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Section: Research Program


The Sémagramme project relies on deep mathematical foundations. We intend to develop models based on well-established mathematics. We seek two main advantages from this approach. On the one hand, by relying on mature theories, we have at our disposal sets of mathematical tools that we can use to study our models. On the other hand, developing various models on a common mathematical background will make them easier to integrate, and will ease the search for unifying principles.

The main mathematical domains on which we rely are formal language theory, symbolic logic, and type theory.

Formal language theory

Formal language theory studies the purely syntactic and combinatorial aspects of languages, seen as sets of strings (or possibly trees or graphs). Formal language theory has been especially fruitful for the development of parsing algorithms for context-free languages. We use it, in a similar way, to develop parsing algorithms for formalisms that go beyond context-freeness. Language theory also appears to be very useful in formally studying the expressive power and the complexity of the models we develop.

Symbolic logic

Symbolic logic (and, more particularly, proof-theory) is concerned with the study of the expressive and deductive power of formal systems. In a rule-based approach to computational linguistics, the use of symbolic logic is ubiquitous. As we previously said, at the level of syntax, several kinds of grammars (generative, categorial...) may be seen as basic deductive systems. At the level of semantics, the meaning of an utterance is capture by computing (intermediate) semantic representations that are expressed as logical forms. Finally, using symbolic logics allows one to formalize notions of inference and entailment that are needed at the level of pragmatics.

Type theory and typed λ-calculus

Among the various possible logics that may be used, Church's simply typed λ-calculus and simple theory of types (a.k.a. higher-order logic) play a central part. On the one hand, Montague semantics is based on the simply typed λ-calculus, and so is our syntax-semantics interface model. On the other hand, as shown by Gallin, [38] the target logic used by Montague for expressing meanings (i.e., his intensional logic) is essentially a variant of higher-order logic featuring three atomic types (the third atomic type standing for the set of possible worlds).