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Kathleen O'Toole, News Service (650) 725-1939; e-mail:

Linguistic theory to be basis for intelligent e-mail response product

Stanford University's Center for the Study of Language and Information (CSLI) today announced the first commercial application of its LinGO technology. CSLI's research efforts in theoretical and computational linguistics have been adopted as the basis for an intelligent e-mail response system developed by YY Software Corp., a privately held company in Mountain View, Calif.

YY has incorporated technology freely available from CSLI ( into a suite of software products. (See for details.) Dan Flickinger, a linguist who is project manager of the Linguistic Grammars Online (LinGO) Project at CSLI and chief technical officer at YY, has played a key role in this technology transfer.

"It's very rewarding to see that this research can provide the basis for improved interpretation of the huge and growing volume of commercial e-mail," Flickinger said. "We believe our approach has considerable promise in this area. The interpretations are highly accurate because they're based on grammatical rules that describe the way people actually communicate, but the process is flexible enough so that it doesn't stumble over individual expression."

CSLI's LinGO Project is developing natural language technology that uses precise grammars for parsing (using grammatical rules to ascribe structure and meaning to a linear sequence of words) and generating spoken or written phrases. LinGO researchers have built a large-scale grammar for English using a framework known as Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG), which was invented at CSLI in the 1980s and has been refined over the years by an international research community.

HPSG theory derives its name from the fundamental notion that many natural language phrases are built around a single word (its "head") whose dictionary entry specifies detailed information that determines the crucial grammatical properties of the phrase.

More simply, HPSG recognizes that the words we in use in everyday language are information rich, and it provides a precise theory of how that information is represented. Construction rules, taken together with general principles of the theory, allow the information encoded in certain key words to determine the nature of complex sentences.

Understanding the key words, and the phrase structures that are most likely to surround those words based on grammatical rules, is what allows the technology to be well suited for uses such as YY Software's e-mail response system. This patented technology utilizes a Language Server that, in combination with a knowledge base, does both knowledge processing and linguistic analysis.

About the HPSG and LinGO Projects

The Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG) project continues to develop mathematically precise grammars and lexicons of a variety of human languages. Theoretical and analytic research in HPSG has spawned an international interest in language-processing computing technology that incorporates HPSG grammars and lexicons. At present, HPSG-related system development is ongoing in numerous university and industrial settings in the United States, Canada, Japan, Korea and Western Europe.

Using the HPSG framework, the Linguistic Grammars Online (LinGO) project has built a large-scale grammar for English that is currently in use in the Verbmobil machine translation system (described in the May 2000 issue of Wired magazine). LinGo researchers are also incorporating the grammar (in a project supported by the National Science Foundation) into a novel approach to language generation, applying it to computer-aided text and speech generation for people with physical disabilities of various kinds. More about the HPSG and LinGO projects can be found on the World Wide Web at and Or e-mail Flickinger (

About CSLI

The Center for the Study of Language and Information (CSLI) is an independent research center founded in 1983 by researchers from Stanford University, international technology vendor SRI International and the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). CSLI is devoted to research in the emerging science of information, computing and cognition. CSLI regularly holds conferences to inform its industrial affiliates of research in progress. Some affiliated companies send researchers to the campus for collaborations. More about CSLI can be found on the World Wide Web at



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