BiCi Seminar "Frontiers and Connections between Argumentation Theory and Natural Language Processing"

Bertinoro, Italy
July 20th-25th, 2014
Bertinoro International Center for Informatics (BiCi)
Bertinoro, Italy
The seminar will be held in the BiCi, which is located in the small medieval hilltop town of Bertinoro, Italy, about 50km east of Bologna. The town is picturesque. Meetings are held in an archiepiscopal castle that has been converted into a modern conference center.
Large amounts of text are added to the Web daily from social media, web-based commerce, scientific papers, eGovernment consultations, etc. Such texts are used to make decisions in the sense that people read the texts, carry out some informal analysis, and then (in the best case) make a decision; for example, a consumer might read the comments on an Amazon website about a camera before deciding what camera to buy. The problem is that the information is distributed, unstructured, and not cumulative. In addition, the argument structure – justifications for a claim and criticisms – might be implicit or explicit within some document, but harder to discern across documents. The sheer volume of information overwhelms users. Given all these problems, reasoning about arguments on the web is currently infeasible.
A solution to these problems would be to develop tools to aggregate, synthesize, structure, summarize, and reason about arguments in texts. Such tools would enable users to search for particular topics and their justifications, trace through the argument (justifications for justifications and so on), as well as to systematically and formally reason about the graph of arguments. By doing so, a user would have a better, more systematic basis for making a decision. However, deep, manual analysis of texts is time-consuming, knowledge intensive, and thus unscalable. To acquire, generate, and transmit the arguments, we need scalable machine-based or machine-supported approaches to extract arguments. The application of tools to mine arguments would be very broad and deep given the variety of contexts where arguments appear and the purposes they are put to.
On the one hand, text analysis is a promising approach to identify and extract arguments from text, receiving attention from the natural language processing community. For example, there are approaches on argumentation mining of legal documents, on-line debates, product reviews, newspaper articles, court cases, scientific articles, and other areas. On the other hand, computational models of argumentation have made substantial progress in providing abstract, formal models to represent and reason over complex argumentation graphs. The literature covers alternative models, a range of semantics, complexity, and formal dialogues. Yet, there needs to be progress not only within each domain, but in bridging between textual and abstract representations of argument so as to enable reasoning from source text.
To make progress and realize automated argumentation, a range of interdisciplinary approaches, skills, and collaborations are required, covering natural language processing technology, linguistic theories of syntax, semantics, pragmatics and discourse, domain knowledge such as law and science, computer science techniques in artificial intelligence, argumentation theory, and computational models of argumentation.
Objectives and Outcomes
The objective of the seminar is to gather an interdisciplinary group of scholars together for an extended, collaborative discussion about the various aspects of connecting argumentation and natural language processing. The intended outcome of the seminar is a roadmap that outlines the state-of-the art, identifies key problems and issues, and suggests approaches to addressing them. More precisely, theseminar is conceived for the writing of a monograph “A Prospective View of Argumentation Theory and Natural Language Processing” that should become a standard reference in the field and should provide guidelines for future research by putting that activity in focus and identify the most significant research issues in combining these two research fields. This roadmap will have several sections authored by the participants at the seminar and edited by the seminar organizers.
Format and Process
The seminar will adopt a structure, where personal interaction and open discussion are prominent, emphasizing discussion of results, ideas, sketches, works in progress, and open problems. Participants will be requested to prepare individual contributions around specific topics (see a tentative list below) so that the outcome of the workshop will constitute a roadmap for the area to be published in the near future. The allocation of topics as well as the mechanism for compiling and elaborating contributions into a coherent draft — that will form the working document for the workshop — will be made known in a future communication to those individuals who accept to participate in this workshop.
Currently we have identified the following areas of research to be presented for discussion at the workshop (and we welcome suggestions about additional topics):

  • Automatic identification of argument elements and relationships between arguments in a document;
  • Argumentation and negation & contrariness;
  • Argumentation and discourse;
  • Argumentation and dialogue;
  • Approaches combining NLP methods and argumentation frameworks;
  • Creation/evaluation of high quality annotated natural language corpora to prove argumentative models on naturally occurring data, or to train automatic systems on tasks related to argumentation (e.g. arguments detection).
  • Applications of argumentation mining: summarization, extraction, visualization, retrieval;

