Reconciling Control and Discourse Structure

  • Susan E. Strayer
  • Peter A. Heeman
  • Fan Yang
Part of the Text, Speech and Language Technology book series (TLTB, volume 22)


In this paper we consider how control (initiative) is managed in task-oriented dialogues. We propose that control is subordinate to discourse structure. The initiator of a discourse structure segment has control for the entire segment, except occasionally when the non-initiator takes control briefly, then control generally reverts immediately back to the segment initiator, or a new block begins. In analyzing dialogues from the TRAINS corpus we find that inside a segment initiated by one speaker, the other speaker only makes two types of contributions: collaborative completions, in which the non-initiator helps the segment initiator achieve their goal of completing an utterance, and short contributions to the discourse segment purpose. The proposal has important implications for dialogue management: a system only needs to model intentional structure, from which control follows.

Key words

discourse structure mixed initiative dialogue subdialogues acknowledgements 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan E. Strayer
    • 1
  • Peter A. Heeman
    • 1
  • Fan Yang
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Computer Science and Engineering, OGI School of Science and EngineeringOregon Health & Science UniversityBeavertonUSA

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