Bath'' is an Answer. These difficult cases are left to the annotator's intuition, but the two utterances should be annotated consistently, so that if the second is an Answer, the first is an Info-request.

Consider an unambiguous case where we wouldn't mark an information request and hence don't mark an answer. Here A is trying to avoid going to a meeting, but B does not cooperate.

utt1: A: I should be at the meeting.
  utt2: A: Luckily, I don't know what time it is.
  utt3: B: It's 3 o'clock.

Because we do not consider utt2 as a request for information, we don't mark utt3 as an answer.

Note that clarification requests and other utterances that refuse to answer an Info-request are not considered answers. For instance, consider the dialogue fragment:

Info-request         utt1: u: How can I get oranges to Corning?
  Assert, Reject(utt1) utt2: s: I don't know.

Here s states that he doesn't know the answer (and hence can't answer the question). Thus it is treated as a Reject just as in cases of requests for non-communicative actions as in

Action-directive     utt1: u: Please open the door
  Assert, Reject(utt1) utt2: s: I can't, my arm is broken.

Occasionally, speakers ask a question and then answer it themselves. Even though it is the same speaker throughout, we still mark it as an info-request/answer pair, as in

Info-request utt1: u: Will I be able to take the tanker plus four boxcars
  Answer(utt1) utt2: u: No

next up left folder
Next: Information-Relations Up: Backward Looking Function Previous: Understanding

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