A unification-based natural language interface to a database.

  • Neil K. Simpkins

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    An implementation of a Lexical Functional Grammar (LFG) natural language front-end to a database is presented, and its capabilities demonstrated by reference to a set of queries used in the Chat-80 system. The potential of LFG for such applications is explored. Other grammars previously used for this purpose are briefly reviewed and contrasted with LFG. The basic LFG formalism is fully described, both as to its syntax and semantics, and the deficiencies of the latter for database access application shown. Other current LFG implementations are reviewed and contrasted with the LFG implementation developed here specifically for database access. The implementation described here allows a natural language interface to a specific Prolog database to be produced from a set of grammar rule and lexical specifications in an LFG-like notation. In addition to this the interface system uses a simple database description to compile metadata about the database for later use in planning the execution of queries. Extensions to LFG's semantic component are shown to be necessary to produce a satisfactory functional analysis and semantic output for querying a database. A diverse set of natural language constructs are analysed using LFG and the derivation of Prolog queries from the F-structure output of LFG is illustrated. The functional description produced from LFG is proposed as sufficient for resolving many problems of quantification and attachment.
    Date of Award1988
    Original languageEnglish


    • Unification-based natural language interface
    • database
    • lexical functional grammer
    • natural language processing
    • artificial intelligence

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