Semantic role labeling

Semantic role labeling, sometimes also called shallow semantic parsing, is a task in natural language processing consisting of the detection of the semantic arguments associated with the predicate or verb of a sentence and their classification into their specific roles. For example, given a sentence like "Mary sold the book to John", the task would be to recognize the verb "to sell" as representing the predicate, "Mary" as representing the seller (agent), "the book" as representing the goods (theme), and "John" as representing the recipient. This is an important step towards making sense of the meaning of a sentence. A semantic representation of this sort is at a higher-level of abstraction than a syntax tree. For instance, the sentence "The book was sold by Mary to John" has a different syntactic form, but the same semantic roles.


The FrameNet project produced the first major computational lexicon that systematically described many predicates and their corresponding roles. Daniel Gildea (University of California, Berkeley / International Computer Science Institute) and Daniel Jurafsky (currently teaching at Stanford University, but previously working at University of Colorado and UC Berkeley) developed the first automatic semantic role labeling system based on FrameNet. The PropBank corpus added manually created semantic role annotations to the Penn TreeBank corpus of Wall Street Journal texts. Many automatic semantic role labeling systems have used PropBank as a training dataset to learn how to annotate new sentences automatically.

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