Elena Cabrio
INRIA Sophia-Antipolis Mediterranee, France
Serena Villata
INRIA Sophia-Antipolis Mediterranee, France
Adam Wyner
University of Aberdeen, Scotland
Structure of Position Paper Submissions
Participants will be expected to submit position papers (with references) prior to the seminar. Submissions details will be discussed over the course of the seminar. The seminar organizers will facilitate a fruitful exchange of ideas and information in order to integrate the discussion topics.
Position papers should follow the two-column format of ACL 2014 proceedings without exceeding eight (6) pages of content plus two extra pages for references. We strongly recommend the use of ACL LaTeX style files. Submissions must conform to the official style guidelines, which are contained in the ACL style files, and they must be in PDF.
Subsequent to the seminar, draft roadmap documents will be circulated amongst the participants for further discussion and prior to submission for publication. We plan to publish the roadmap in a volume of the CEUR workshop proceedings series. In addition, we have a journal that has agreed to publish a special issue based on expanded and revised versions of the material presented at the workshop.
Organizational Issues
The total registration fees for each person for the whole stay (arrival Sunday evening – departure Friday after lunch) are 600 Euro. Participants pay their own costs; however, organizers are seeking funding to defray the expenses. We will update as information becomes available. Fees include seminar registration, accommodation, WiFi and meals (included an excursion and the social dinner).
BiCi Registration

Presentation at LaTeCH 2014 on "Text Analytics for Legal History

Swedish Coast
The Swedish Coast
At the EACL 2014 Workshop Language Technology for Cultural Heritage, Social Sciences, and Humanities (LaTeCH), I’m presenting a paper on A Text Analytic Approach to Rural and Urban Legal Histories. Link to the presentation below.
A Text Analytic Approach to Rural and Urban Legal Histories
The ACL publication appears on
This is the bib reference

Paper Accepted to LaTech 2014 Workshop at EACL

My colleagues and I have had a paper accepted to EACL 2014 workshop on: Language Technology for Cultural Heritage, Social Sciences, and Humanities, which has a special theme on linked data in the Humanities. The workshop is April 26 2014 in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Gothenburg, Sweden
Text Analysis of Aberdeen Burgh Records 1530-1531
Adam Wyner, Jackson Armstrong, Andrew Mackillop, and Philip Astley
The paper outlines a text analytic project in progress on a corpus of entries in the historical burgh and council registers from Aberdeen, Scotland. Some preliminary output of the analysis is described. The registers run in a near-unbroken sequence form 1398 to the present day; the early volumes are a UNESCO UK listed cultural artefact. The study focusses on a set of transcribed pages from 1530-1531 originally hand written in a mixture of Latin and Middle Scots. We apply a text analytic tool to the corpus, providing deep semantic annotation and making the text amenable to linking to web-resources.
Shortlink to this page.
By Adam Wyner

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Project Announcement: A Text Analytic Approach to Rural and Urban Legal Histories

I and my colleagues are very pleased that our project proposal A Text Analytic Approach to Rural and Urban Legal Histories has been funded by the dot.rural Resource Partnership. It is a pilot project that runs for six months, hires two staff part time, and is funded for £53,000. The project is expected to start in the early spring, 2014. Further information is below. Many thanks to my colleagues and the support staff in seeing this proposal through.

  • Principal Investigator: Adam Wyner, Department of Computing Science, University of Aberdeen
  • Co-Investigator: Jackson Armstrong, School of Divinity, History and Philosophy, University of Aberdeen
  • Co-Investigator: Andrew Mackillop, School of Divinity, History and Philosophy, University of Aberdeen
  • Associate Investigator: Wim Peters, Department of Computer Science, University of Sheffield
  • Partner organisation: Phil Astley, City Archivist, Aberdeen City & Aberdeenshire Archives (ACAA)
  • Mentor: George Coghill, Department of Computing Science, University of Aberdeen

