The University of Edinburgh -
Division of Informatics
Forrest Hill & 80 South Bridge

Technical Paper #11

Title:Interfacing a Natural Language Front-End to a Relational Database
Abstract:Masque is a powerful natural language query interface for databases, developed at the University of Edinburgh. The system accepts written English questions and transforms them into Prolog queries, that are evaluated against the Prolog database. The purpose of this project was to modify Masque, so that it can be used as a front-end to commercial relational databases, without losing the impressive linguistic coverage, efficiency and portability of the original system. Several methods for the evaluation of the particular Prolog queries that Masque generates against relational databases were explored, and a modified Masque version, called Masque/SQL, was implemented. Masque/SQL answers the user's questions by generating suitable SQL queries that are executed by the relational database management system. The full linguistic coverage of the original Masque is still available, and the new system can be used with any relational database supporting SQL. Masque/SQL was tested with a world geography domain, and answered all questions almost as fast as the original Masque version.

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