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Memory Requirements and Local Ambiguities of Parsing Strategies

Summary: Memory Requirements and Local Ambiguities
of Parsing Strategies
Memory requirements and local ambiguities are two considerations that have played an
important role in shaping the parsers adopted in the psycholinguistic and computational linguistic
literatures. To the best of our knowledge, however, memory requirements and local ambiguities
of psycholinguistically interesting classes of parsing strategies have never been explicitly
defined, much less rigorously explored. This paper is an initial attempt to remedy the situation.
It is widely assumed that the human parser operates under the strictest constraints on space
resources. For example, the classical explanation for the uninterpretability of center-embedded
examples is stack overflow: parsing a sentence like the rat the cat the dog chased bit ate the
cheese is difficult because it requires holding on to too many incomplete substructures (Chomsky
& Miller 1963). Since that example involves a maximum of only three or four incomplete
constituents, the stack-overflow explanation entails limits on space resources that are Draconian
indeed. Even if we assume that additional factors are involved in center embedding, there are
well-established limits on short-term memory that are often taken to imply corresponding limits
on the space available to the parser. It seems safe to assume that a very small constant number of
short-term memory units are available, where one memory unit is sufficient space for one parse-
tree node.
Steven P. Abney


Source: Abney, Steven P. - School of Information, University of Michigan


Collections: Computer Technologies and Information Sciences