Aberdeen has the earliest and most complete body of surviving records of any Scottish town, running in near-unbroken sequence from 1398 to the present day. Our central focus is on the ‘provincial town’, especially its articulations and interactions with surrounding rural communities, infrastructure and natural resources. In this multi-disciplinary project, we apply text analytical tools to digitised Aberdeen Burgh Records, which are a UNESCO listed cultural artifact. The meaningful content of the Records is linguistically obscured, so must be interpreted. Moreover, to extract and reuse the content with Semantic Web and linked data technologies, it must be machine readable and richly annotated. To accomplish this, we develop a text analytic tool that specifically relates to the language, content, and structure of the Records. The result is an accessible, flexible, and essential precursor to the development of Semantic Web and linked data applications related to the Records. The applications will exploit the artifact to promote Aberdeen Burgh and Shire cultural tourism, curriculum development, and scholarship.
The scholarly objective of this project is to develop the analytic framework, methods, and resource materials to apply a text analytic tool to annotate and access the content of the Burgh records. Amongst the text analytic issues to address in historical perspective are: the identification and analysis of legal entities, events, and roles; and the analysis of legal argumentation and reasoning. Amongst the legal historical issues are: the political and legal culture and authority in the Burgh and Shire, particularly pertaining to the management and use of natural resources. Having an understanding of these issues and being able to access them using Semantic Web/linked data technologies will then facilitate exploitation in applications.
This project complements a distinct, existing collaboration between the Aberdeen City & Aberdeenshire Archives (ACAA) and the University (Connecting and Projecting Aberdeen’s Burgh Records, jointly led by Andrew Mackillop and Jackson Armstrong) (the RIISS Project), which will both make a contribution to the project (see details on application form). This multi-disciplinary application seeks funding from Dot.Rural chiefly for the time of two specialist researchers: a Research Fellow to interpret the multiple languages, handwriting scripts, archaic conventions, and conceptual categories emerging from these records; and subcontracting the A-I to carry out the text analytic and linked data tasks on a given corpus of previously transcribed council records, taking the RF’s interpretation as input.

Resource and Background – Aberdeen Burgh Records
Very few cities in the UK and indeed Northern Europe can rival Aberdeen’s civic archive. Alongside the Scottish Exchequer Rolls and Register of the Great Seal, these volumes are the only near-continuous record that survives for Scotland, running unbroken from 1398 to the present day. Aberdeen’s early Council Registers contain not only records of ‘policy’ but also legal decisions in hundreds of disputes. The Registers include the elections of office bearers, property transfers, regulations of trade and prices, references to crimes and subsequent punishment, matters of public health, credit and debt, cargoes of foreign vessels, tax and rental of burgh lands, woods and fishings, a substantial portion of which relate to rural property. This content means that what may appear as an ostensibly ‘urban’ archive is in fact one of the most important and underexploited ‘rural’ records for medieval and early modern Scotland.
In July 2013 the eight volumes of Aberdeen’s council registers covering the period 1398 to 1509 were recognised by UNESCO as being of outstanding historical importance to the UK.
In 2013 the RIISS proof-of-concept, pilot project is assessing the creation of an online, publicly accessible linked database with samples of the Register’s text with corresponding images. The project involves the transcription and translation of 100 pages from the Register. This corpus of new text generated by the RIISS project will form the basis of material to be used in the Dot.Rural project. The Dot.Rural application is for a new project that will complement the RIISS project.
Rurality and the Law in the Burgh Records
The Aberdeen council registers are records of a primarily legal nature, illuminating the legal history of a community, where the law formalises social conventions, social order, economic priorities, and dispositions and management of resources. From them, we can investigate how such conventions, order, and resources were handled at a time, over time, vertically within social communities, and horizontally across the landscape between Shire and Burgh.
Whereas the technical core of the proposed Dot.Rural project is concerned with applying text analytic tools to the transcribed sample from the 1530s generated by the RIISS pilot, our conceptual interests take a much wider chronological view, spanning the four centuries from c. 1400 to c. 1800. Our central aim is to use Scottish urban records for much more than a study of on the ‘provincial town’ and its interactions with its rural surroundings, which is a topic ripe for investigation. Aberdeen’s records and other historic collections show that the standard demarcation between ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ is inaccurate. Aberdeen served as a social, legal and political interchange for landowners. In an historic period when urban centres were heavily dependent on their rural surroundings, the mental horizons of the civic elite necessarily encompassed the countryside. Within the burgh itself, properties that suggest a liminal or hybrid nature, such as numerous Dee fishings and plots designated simply as ‘the lands beside (the Spital, etc.)’, or ‘a feu … without buildings’ in Footdee, present an environment where the urban and rural were necessarily blended. Our investigations will lead to a deeper understanding of these relationships.
Text Analytic Contribution
Study of these valuable legal historical records has been constrained by access to protected documents and by current research methods. However, there are new, open opportunities to analyse the texts, thereby gaining a deeper understanding of the history and development of communities. Once documents have been digitised, we can apply powerful text analytic tools to the corpus: we annotate the terminology in the documents with a range of semantic, conceptual information; then, we extract or query information from across the documents in complex textual patterns. For example, a query could return all textual passages that contain the semantic concept “person’s name”, followed by several arbitrary intervening words, then followed by the semantic concept “role in some office”, or “property/properties” held in the Shire. In this way, we can then associate people’s names with their roles and their rural/urban personas across the texts. Thus, a range of semantic patterns can be identified that would otherwise be very hard to detect or extract. Such an approach can ground multi-disciplinary investigations of historical societies in large-scale textual sources of information, providing interpretable material on topics such as elites and social practice, relations between social classes and land, urban and rural development, and natural resource management. The text analysis also makes applicable a range of social web-mining approaches on historical text.
Text analysis will help to identify:

