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Tagging Cue Words and Speech Repairs

Spoken language contains many elements that function mainly to manage the interaction (i.e., turn taking) and to maintain reliable communication. Some of these elements include cases where the speaker is stalling for time while they think (keeping the turn in other words), signaling a speech repair/topic shift, or making a confirmation. This section describes how to label such phenomenon with the current annotation scheme.

As discussed before, cue words include words such as ``okay'' that, depending on the context and the way they are pronounced, can serve several different purposes in the dialog. When used as a response to a proposal, request or statement, it has the Backward Function Accept and a Forward Function such as Commit. If it is used simply to signal understanding, then it has the Backward Function Acknowledge and no Forward Function. On the other hand, if it is used to hold a turn or signal a topic shift, it has a Forward Function not captured with the current scheme except by the Other-forward-function label.

Consider the following example that contains two instances of ``okay'', one as an acceptance and the other as a cue word to maintain the turn. u first accepts s's directive with an ``okay''. Since the effect of this act is that the speaker is committed to get a tanker, it is marked as a Commit. u's second utterance seems to be further confirmation that utt1 was understood (and might even be labeled as an Accept instead of a Repeat-rephrase). Utt4 is a cue word uttered presumably in order to keep the turn or to signal a continuation of the topic. Presently, it would be labeled as Other-forward-function. Given its position in a series of utterances by u, and its intonation, it clearly is not a response to anything.

Action-directive       utt1: s: so I'm assuming you'll also be taking a 
                                   tanker from [Corning](1)
  Commit,Accept(utt1)    utt2: u: [oh](1) okay
  Repeat-rephrase(utt1)  utt3:    take a tanker there
  Other-forward-function utt4:    okay
  Assert                 utt5:    so its two hours ...

Sometimes, cue words like the one above will not be broken into their own utterance units. For example, u's third utterance above might have been ``Okay, so its two hours ...''. In this case, the most important aspect of the utterance unit is the Assert act, and the cue word's individual functions would be ignored.

Consider another example. Cue words such as ``alright'' may maintain a turn, confirm understanding, make an acceptance, or may signal a discourse event such as a speech repair or topic switch. In the example below, u utters the first ``alright'' with the intention to signal the description of a new plan. The second ``alright'' signals the second start of the restarted phrase. The current annotation scheme does not distinguish between these cases, and both are marked as Other-forward-function.

Assert                  utt1: u: ah three p.m. that's not gonna work
  Other-forward-function  utt2:    alright um <breath> 
  Abandoned               utt3:    if I take 
  Other-forward-function  utt4:    alright
  Assert                  utt5:    if I take the engine and a boxcar from
  Ack(utt1-utt5)          utt6: s: yes
  Assert                  utt7: u: uh I just use it

As previously noted, the utterance segmentation will affect how you label cue words. For instance, utt3-utt5 might have been a single unit (as shown below), in which case the speech repair would be ignored in favor of the completed act.

Assert, Task  utt1: u: if I take <sil> alright <sil> if I take the engine
                           <sil> and a boxcar <sil>  from Elmira

Sometimes a speaker is interrupted and their utterance is not completed. In these cases, you have to decide whether the utterance was abandoned in the sense that the dialog continues as though it were never said. In the example below, u never completes her sentence but s treats it as an information request (as if u wants him to complete her sentence), so utt1 is not marked abandoned.

Info-Request         utt1: u: so that's
  Assert, Answer(utt1) utt2: s: loading the orange <sil> juice will take 
                                 another hour
  Accept(utt2)         utt3: u: okay

next up left folder
Next: Mechanics of Annotating Up: Draft of DAMSL: Dialog Previous: Multi-Dimensional Problems

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