Identification of Pleonastic It Using the Web

Y. Li, P. Musilek, M. Reformat, and L. Wyard-Scott

In a significant minority of cases, certain pronouns, especially the pronoun it, can be used without referring to any specific entity. This phenomenon of pleonastic pronoun usage poses serious problems for systems aiming at even a shallow understanding of natural language texts. In this paper, a novel approach is proposed to identify such uses of it: the extrapositional cases are identified using a series of queries against the web, and the cleft cases are identified using a simple set of syntactic rules. The system is evaluated with four sets of news articles containing 679 extrapositional cases as well as 78 cleft constructs. The identification results are comparable to those obtained by human efforts.


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