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Word ordering rules for machine treatment (analysis and generation)

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This work discusses word order in written German at sentence level, and suggests how to deal with word order variation in Machine Translation. It specially refers to modifier placement, as modifiers are generally neglected in linguistic (word order) description.
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A STUDY OF WORD ORDER VARIATION IN GERMAN,
WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO MODIFIER PLACEMENT



January 1994



Ralf Günter Wilhelm Steinberger




Ph.D. Thesis
submitted to the University of Manchester in the Faculty of Technology





Department of Language and Linguistics
University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology
I

This work was carried out under the supervision of Dr. Paul Bennett.












No portion of the work referred to in the thesis has been submitted in support of an
application for another degree or qualification of this or any other university or
other institution of learning.
II

Ralf Steinberger – Word Order Variation in German, Modifiers (Ph.D. Thesis, UMIST, 1994)

Abstract
This work discusses word order in written German at sentence level, and suggests how to
deal with word order variation in Machine Translation. It specially refers to modifier
placement, as modifiers are generally neglected in linguistic (word order) description.
The order of phrases in free word order languages is not entirely free, as some variations
can be ungrammatical, and further variations are less natural than others. The intuition of a
German speaker on the adequate word order in a specific context is influenced by at least
eleven factors. In this thesis, these are described independently, and their interaction is
shown. The context plays a major role for the natural word order in a sentence, so that one
can say that sentences are embedded in their context.
After the linguistic description, the methods suggested in literature to model word order
variation in Natural Language Processing are discussed, and a suggestion is made to
overcome the problems linked to word order variation. For analysis, means are provided to
recognise theme, rheme and focus of a given sentence. For synthesis, it is proposed to use a
flexible canonical form which involves over eighty position classes, including places for
the categories theme, rheme and focus. Depending on the analysis of thematic, rhematic
and focused phrases in the source language of the translation, varying German sentences
are generated to guarantee their appropriate embedding in the context. The appendix
contains a list of adverbs including the syntactic features which are necessary for their
automatic treatment.

Ralf Steinberger – Word Order Variation in German, Modifiers (Ph.D. Thesis, UMIST 1994)
Acknowledgements
I would like to express my gratitude to my supervisor Dr. Paul Bennett for his support,
pointers to relevant literature, his fast reaction, and useful comments.
I would also like to thank my international colleagues and friends who helped me to find
out about tricky aspects of their languages. I am particularly grateful to Tina Burnley,
Archana Hinduja, and Chris Chambers, who put a lot of effort into proof-reading the
thesis. Their comments and suggestions were very helpful. Chris' rules-of-thumb on
modifier placement finally helped me to avoid most errors concerning adverb positioning
in English, on which I failed to have a native speaker's intuition.
Many thanks go also to my former colleagues Dr. Nadia Mesli, Oliver Streiter and Randy
Sharp at the Institute for Applied Information Science (IAI) in Saarbrücken. They
supported me a lot when I implemented my ideas on word order in the Machine
Translation system CAT2, by explaining the formalism as well as the German, English and
French grammars.
And finally, I want to thank Tina Burnley for her excellent cooking and personal support,
especially during the last tiring months.
II

Ralf Steinberger – Word Order Variation in German, Modifiers (Ph.D. Thesis, UMIST 1994)
Education and Background
1994
Centre for Computational Linguistics (CCL) at UMIST: TRADE Machine
Translation project (English-Spanish-Italian)
1993
CCL, UMIST: Conception and Implementation of a German-English dic-
tionary for Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL); planning of
new projects, fund-raising
1991 - 1992 • CCL, UMIST: Machine Translation project EUROTRA (French-English)

• Training in the ET-6 Machine Translation formalism ALEP, Luxembourg

• Summer School for Logic, Linguistics and Information (LLI), Colchester
1991
Institute for Applied Information Science (IAI), Saarbrücken (FRG):
CAT2 Machine Translation project (German-English)

• LLI Summer School, Saarbrücken
1/1991
Magister Artium ("with distinction"), München
1986 - 1990 • PANA Schaumstoff GmbH, Geretsried (FRG): Public Relations, sales pro-
motion, production management
1984 - 1985 • Lycée Louis-Le-Grand, Paris: Teacher Assistant (PAD scholarship)
1982 - 1/1991 • Studies of Theoretical, French and Spanish Linguistics at Ludwig-
Maximilians Universität München (1986-1990) and Freie Universität Berlin
(1982-1986)
1981 - 1982 • PANA Werk KG, Wolfratshausen (FRG): Executive Training in the
textiles field
1980
Abitur, Gymnasium Pullach (FRG), mathematical/scientific orientation
III

