Describing Travel in Terms of Scripts and Event-Frames

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2010

34 Pages, Grade: 1,7



1. Introduction

2. Scripts
2.1. The Restaurant Script
2.2. Script Deviations
2.3. Script Interactions
2.4. Types of Scripts

3. The Travel Script

4. Event Frames
4.1. Windowing of Attention
4.2. PATH and MANNER in Verb-Framed vs. Satellite-Framed Languages
4.3. Translation of MANNER in Motion Events
4.4. Frog, Where are You?

5. The Travel Event-Frame

6. Conclusion

Figure 1: Primitive ACTs after Schank and Abelson (Bös 2004: 88)

Figure 2: Coffee-shop-track of the Restaurant Script. (Schank 1977: 43)

Figure 3: Coffee-shop-track of the Restaurant Script. (Schank 1977: 43)

Figure 4: Set of questions for unexpected input (Schank 1977: 53)

Figure 5: Preconditions for the travelling-by-car-track of the Travel-Script

Figure 6: Modified primitive ACTs after Bös (Bös 2004: 88)

Figure 7: The getting started scene of the Travel Script

Figure 8: The driving scene of the Travel Script

Figure 9: Realization of major event-frame components (Ungerer & Schmid 2006: 221)

Figure 10: Types of windowing and their schematic position. (Ungerer & Schmid 2006: 222)

Figure 11: Initial, medial and final path-windowing and combinations (Ungerer & Schmid 2006: 222)

Figure 12: Closed path-windowing (Ungerer & Schmid 2006: 223)

Figure 13: Fictive path-windowing (Ungerer & Schmid 2006: 225)

Figure 14: "Real" and fictive path-windowing (Ungerer & Schmid 2006: 226)

Figure 15: PATH and MANNER expressed in motion events in Spnaish and English (Ungerer & Schmid 2006: 235)

Figure 16: Summary of "Frog, where are you?" (Slobin 1996: 197)

Figure 17: English verbs and satellites in "Frog, where are you?" (Slobin 1996: 198-199)

Figure 18: Boy and dog being thrown in pond by stag (Berman & Slobin 1994:652)

Figure 19 Description of figure 10 by Spanish and English child (Ungerer & Schmid 2006: 240)

Figure 20: Analysis of the event-frame of the sentence He tips him off aver a cliff into the water (Ungerer & Schmid 2006: 240)

1. Introduction

In the early 70s the US linguist Charles J. Fillmore introduced the notion of frame. The aim was “to widen the scope of lexical and grammatical analysis” (Ungerer & Schmid 2006: 207) The initial interpretation of the term, however soon change into a cognitive way. In 1992 Fillmore talks about frames as “cognitive structure [...] knowledge of which is presupposed for the concepts encoded by words.” (Ungerer & Schmid 2006: 210) We can state that the notion of frames shifted from being a linguistic construct towards a cognitive one. But not only in linguistics has the frame notion been used, but also in terms of artificial intelligence, namely computer, which have become part of our daily lives and irreplaceable just as language itself.

2. Scripts

Like already mentioned above computers have become irreplaceable in our daily lives. The artificial intelligence however, soon reaches its limit when it comes to duplicating human behaviour. Therefore Scripts are necessary for computers to copy the way we behave, think and interact with each other. Before we discuss the notion of Scripts in detail however, we have to go one step back first and look at the way in which frames become scripts.

The frame notion has been used for computers and artificial intelligence more general and wider, but also in a more technical way, than it has been in linguistics. Here Frames do not end with single sentences but refer to larger units, linguistically and in a cognitive way, namely entire sentences and even shorter stories. As an example we can have a look at the following short story.

Philipp went to watch a football match.

After he got himself a beer he looked for his seat.

When the ball got kicked out of the stadium the referee had to interrupt the match.

What should strike the hearer as odd in this story is the fact that two definite articles in the ball and the stadium occur without any reference to a previous situation. In the English grammar it is agreed that the definite article can only be used when the hearer or reader already knows about the person or object, or when either of them is specified later on. In the example above we should expect the indefinite article as in a football match according to the English grammar. The problem here is highly interesting when it comes to artificial intelligence. A computer with the English grammar and an almost omniscient lexicon installed on it would never understand this story because it would keep searching for the reference points for the ball and the stadium in the text. (Ungerer & Schmid 2006: 212)

Quite contrary to the computer a human being does not have any problems understanding this story as we have knowledge of the world, a so called “common stock of knowledge” (Bös 2004: 81) and can make inferences, which the computer cannot. Everyone who has visited a football match knows that there is a ball and a referee and it is not necessary to mention them separately. When the expression football match is uttered our stored knowledge about the topic is activated, which means that we do not have problems making inferences. For computers the notion of frame was introduced to equip them with the knowledge of the world needed to process the information given. The computer scientist Marvin Minsky said that frames for computers are data-structures which represent stereotyped events and situations. Within the [WATCHING A FOOTBALL MATCH] frame many different cognitive categories can be stored just as BALL, BEER, COACH, GAME, PLAYER, REFEREE, SPORT and so on. If we know see that our everyday life offers endless situations in which these categories are mixed and somehow related to each other, we can state that all these possible interactions somehow have to be fed into an computer in order to process the information given. (Ungerer & Schmid 2006: 213) As in most cases the actions that take place are to a certain extent predictable concerning their temporal structure, we can see that one action mostly is a prerequisite to another. As we are moving away from simple frames here to frequently occurring events or event sequences we now have to talk about scripts.