  • named entities in the Council Registers associated with particular people, places and interests both within the Burgh and the surrounding countryside.
  • legal terminology and concepts.
  • properties and relationships amongst named entities, including social and political relationships.
  • activities of named entities.
  • opinions, attitudes, and decisions.

Given these, we can:

  • explore the legal and social characterisation of individuals, places, and activities.
  • link the register data with maps and auxiliary historical documents.
  • facilitate public inquiry into the corpus using queries.

Further Updates
I will post further updates as they become available.
Shortlink here

Papers in JURIX 2013

I’m co-author of two papers at The 26th International Conference on Legal Knowledge and Information Systems (JURIX 2013), Bologna, Italy.
Bologna.  Food.
Argumentation Schemes for Reasoning about Factors with Dimensions
Katie Atkinson, Trevor Bench-Capon, Henry Prakken, and Adam Wyner
In previous work we presented argumentation schemes to capture the CATO and value based theory construction approaches to reasoning with legal cases with factors. We formalised the schemes with ASPIC+, a formal representation of instantiated argumentation. In ASPIC+ the premises of a scheme may either be a factor provided in a knowledge base or established using a further argumentation scheme. Thus far we have taken the factors associated with cases to be given in the knowledge base. While this is adequate for expressing factor based reasoning, we can further investigate the justifications for the relationship between factors and facts or evidence. In this paper we examine how dimensions as used in the HYPO system can provide grounds on which to argue about which factors should apply to a case. By making this element of the reasoning explicit and subject to argument, we advance our overall account of reasoning with legal cases and make it more robust.
author = {Katie Atkinson and Bench-Capon, Trevor and Henry Prakken and Adam Wyner},
title = {Argumentation Schemes for Reasoning about Factors with Dimensions},
booktitle = {Proceedings of 26th International Conference on Legal Knowledge and Information Systems (JURIX 2013)},
year = {2013},
pages = {??-??},
address = {Amsterdam},
publisher = {IOS Press}
A Case Study on Legal Case Annotation
Adam Wyner, Wim Peters, and Daniel Katz
The paper reports the outcomes of a study with law school students to annotate a corpus of legal cases for a variety of annotation types, e.g. citation indices, legal facts, rationale, judgement, cause of action, and others. An online tool is used by a group of annotators that results in an annotated corpus. Differences amongst the annotations are curated, producing a gold standard corpus of annotated texts. The annotations can be extracted with semantic searches of complex queries. There would be many such uses for the development and analysis of such a corpus for both legal education and legal research.
author = {Adam Wyner and Peters, Wim, and Daniel Katz},
title = {A Case Study on Legal Case Annotation},
booktitle = {Proceedings of 26th International Conference on Legal Knowledge and Information Systems (JURIX 2013)},
year = {2013},
pages = {??-??},
address = {Amsterdam},
publisher = {IOS Press}
Shortlink to this page.
By Adam Wyner

