Modeling the Clarification Potential of Instructions: Predicting Clarification Requests and Other Reactions

Luciana Benotti, Patrick Blackburn

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


We hypothesize that conversational implicatures are a rich source of clarification requests, and in this paper we do two things. First, we motivate the hypothesis in theoretical, practical and empirical terms and formulate it as a concrete Clarification Potential Principle: implicatures may become explicit as fourth-level clarification requests. Second, we present a framework for generating the clarification potential of an instruction by inferring its conversational implicatures with respect to a particular context. We evaluate the framework and illustrate its performance using a human-human corpus of situated conversations. Much of the inference required can be handled using classical planning, though as we shall note, other forms of means-ends analysis are also required. Our framework leads us to view discourse structure as emerging via opportunistic responses to task structure.
Original languageEnglish
JournalComputer Speech and Language
Pages (from-to)536-551
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017


  • clarification requests
  • level-sensitive Gabsdil test
  • conversational implicature
  • dialogue systems
  • classical planning
  • micro-planning
  • negotiability
  • tacit acts
  • explicatures
  • emergent structure
  • opportunistic theories of communication

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