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Publication Details

Transportable Natural-Language Interfaces To Databases

by Hendrix, Gary G. and Lewis, William H.

Technical Note 228
Institution: AI Center, SRI International
Address: 333 Ravenswood Ave., Menlo Park, CA 94025
Apr 1981.

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Abstract

Several computer systems have now been constructed that allow users to access databases by posing questions in natural languages, such as English. When used in the restricted domains for which they have been especially designed, these systems have achieved reasonably high levels of performance. However, these systems require the encoding of knowledge about the domain of application in complex data structures that typically can be created for a new database only with considerable effort on the part of a computer professional who has had special training in computational linguistics and the use of databases. This paper describes initial work on a methodology for creating natural-language processing capabilities for new databases without the need for intervention by specially trained experts. The approach is to acquire logical schemata and lexical information through simple interactive dialogues with someone who is familiar with the form and content of the database, but unfamiliar with the technology of natural-language interfaces. A prototype system using this methodology is described and an example transcript is presented.

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