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Measure for Measure: Parser Cross-Fertilization. Towards Increased Component Comparability and Exchange

Stephan Oepen; Ulrich Callmeier
In: Proceedings of the 6th International Workshop on Parsing Technology. International Conference on Parsing Technologies (IWPT-00), February 23-25, Trento, Italy, Pages 183-194, 2000.


Over the past few years significant progress was accomplished in efficient processing with wide-coverage HPSG grammars. HPSG-based parsing systems are now available that can process medium-complexity sentences (of ten to twenty words, say) in average parse times equivalent to real (i.e. human reading) time. A large number of engineering improvements in current HPSG systems were achieved through collaboration of multiple research centers and mutual exchange of experience, encoding techniques, algorithms, and even pieces of software. This article presents an approach to grammar and system engineering, termed competence & performance profiling, that makes systematic experimentation and the precise empirical study of system properties a focal point in development. Adapting the profiling metaphor familiar from software engineering to constraint-based grammars and parsers, enables developers to maintain an accurate record of system evolution, identify grammar and system deficiencies quickly, and compare to earlier versions or between different systems. We discuss a number of exemplary problems that motivate the experimental approach, and apply the empirical methodology in a fairly detailed discussion of what was achieved during a development period of three years. Given the collaborative nature in setup, the empirical results we present involve research and achievements of a large group of people.

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