Projects in Previous Years

2nd Semester 2009/10: Formal Models of Narrative Structure

Dr. Eric Pacuit, Prof. Dr. Benedikt Löwe
If you are interested in this project, please contact Benedikt by e-mail.
Understanding the structure of stories has been a structuralist dream since the famous analysis of Russian folk tales by Vladimir Propp (1928) who identified 31 functions and 8 characters that allowed him to give a classification of the folk tales in terms of narratemes.

Propp's analysis has been criticized for leaving out any linguistic considerations, or—in narratological terms—to focus solely on the story and ignoring the discourse. As a counter-reaction, formal models of narrative in the 1970s and 1980s have become increasingly detailed systems dealing with many aspects of narration and details of the content of the narratives.

We are aiming at something lying between Propp's system and the detailed Story Understanding systems designed by computational linguists: a formal system that captures the logical and decision structure of narratives.

In this project, we will look at some early structural proposals for formal systems due to Lehnert and Rumelhart. We shall also look at a proposal due to the project organizers based on game trees with doxastic and preference information.

In the first phase of the project, we shall read papers and discuss them in meetings. After that, the students can choose one of three types of projects:

  1. Formalization in a fixed formal system: take a small corpus of narratives and formalize them in a given formal system.
  2. Meta-study on the objectivity of formalization: investigate how intersubjective formalizations are by designing a simple experiment of formalization and testing it with various subjects.
  3. Comparison of formal systems: take two formal systems and compare them according to their resolution.
Grading based on a paper of 10-20 pages, to be submitted on 1 August 2010.
  • Wendy G. Lehnert, Plot units and narrative summarization, Cognitive Science 4(1981):293–331
  • David E. Rumelhart, Notes on a schema for stories, in: Daniel G. Bobrow, Allen M. Collins (eds.), Representation and Understanding: Studies in cognitive science, Academic Press, New York (1975), pp. 211–236
  • Benedikt Löwe, Eric Pacuit, An abstract approach to reasoning about games with mistaken and changing beliefs, Australasian Journal of Logic 6 (2008), pp. 162–181 (ILLC Publication Series PP-2006-33)
  • Benedikt Löwe, Eric Pacuit, Sanchit Saraf, Identifying the structure of a narrative via an agent-based logic of preferences and beliefs: Formalizations of episodes from CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationTM, in: Michael Duvigneau, Daniel Moldt (eds.), Proceedings of the Fifth International Workshop on Modelling of Objects, Components and Agents, MOCA'09, Hamburg 2009 [FBI-HH-B-290/09], pp. 45–63