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Parsing "Was Ada Lovelace a daughter of Lord Byron?"

vrijdag 22 juli 2011 21:54

For the parser I am trying to write I need a fresh sentence to parse every week or so. This week the sentence is

"Was Ada Lovelace a daughter of Lord Byron?"                     (I'm using Byron related sentences)

This is a so-called "Yes-No question" and its phrase structure is something like this:

S
+--- aux (was)
+--- NP (proper noun: Ada Lovelace)
+--- NP
       +--- NP (determiner: a, noun: daughter)
       +--- PP (preposition: of, proper noun: Lord Byron)

Simple, but there is a problem: the books I read on the subjects tell me that a yes-no-question has the structure:

S
+--- aux
+--- NP
+--- VP

So I thought i'd get me an authorative reference on the subject. There is one. It's called "A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language". But it's expensive ($110.-) So I thought I'd see if I could find a second-hand copy. There weren't any cheap ones. But then I did find a xeroxed version of the book here. Great, now I could lookup if S -> aux NP NP was also allowed.

The reference doesn't say. But it does say that "Again as with negation, main verb BE functions as operator". Where operator equals aux(iliary). But if the word was is the auxilliary then there has to be a main verb as well. Except there isn't! So I guess that the main verb is implicit, and I though what word it could be. First I landed on identified which is close, but does make the sentence flow a little bit awkwardly.

And then it came to me, and that's why I wrote this piece, that the word is being:

"Was Ada Lovelace being a daughter of Lord Byron?"

Which yields:

S
+--- aux (was)
+--- NP (proper noun: Ada Lovelace)
+--- VP
       +--- verb (being)
       +--- NP
              +--- NP (determiner: a, noun: daughter)
              +--- PP (preposition: of, proper noun: Lord Byron)

This is all swell, but my parser doesn't read implicit words. So I will allow the S -> aux NP NP in my parser, and I will let it generate the verb being.

PS: If you are reading this and you know it is nonsense, please let me know (kindly), but you will have to provide a better alternative!

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nlp

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