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Feature-Based Inheritance Networks for Computational Lexicons

Hans-Ulrich Krieger; John Nerbonne
DFKI, DFKI Research Reports (RR), Vol. 91-31, 1991.


The virtues of viewing the lexicon as an inheritance network are its succinctness and its tendency to highlight significant clusters of linguistic properties. From its succinctness follow two practical advantages, namely its ease of maintenance and modification. In this paper we present a feature-based foundation for lexical inheritance. We argue that the feature-based foundation is both more economical and expressively more powerful than non-feature-based systems. It is more economical because it employs only mechanisms already assumed to be present elsewhere in the grammar (viz., in the feature system), and it is more expressive because feature systems are more expressive than other mechanisms used in expressing lexical inheritance (cf. DATR). The lexicon furthermore allows the use of default unification, based on the ideas of default unification, defined by Bouma. These claims are buttressed in sections sketching the opportunities for lexical description in feature-based lexicons in two central lexical topics, inflection and derivation. Briefly, we argue that the central notion of paradigm may be defined in feature structures, and that it may be more satisfactorily (in fact, immediately) linked to the syntactic information in this fashion. Our discussion of derivation is more programmatic; but here, too, we argue that feature structures of a suitably rich sort provide a foundation for the defintion of lexical rules. We illustrate theoretical claims in application to German lexis. This work is currently under implementation in a natural language understanding effort (DISCO) at the German Artifical Intelligence Center (Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz).