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- Interfacultary Research Institutes
Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC)
Research on dialogue is concerned with the study of how communication takes place through language in conversation. This involves, among other things, investigating what makes a dialogue coherent; how dialogue participants coordinate to take turns in speaking and to achieve mutual understanding; and how knowledge about how dialogue works can be used to design artificial agents that are able to converse with humans. Only recently has dialogue emerged as a distinct area of study. Despite the fact that dialogue is the most natural setting for language use, linguistic studies that go beyond the boundaries of single sentences (which are still a minority) have traditionally focused on monological text of the type we may find in newspapers, books, or Wikipedia. However, in recent years the special features of dialogue have received increasing attention, and by now dialogue is a well-established field of research at the interface of linguistics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, and artificial intelligence. Because of this interdisciplinarity, the origins of the field are diverse. The work done by Sacks, Schegloff, and colleagues during the 1970s and 1980s within the framework of Conversation Analysis set the stage for the empirical study of conversation and introduced several notions (related, among others, to turn taking, conversational structure, and repair) that remain key in current dialogue research. This was followed up in the field of cognitive psycholinguistics by researchers such as Clark, who during the 1980s and 1990s developed theories of collaboration in dialogue that have helped to shape the field and that have had an important influence in subsequent dialogue literature in linguistics and computational linguistics. The 1980s also saw an explosion of work in artificial intelligence by Perrault, Allen, and others related to the formalization of rational action, which viewed speech acts as the expression of speakers’ intentions with which one could reason logically. The 1990s and 2000s have seen growing interest in dialogue within linguistics, with the development of theories that have extended the core ideas of dynamic semantics (initially developed for monological discourse) to dialogue, such as Segmented Discourse Representation Theory, developed by Asher and Lascarides, and Ginzburg’s theory, based on the notion of questions under discussion. Within computational linguistics, research on dialogue systems has flourished from the late 1990s through the 2000s, not only as an area concerned with the design of practical applications but also as a platform to investigate the theoretical underpinnings of computational models of dialogue.
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