Linguistics in Göttingen - A platform for empirical and theoretical linguistics

Daniele Panizza (Göttingen)

Building a Minimalist parser

The Minimalist Program (Chomsky, 1993, 1995) is a program within the generative grammar approach that aims at accounting for universal grammatical principles and the attested cross-linguistic variation in the most economic way. While this program had a strong influence on the research in theoretical linguistics in the last two decades, only recently in the field of computational linguistics efforts to build minimalism-based parsers have been made (cf. Fong, 2012 and references therein).

We will present the initial results from the Göttingen minimalist parsing group, an ongoing project that aims at achieving the two following goals: (i) to investigate to what extent Minimalist Grammar is parsable and how its parsability compares to other grammatical frameworks; and (ii) to see how issues concerning parsability can inform us about modifying minimalist principles.

In a nutshell, our parser is a binary tree based bottom-up parser, consisting of a morphologizer, a memory buffer, a structure builder driven by compositional rules, and a feature-checking algorithm that is responsible for case and phi-feature checking as well as triggering different types of (Wh-) movement.

In its current state, it is capable of deriving the structure of simple transitive propositions, passive propositions, interrogatives, Wh-interrogatives, structurally ambiguous sentences, as well as sentences including different kinds of modifiers (propositional phrases, adjectives, adverbs etc.).

During this presentation we will illustrate the basic concepts behind the parser together with their theoretical motivations and computational effectiveness, as well as various more complicated applications.