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User-System Dialogues and the Notion of Focus

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http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0269888998004068
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-408
Number of pages28
JournalKnowledge Engineering Review
Volume13
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1998

Abstract

In recent years, the capabilities of knowledge-based systems to communicate with their users have evolved from simple interactions to complex dialogues. With this evolution comes a need to understand what makes a good dialogue. In this paper, we are concerned with dialogue coherence. We review the notion of focus, which partly explains this property, and its use for user-system communication. First, we examine the major theories dealing with this notion. We describe what their contribution is and how they differ. Then, we illustrate the benefits of using the notion of focus and especially the improvement in text coherence. We pay particular attention to how the notion can concretely be implemented. Its integration with other techniques and theories is described. We conclude the paper by pointing out remaining issues in the understanding of the notion of focus. The contribution of this paper is to provide a classification of the theories of focus and to show the improvements they offer in elaborate user-system dialogues.

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