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Conversation Acts in Task-Oriented Spoken Dialogue

David Traum; Elizabeth Hinkelman
DFKI, DFKI Research Reports (RR), Vol. 93-32, 1993.


A linguistic form's compositional, timeless meaning can be surrounded or even contradicted by various social, aesthetic, or analogistic companion meanings. This paper addresses a series of problems in the structure of spoken language discourse, including turn-taking and grounding. It views these processes as composed of fine-grained actions, which resemble speech acts both in resulting from a computational mechanism of planning and in having a rich relationship to the specific linguistic features which serve to indicate their presence. The resulting notion of Conversation Acts is more general than speech act theory, encompassing not only the traditional speech acts but turn-taking, grounding, and higher-level argumentation acts as well. Furthermore, the traditional speech acts in this scheme become fully joint actions, whose successful performance requires full listener participation. This paper presents a detailed analysis of spoken language dialogue. It shows the role of each class of conversation acts in discourse structure, and discusses how members of each class can be recognized in conversation. Conversation acts, it will be seen, better account for the success of conversation than speech act theory alone.