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Recent THiNK Workshop at Aberdeen

I was a co-organiser, with Prof. Barbara Fennell, of Policy-making, Text Analysis, and Big Data: A Workshop in Digital Humanities and Knowledge Exchange, which was held at the University of Aberdeen, June 30 in the Sir Duncan Rice Library.
Sir Duncan Rice Library, University of Aberdeen.
The THiNK network is for Knowledge Exchange in the Arts and Humanities in the UK. It provides a forum in which various parties exchange knowledge about funding ideas and opportunities. I was a presenter at a recent THiNK Event in London and see also my previous post.
The follow-on workshop, Policy-making, Text Analysis, and Big Data: A Workshop in Digital Humanities/Knowledge Exchange focussed on issues relating to Text Analysis, Policy-making, and Big Data. The underlying idea is that we have to harvest textual data on a large scale in order to assist with public policy-making. The full announcement, slides, and further notes about the workshop are at the link above; below is some extracted information.

Workshop description:

Policy-making and the law are fundamental to communal life and social progress. Given that policies and law are expressed in language and in social contexts, they are a natural “object” to study in the Humanities. One new approach is to apply current text analytic and information retrieval tools to better understand the substance of the policy documents, deliberative discourse, and related documents. More broadly, textual analysis and retrieval is at the heart of a range of interdisciplinary and applied research; it is a key element of Digital Humanities. While small scale studies are feasible and illuminating, it is essential to scale up research to handle the abundance of textual information, so-called ‘Big Data’. We have organised a workshop of speakers and discussion sessions to consider the state-of-the art in policy-making, textual analysis, and Big Data as well as the opportunities for cross-disciplinary research and development. The workshop brings together academic researchers, SMEs, and the Public Sector to exchange knowledge and outline project proposals in Digital Humanities.


Professor Barbara Fennel, Department of Linguistics

Dr Adam Wyner, Department of Computing Sciences

Workshop Schedule:

  • 12:00-12:30 Registration/Lunch
  • 12:30-13:30 Session 1 Public Policy-making Practice (C. Cottrill) and Policy-making Support Tools (A. Wyner)
  • 13:30-14:30 Session 2 Deliberative Democracy in Action (M. Oliver) and Text Analysis, News Media, and Psychiatry (N. Akhtar)
  • 14:30-15:00 Coffee break
  • 15.00-16:00 Session 3 Big Data (A. Goker)
  • 16.00-17:00 Roundup
  • Presenters:

  • Caitlin Cottrill, Lecturer, Department of Geography and Environment, University of Aberdeen. Caitlin will outline her knowledge about and experience in a range of policy-making contexts, particularly in domains of transportation and the environment. She will discuss some current issues and trends in policy-making.
  • Nooreen Akhtar, Research Training Fellow, Department of Applied Medicine, University of Aberdeen. Nooreen will discuss her investigations of how patients, public and stakeholders perceive and interpret information about anti-depressants in UK newspapers. It uses computational linguistic analysis and face-to-face interviews.
  • Matthew Oliver, Unlock Democracy. Unlock Democracy promotes deliberative, participatory, and transparent democratic activities by organising meetings and making available web-based tools to inform the public. Matthew is a Press and Project Manager and National Coordinator at Unlock Democracy. He will discuss aspects of Unlock Democracy and deliberative democracy.
  • Adam Wyner, Lecturer, Department of Computing Science, University of Aberdeen. Adam’s research interests are in the intersection of Law, Logic, Computer Science, and Language. Adam will present aspects of web-based tools to support deliberative, public policy-making, along with the analysis of legal materials.
  • Ayse Goker, Professor, School of Computing Science and Digital Media, Robert Gordon University. Ayse’s research interests are driven by a desire to research and improve information access and retrieval for users. Ayse has been the Principal Investigator of a range of UK and EU projects. Most recently, all the Scottish University Computing schools are partners through SICSA on the Innovation Centre bid for Data Science, with Robert Gordon University as its proposed NorthEast hub.
  • Shortlink to this page.
    By Adam Wyner

