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Text Complexity and Text Simplification in the Crisis Management domain

TitleText Complexity and Text Simplification in the Crisis Management domain
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsTemnikova I
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
UniversityUniversity of Wolverhampton

Due to the fact that emergency situations can lead to substantial losses, both financial and in terms of human lives, it is essential that texts used in a crisis situation be clearly understandable.

This thesis is concerned with the study of the complexity of the crisis management sub-language and with methods to produce new, clear texts and to rewrite pre-existing crisis management
documents which are too complex to be understood. By doing this, this interdisciplinary study makes several contributions to the crisis management field. First, it contributes to the knowledge of the complexity of the texts used in the domain, by analysing the presence of a set of written language complexity issues derived from the psycholinguistic literature in a novel corpus of crisis
management documents. Second, since the text complexity analysis shows that crisis management documents indeed exhibit high numbers of text complexity issues, the thesis adapts to the English language controlled language writing guidelines which, when applied to the crisis management language, reduce its complexity and ambiguity, leading to clear text documents. Third, since low quality of communication can have fatal consequences in emergency situations, the proposed controlled language guidelines and a set of texts which were re-written according to them are evaluated from multiple points of view. In order to achieve that, the thesis both applies existing evaluation approaches and develops new methods which are more appropriate for the task. These are used in two evaluation experiments – evaluation on extrinsic tasks and evaluation of users’ acceptability.

The evaluations on extrinsic tasks (evaluating the impact of the controlled language on text complexity, reading comprehension under stress, manual translation, and machine translation tasks) show a positive impact of the controlled language on simplified documents and thus ensure the quality of the resource. The evaluation of users’ acceptability contributes additional findings about manual simplification and helps to determine directions for future implementation.

The thesis also gives insight into reading comprehension, machine translation, and cross-language adaptability, and provides original contributions to machine translation, controlled languages, and natural language generation evaluation techniques, which make it valuable for several scientific fields, including Linguistics, Psycholinguistics, and a number of different sub-fields of NLP.