Identifying Discourse Markers in Spoken Dialog

Peter A. Heeman, Donna Byron and James F. Allen

In this paper, we present a method for identifying discourse marker usage in spontaneous speech based on machine learning. Discourse markers are denoted by special POS tags, and thus the process of POS tagging can be used to identify discourse markers. By incorporating POS tagging into language modeling, discourse markers can be identified during speech recognition, in which the timeliness of the information can be used to help predict the following words. We contrast this approach with an alternative machine learning approach proposed by Litman (1996). This paper also argues that discourse markers can be used to help the hearer predict the role that the upcoming utterance plays in the dialog. Thus discourse markers should provide valuable evidence for automatic dialog act prediction.

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