Automatic Recognition of the General-Purpose Communicative Functions Defined by the ISO 24617-2 Standard for Dialog Act Annotation

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Eugénio Ribeiro
Ricardo Ribeiro
David Martins de Matos


From the perspective of a dialog system, it is important to identify the intention behind the segments in a dialog, since it provides an important cue regarding the information that is present in the segments and how they should be interpreted. ISO 24617-2, the standard for dialog act annotation, defines a hierarchically organized set of general-purpose communicative functions which correspond to different intentions that are relevant in the context of a dialog. We explore the automatic recognition of these communicative functions in the DialogBank, which is a reference set of dialogs annotated according to this standard. To do so, we propose adaptations of existing approaches to flat dialog act recognition that allow them to deal with the hierarchical classification problem. More specifically, we propose the use of an end-to-end hierarchical network with cascading outputs and maximum a posteriori path estimation to predict the communicative function at each level of the hierarchy, preserve the dependencies between the functions in the path, and decide at which level to stop. Furthermore, since the amount of dialogs in the DialogBank is small, we rely on transfer learning processes to reduce overfitting and improve performance. The results of our experiments show that our approach outperforms both a flat one and hierarchical approaches based on multiple classifiers and that each of its components plays an important role towards the recognition of general-purpose communicative functions.

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