Resolving Ambiguities in the Semantic Interpretation of Natural Language Questions

  • Serge Linckels
  • Christoph Meinel
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 4224)


Our project is about an e-librarian service which is able to retrieve multimedia resources from a knowledge base in a more efficient way than by browsing through an index or by using a simple keyword search. The user can formulate a complete question in natural language and submit it to the semantic search engine.

However, natural language is not a formal language and thus can cause ambiguities in the interpretation of the sentence. Normally, the correct interpretation can only be retrieved accurately by putting each word in the context of a complete question.

In this paper we present an algorithm which is able to resolve ambiguities in the semantic interpretation of NL questions. As the required input, it takes a linguistic pre-processed question and translates it into a logical and unambiguous form, i.e. \(\mathcal{ALC}\) terminology. The focus function resolves ambiguities in the question; it returns the best possible interpretation for a given word in the context of the complete user question. Finally, pertinent documents can be retrieved from the knowledge base.

We report on a benchmark test with a prototype that confirms the reliability of our algorithm. From 229 different user questions, the system returned the right answer for 97% of the questions, and only one answer, i.e. the best one, for nearly half of the questions.


Description Logic Benchmark Test Semantic Interpretation User Question Focus Function 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Serge Linckels
    • 1
    • 2
  • Christoph Meinel
    • 1
  1. 1.Hasso-Plattner-Institut (HPI)Potsdam UniversityPotsdamGermany
  2. 2.Luxembourg International Advanced Studies in Information Technologies (LIASIT)LuxembourgLuxembourg

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