Ralf Steinberger – Word Order Variation in German, Modifiers (Ph.D. Thesis, UMIST 1994)
CONTENTS
1
DESCRIPTION OF THE PROBLEM ........................................................................1
1.1
Scope and Limits of the Thesis ..............................................................................1
1.2
Word Order in a Wider Context.............................................................................6
1.3
Contents................................................................................................................13
1.4.
Problems of German Word Order Description ....................................................16
1.5.
Why Describe Word Order?.................................................................................19
1.5.1
Analysis of German Sentences in NLP ................................................................19
1.5.1.1
Disambiguation of Homonyms ............................................................................20
1.5.1.2
Resolution of PP-Attachment...............................................................................21
1.5.1.3
Recognition of Emphasis .....................................................................................22
1.5.1.4
Contextual Embedding of Sentences ...................................................................23
1.5.1.5
Scope of Degree Modifiers ..................................................................................26
1.5.2
Synthesis of German in NLP................................................................................27
1.5.2.1
Basic Ordering of Constituents ............................................................................30
1.5.2.2
Cumulation of Modifiers......................................................................................30
1.5.2.3
Correct Scope .......................................................................................................31
1.5.2.4
Sentence Embedding ............................................................................................31
1.5.3
Foreign Language Teaching.................................................................................32
2.
COMPLEMENT, MODIFIER, ADVERB AND ADVERB SUBTYPES ...............34
2.1.
Modifiers (Angaben) vs. Complements (Ergänzungen) ......................................35
2.2.
Definition and Classification of Adverbs.............................................................39
2.2.1.
Different Definitions of the Adverb .....................................................................40
2.2.2.
Semantic Classification ........................................................................................43
2.2.3.
Adverbs and Related Word Classes .....................................................................46
2.2.3.1.
Adverbs and Particles...........................................................................................46
2.2.3.2.
Adverbs vs. Conjunctions and Prepositions.........................................................47
2.2.3.3.
Adverbs vs. Adjectives.........................................................................................49
2.2.4
Conclusion, Final Definition................................................................................55
2.3.
Modifier Types (Angabeklassen) .........................................................................57
2.4.
Some Information on the Position of Modifiers ..................................................62
IV

Ralf Steinberger – Word Order Variation in German, Modifiers (Ph.D. Thesis, UMIST 1994)
2.5.
Some Statistical Facts about Adverbs ..................................................................67
3.
FACTORS WHICH DETERMINE GERMAN WORD ORDER ..........................70
3.1
Theme-Rheme Structure ......................................................................................72
3.1.1
Some Definitions of the Terms Theme and Rheme .............................................72
3.1.2
The Realization of Thematic and Rhematic Elements .........................................74
3.1.3
The Order of Thematic and Rhematic Complements...........................................76
3.1.4
The Separation of Theme and Rheme by Modifiers ............................................80
3.2
Behaghel's "Gesetz der wachsenden Glieder"......................................................81
3.3
Functional Sentence Perspective..........................................................................82
3.3.1
Thematisation and Rhematisation ........................................................................84
3.3.2
Further Means to Express Functional Sentence Perspective ...............................85
3.4.
Verbnähe ..............................................................................................................90
3.4.1.
Which Elements are Semantically Close to the Verb?.........................................93
3.4.1.1.
Arguments ............................................................................................................93
3.4.1.2.
Modifiers ..............................................................................................................95
3.4.2.
Limits of the Verbnähe Principle .........................................................................98
3.5.
The Animacy-First Principle................................................................................99
3.6.
Semantic Roles...................................................................................................101
3.7.
Scope ..................................................................................................................103
3.7.1.
Definitions of Scope...........................................................................................104
3.7.2.
Problems with the Term Scope ..........................................................................105
3.7.3.
The Difference between Scope and Focalisation ...............................................107
3.8.
Rhythm ...............................................................................................................108
3.9.
Natural Gender ...................................................................................................109
3.10.
Grammaticalisation (Habit)................................................................................110
3.11.
Lenerz' "Satzklammerbedingung"......................................................................111
4.
THE INTERACTION OF PREFERENCE RULES, AND SOME
RESTRICTIONS.................................................................................................................113
4.1.
Interaction of the Principles ...............................................................................113
4.2.
Relative Weight of some Principles ...................................................................116
4.3.
Calculation of Acceptability ..............................................................................120
4.4.
Restriction on the Interaction of Preference Rules ............................................123
4.4.1.
Syntactic Subordination .....................................................................................123
V