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

    Argumentation and Linguistics Tutorial at ACAI 2013

    I presented a tutorial on Argumentation and Linguistics at the Advanced Course on Artificial Intelligence (ACAI 2013) held at the Department of Informatics, King’s College London. The course focussed on Argumentation and Artificial Intelligence. From the description:

    The ACAI Summer School 2013 (ACAI 2013) will be held at at King’s College London, UK, from the 1st July to the 5th July 2013 and is on the topic of Argumentation in Artificial Intelligence. Computational models of argument, and the development of agreement technologies, is becoming an important area in artificial intelligence. The aim of the summer school is to provide the attendees with a solid grounding in the basic ideas in formal modelling of argumentation, dialogue, and negotiation. Furthermore, there will be a programme of lectures on application areas, lab sessions on software developments, and lectures linking with areas in AI and beyond.

    There were about 40 students in attendance. The ACAI course on argumentation covered a good, broad range of topics, presented by my european colleagues. The core of the programme consisted of four main speakers who gave 6 hours of lectures:

    • Pietro Baroni (Università degli Studi di Brescia) on Abstract Argumentation
    • Philippe Besnard (Institut de Recherche en Informatique de Toulouse) on Logic-Based Argumentation
    • Nicolas Maudet (University Pierre et Marie Curie) on Negotiation
    • Simon Parsons (University of Liverpool) on Dialogue

    There were also presentations on applications of argumentation and agreement technologies:

    • Leila Amgoud (Institut de Recherche en Informatique de Toulouse) on Argumentation in Decision-Making
    • Katie Atkinson (University of Liverpool) on Argumentation in eGovernment
    • John Fox (University of Oxford) on Argumentation in Medicine
    • Nir Oren (University of Aberdeen) on Argumentation in Planning
    • Henry Prakken (Utrecht University) on Argumentation in Law
    • Chris Reed (University of Dundee) on Argumentation on the Web
    • Stefan Woltran (Vienna University of Technology) on Implementation of Argumentation
    • Adam Wyner (University of Aberdeen) on Argumentation and Linguistics

    The slides of my talk are available on the link:
    Argumentation and Linguistics
    Adam Wyner
    Shortlink to this page.
    By Adam Wyner

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

    Presentation at Conference on Agreement Technologies

    I participated in the 1st International Conference on Agreement Technologies in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

    The talk, Arguing from a Point of View, addresses the issue of extracting argumentative information from web-based information sources such as consumer product reviews or recommendations. Jodi Schneider is a co-author. The paper is available on the previous post. Some of the topics are developed further in our paper at SWAIE 2012.
    Shortlink to this page.
    By Adam Wyner

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

    BBC's Radio 4 on Vagueness in Law

    On the BBC Radio 4 Analysis program, there was an episode about the Sorities Paradoxes. These are the sorts of paradoxes that arise about categories that have no sharp boundaries:

    One grain of sand is not a heap of sand; two grains of sand are not a heap of sand; …. ; adding one more grain of sand to some sand is not enough to make a heap of sand; yet, at some point, we agree we have a heap of sand.

    So, where are the boundaries?
    Part of what is interesting to me is that while we might have problems to provide a formal, systematic analysis, we seem to have strong intuitions that are (more or less, and in fact more, where all things are otherwise equal) in agreement with the intuitions of others.
    In law, such issues about vagueness also arise, and they lead to legal contention, so are important to decide. In this radio broadcast, there is a fun discussion of the sorities paradoxes and some mention of how legislators address them; in particular, just how can legislators ‘define’ nudity?
    Analysis Extra: The Philosopher’s Arms: Sorites’ Heap 10 Sep 2012
    The program is about 30 minutes long and should play in your browser. The broadcast content is copyright the BBC. Radio 4 is great!