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A Short History of HPSG in Tübingen

The HPSG-projects at the Linguistics Department began at the beginning of 1992 with project B4, Constraints on Grammar for Efficient Generation, by Erhard Hinrichs and Dale Gerdemann in the former Special Research Program (SFB) 340. This project began with the intention of exploring the problems of language generation from the paradigm of head-driven processing. With the fortunate addition of Paul King and collaborator Guido Minnen to our team, the project quickly turned its attention to the examination of the logical foundations HPSG as the most promising grammar formalism. This research also focused on the creation of a suitable implementation platform for HPSG grammars (which would later lead to the development of Troll and from there, the final development of the ConTroll system), and the specification and implementation of suitable grammar fragments and example analyses, particularly in German, to collect experience with linguistic theory formation and its computational application. 

Parallel to these developments, Tilman Höhle offered an introductory seminar based on HPSG to Syntax, in the German department, during the summer of 1992. These introductory seminars had previously taken Generalized Phrase Structure Grammar or the Government and Binding Framework in the Chomskian tradition as their starting point. This was a particularly fortunate time, as Carl Pollard, guest professor of the B4 project, was then available and willing to take over the introductory courses and report first hand on the latest developments in research. In the same semester, Paul King held a seminar on the basics of HPSG, which covered the topic of Speciate Re-entrant Logic, discussed in his 1989 dissertation. In this course, he expanded the aspects discussed in his dissertation by discussing the meaning of grammars from a model theoretical perspective. Since then, we have incorporated an introduction to HPSG, advanced courses in the various problems of HPSG application to individual linguistic phenomena, as well as advanced courses in HPSG logical foundations and/or grammar implementation into the course programs of our Linguistics Department. 

The second phase of the HPSG-projects of the SFB 340, during the time from 1995 to 1997 brought a new direction: there were now two, instead of one, HPSG projects. Under its new name, From Constraints to Rules: Efficient Compilation of HPSG Grammars, the objective of B4 was then to establish an efficient implementation platform in the evolution of the Troll-System, developed during the first term. It was intended that the functionality of the new Troll system be oriented toward the logical foundations of HPSG and at the same time linguistically motivated grammars of theoretical interest. The principle task of the new co-project B8, An HPSG-Syntax fragment for German was to be the generation of an empirically and theoretically interesting syntactic and semantic fragment of German, done in cooperation with a semantic SFB-project, based at the University of Stuttgart. The objectives of the fragment project were twofold. One objective was integrating, as much as possible, all the findings of the SFB into one extensive, consistent entirety. Additionally, the fragment project was also to lay the groundwork for Project B4, by preparing concrete grammars of German for B4's implementation platform. At the same time as these endeavors, the projects of the Verbmobil consortium that were located in Tübingen started to use HPSG. Within several reading groups, which were often enhanced by visiting academics, exchange students and Ph.D. candidates of the graduate college Integriertes Linguistikstudium, a lively, productive environment emerged. These discussions increasingly went beyond the set topics of the SFB 340 projects to address questions of empirical and theoretical linguistics on the basis of the HPSG framework. 

In the last stage of the SFB 340, which began in 1998, projects B4 and B8 were combined into a single, bigger project. There was a switchover from the discontinued ConTroll system to TRALE. Gerald Penn's experiences with ALE inspired its merger with ConTroll to form TRALE. This marriage of the systems gave us the best of both worlds. While ConTroll was emphatically characterized by our orientation toward theoretical linguistics, ALE availed to us efficient methods of parsing. To re-enforce the objectives of the project, the syntax fragment of German was re-written for TRALE and expanded by further syntactic phenomena, which was prompted by theoretical linguistics. During this period many dissertations were completed by many colleagues within the SFB as well as by researchers related to the SFB project. Against the backdrop of the collaboration of Paul King and Kiril Simov, of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia, who initiated the international doctoral program of CLaRK, Anna Kupsc and Gergana Popova as well as others arrived to work as the next generation of researchers on HPSG analyses of a number of languages. 

By the time we closed the HPSG project of the SFB 340 at the end of 2000, we had developed a collaborative research exchange with the University of Essex, comparing and contrasting HPSG and Lexical Functional Grammar. Within the scope of this collaboration, we organized six international workshops and offered a two week ESSLLI summer school course. An additional post SFB HPSG project was a collaboration with the BulTreeBank-Project at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, on the topic of the creation of an HPSG-treebank of Bulgarian. Two new, extensive research projects were begun, namely the MiLCA project Grammar Formalisms and Parsing and the A5-Project Distributional Idiosyncrasies of the new Tübingen SFB 441, in the autumn of 2001 and January 2002. 

For the next exciting episode of HPSG in Tübingen, our webpages of running projects will keep you posted.

Last modified: 11.09.2002