SIR: A Computer Program for Semantic Information Retrieval

Unknown author (1964-06-01)

SIR is a computer system, programmed in the LISP language, which accepts information and answers questions expressed in a restricted form of English. This system demonstrates what can reasonably be called an ability to "understand" semantic information. SIR's semantic and deductive ability is based on the construction of an internal model, which uses word associations and property lists, for the relational information normally conveyed in conversational statements. A format-matching procedure extracts semantic content from English sentences. If an input sentence is declarative, the system adds appropriate information to the model. If an input sentence is a question, the system searches the model until it either finds the answer or determines why it cannot find the answer. In all cases SIR reports its conclusions. The system has some capacity to recognize exceptions to general rules, resolve certain semantic ambiguities, and modify its model structure in order to save computer memory space. Judging from its conversational ability, SIR, is a first step toward intelligent man-machine communication. The author proposes a next step by describing how to construct a more general system which is less complex and yet more powerful than SIR. This proposed system contains a generalized version of the SIR model, a formal logical system called SIR1, and a computer program for testing the truth of SIR1 statements with respect to the generalized model by using partial proof procedures in the predicate calculus. The thesis also describes the formal properties of SIR1 and how they relate to the logical structure of SIR.