Order independent and persistent typed default unification

Linguistics and Philosophy 19 (1):1 - 90 (1996)
Abstract
We define an order independent version of default unification on typed feature structures. The operation is one where default information in a feature structure typed with a more specific type, will override default information in a feature structure typed with a more general type, where specificity is defined by the subtyping relation in the type hierarchy. The operation is also able to handle feature structures where reentrancies are default. We provide a formal semantics, prove order independence and demonstrate the utility of this version of default unification in several linguistic applications. First, we show how it can be used to define multiple orthogonal default inheritance in the lexicon in a fully declarative fashion. Secondly, we show how default lexical specifications (introduced via default lexical inheritance) can be made to usefully persist beyond the lexicon and interact with syntagmatic rules. Finally, we outline how persistent default unification might underpin default feature propagation principles and a more restrictive and constraint-based approach to lexical rules.
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