Discourse Relations and Evaluation

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Trnavac, R., D. Das and M. Taboada (2016) Discourse relations and evaluationCorpora 11(2): 169-190. https://doi.org/10.3366/cor.2016.0091

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Discourse relations
Rhetorical Structure Theory
Appraisal Theory

We examine the role of discourse relations (relations between propositions) in the interpretation of evaluative or opinion words. Through a combination of Rhetorical Structure Theory or RST (Mann & Thompson, 1988) and Appraisal Theory (Martin & White, 2005), we analyze how different discourse relations modify the evaluative content of opinion words, and what impact the nucleus-satellite structure in RST has on the evaluation. We conduct a corpus study, examining and annotating over 3,000 evaluative words in 50 movie reviews in the SFU Review Corpus (Taboada, 2008) with respect to five parameters: word category (nouns, verbs, adjectives or adverbs), prior polarity (positive, negative or neutral), RST structure (both nucleus-satellite status and relation type) and change of polarity as a result of being part of a discourse relation (Intensify, Downtone, Reversal or No Change). Results show that relations such as Concession, Elaboration, Evaluation, Evidence and Restatement most frequently intensify the polarity of the opinion words, although the majority of evaluative words (about 70%) do not undergo changes in their polarity because of the relations they are a part of. We also find that most opinion words (about 70%) are positioned in the nucleus, confirming a hypothesis in the literature, that nuclei are the most important units when extracting evaluation automatically.

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Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)