Ralf Steinberger – Word Order Variation in German, Modifiers (Ph.D. Thesis, UMIST 1994)
4.4.2.
Possessive Relations...........................................................................................125
4.4.3.
Quantificational Elements ..................................................................................126
4.4.4.
The Pragmatic Need of a Sentence Focus..........................................................126
4.5.
Summary ............................................................................................................129
5.
HOW TO DESCRIBE GERMAN FREE WORD ORDER FORMALLY ..........131
5.1.
Acceptability Calculation and LP Rule Disjunction ..........................................131
5.2.
The Relevance of a Canonical Form for German ..............................................133
5.3.
Canonical Forms for German in Literature ........................................................137
5.3.1.
Engel's Canonical Form .....................................................................................138
5.3.2.
Hoberg's Canonical Form...................................................................................139
5.3.3.
New Preliminary Canonical Form .....................................................................141
5.4.
Why Do some Sentences Differ from the Basic Word Order ............................145
5.5.
The Vorfeld Position ..........................................................................................149
5.6.
The Importance of Theme, Rheme and Focus ...................................................154
6.
AIDS FOR COMPUTATIONAL ANALYSIS........................................................159
6.1.
Compulsory Orders ............................................................................................159
6.2.
Recognition of Focus .........................................................................................163
6.3.
Recognition or Theme and Rheme.....................................................................167
6.4.
Some More Details.............................................................................................171
6.4.1.
Permutation of Pragmatic Modifiers ..................................................................171
6.4.2.
Permutation of Modal Modifiers........................................................................172
6.4.3.
Permutation of Pragmatic and Situative/Modal Modifiers ................................173
6.4.4.
Permutation of Situative Modifiers ....................................................................174
6.5.
Final Version of the Canonical Form.................................................................177
6.5.1.
Placement of the Theme.....................................................................................177
6.5.2.
Placement of the Rheme.....................................................................................180
6.5.3.
Placement of the Focus ......................................................................................184
6.6.
Preferential PP Attachment ................................................................................189
6.7.
Dictionary Entries for Adverbs ..........................................................................191
6.7.1.
Coding of Adverbs in the Dictionary .................................................................191
6.7.2.
Some Generalizations.........................................................................................201
6.8.
Summary of Chapter 6 .......................................................................................203
VI

Ralf Steinberger – Word Order Variation in German, Modifiers (Ph.D. Thesis, UMIST 1994)
7.
CONCLUDING REMARKS ....................................................................................205
8.
APPENDIX.................................................................................................................210
8.1.
Angabestellungsklassen (according to Hoberg, 1981: 106-131) .......................210
8.2.
Alphabetical Listing of Modifiers......................................................................214
8.3.
Listing of Modifiers According to Position Classes ..........................................230
8.4.
Canonical Form (Final Version, cf. 6.5.3) .........................................................248
9.
BIBLIOGRAPHY......................................................................................................249

VII

Ralf Steinberger – Word Order Variation in German, Modifiers (Ph.D. Thesis, UMIST 1994)
ABBREVIATIONS
a Angabe
(modifier)

ai
index numbers (i) refer to Hoberg's position classes_a1-a44 (cf.
8.1)

amod
modal modifiers (a42-a44)

aneg
negational modifiers (a40)

apragm, aexist
pragmatic (existimatorial) modifiers (a1 - a18)

asit
situative modifiers (a19-a40)
+/- a
+/- animate
A accusative
case
Adj predicate
adjective
adv adverb
ap adjectival
phrase
card cardinal
numbers
Comp
Comparability (can an adverb be compared?)
conj conjunction
D dative
case
+/- d
+/- definite
DIR directional
complement
Dist
Distance (can a degree modifier be separated from the modified

phrase?)
EN
Ulrich Engel (1988)
Exp expansive
complement
FSP
functional sentence perspective
G, GEN
genitive case
Grad
gradability (can an adverb be modified by a degree modifier?)
HK87
Mannheimer Handbuchkorpus 1987 (cf. 6.7)
HO
Ursula Hoberg (1981)
man
manner modifiers (a43)
N nominative
case
Neg
Negability (can an adverb be negated?)
Nom predicate
noun
NP nominal
phrase
npp
NP or PP
OF Obligatorische-Folge-Regel
PO prepositional
object
PP prepositional
phrase
pragm
pragmatic modifiers (a1-a18)
Pred
predicative use (can an adverb be used predicatively?)
Pre/Post
Does a degree modifier precede or follow modified phrases?
pron pronominal
RS Ralf
Steinberger
s sentence
Sit situative
complement
sit
situative modifiers (a19-a40)
VIII

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