Torabi Asr, Fatemeh; Demberg, Vera

Uniform Information Density at the Level of Discourse Relations: Negation Markers and Discourse Connective Omission

IWCS 2015, pp. 118, 2015.

About half of the discourse relations annotated in Penn Discourse Treebank (Prasad et al., 2008) are not explicitly marked using a discourse connective. But we do not have extensive theories of when or why a discourse relation is marked explicitly or when the connective is omitted. Asr and Demberg (2012a) have suggested an information-theoretic perspective according to which discourse connectives are more likely to be omitted when they are marking a relation that is expected or predictable. This account is based on the Uniform Information Density theory (Levy and Jaeger, 2007), which suggests that speakers choose among alternative formulations that are allowed in their language the ones that achieve a roughly uniform rate of information transmission. Optional discourse markers should thus be omitted if they would lead to a trough in information density, and be inserted in order to avoid peaks in information density. We here test this hypothesis by observing how far a specific cue, negation in any form, affects the discourse relations that can be predicted to hold in a text, and how the presence of this cue in turn affects the use of explicit discourse connectives.