Scripts are very important when it comes to understanding stories, not only for computer, as on the one hand they enable us to leave out boring parts when we talk or write while on the other hand we have no problems to supplement the stories when we hear or read the stories. We can say that “A Script is a structure that describes appropriate sequences of events in a particular context.” (Schank 1977: 41) The structure of scripts can be described as an interconnected entity, made out of slots and certain required parts to fill these slots. The requirement to fill the slots certainly is knowledge. (Schank 1977: 41) We can distinguish between two kinds of knowledge, namely general and special knowledge. General knowledge enables human beings to understand the actions of each others simply because both are humans and therefore have the same or at least similar needs and ways of satisfying the yearning for those. Imagine a situation in which someone with a cigarette between his lips asks you for a lighter but when you hand it to him he does not light his cigarette but opens a bottle of beer. Even though you did not expect him to do anything else than lighting his cigarette, you do not have any difficulties understanding why he did what he did.

Specific knowledge differs from general knowledge because it is linked to the experiences humans have made. That very experience comes from situations we have found ourselves in many times, so there is no problem for human beings to take part and understand what is going on in certain situations. (Schank 1977: 37) This specific knowledge helps us for instance in a restaurant and enables us to know about the rough events that will happen.

2.1. The Restaurant Script

The most prominent script is the Restaurant Script created by the computer scientist Roger Schank and the social psychologist Robert Abelson. (Ungerer & Schmid 2006: 214) It describes the most common events and their connection that might occur within a restaurant. (Bös 2004: 87) The different subscripts of the Restaurant Script are called tracks like the fast-food-track or the coffee-shop-track.

All of these tracks have to be handled separately as they contain a different set of information, demand different knowledge and end with different targets. (Bös 2004:87) As the script contains every possibility that might occur in a restaurant, so called primitive ACTs are needed to feed a computer with and to display the events within the script. (Bös 2004:88) The eleven primitive ACTs can be seen in figure number 1.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: Primitive ACTs after Schank and Abelson (Bös 2004: 88)

The script itself can be divided into four major sections or scenes, “namely entering, ordering, eating and exiting.”! (Ungerer & Schmid 2006: 214) Figures 2 and 3 show the coffee-shop-track and a set of preconditions, which need to be fulfilled in order to go on with the script, for it.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2: Coffee-shop-track of the Restaurant Script. (Schank 1977: 43)

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 3: Coffee-shop-track of the Restaurant Script. (Schank 1977: 43)

In the example given we can see that quite a lot of information lacks and had to be inferred by the reader or a computer. This is important for the succession of the casual chain, as for this the previous actions must have been finished satisfactorily (Schank 1977:45) When in the beginning of the script we read the word “restaurant” the Restaurant Script got instantiated, which means called into mind, and its main conceptualizations, MAINCONs, can be called up. The MAINCONs are principal actions needed to connect the events of the story. As we can see in the example above, the casual chain does not always go on smoothly. Sometimes we hit a barrier or even a dead end within a script and have to deal with it.

2.2. Script Deviations

These barriers or dead ends are called Interferences and Distractions. To get an idea of the situation we have to suppose that a script, here the Travel Script, has been instantiated. “Interferences are states or actions which prevent the normal continuation of the script.” (Schank 1977: 52) That means that in a script the reader or hearer of the story might come along a sentence that obviously does not belong to the script. In this situation a computer or even a human reader is only left with the chance to wait what comes next in order to understand the relation between the sentences. This is quite often the case as mostly the sentences that do not fit into an instantiated script directly can be connected to the script by making short deviations. When deviations are concerned we have to differentiate between obstacles and errors. Obstacles appear when the script lacks certain circumstances for an action that is to come. Errors appear when the outcome of an action is inappropriate or different from what was expected. The problem of obstacles can easily be solved by prescriptions which are actions to come up with the circumstances needed for the action. An alternative for the actor would simply be to give in, either as soon as he meets the obstacle or after he tried some or at least one prescription. The result of both would be the exiting of the scene. An example for that might be the story following.

Philipp travelled to Munich and wanted to check in at the hotel

When the receptionist wanted o give the penthouse suite Philipp told her that he wanted a normal single room.

When the receptionist next wanted to give him a room without windows Philipp left the hotel.

Here the prescription clearly is the act of telling the receptionist that she had given him the wrong room, which finally ends with an exit of the scene and an abortion of the script. The actor, however, finds himself in a completely different situation when an error occurs. With errors the normal corrective would be so called loops, acts of repeating the initial action in order to get it right. In many cases loops have to be accompanied by prescriptions as we can see in the story following.

Philipp travelled to Munich and wanted to get a single room at the Sheraton

When the receptionist brought him to a double room he told her that he wanted a single room.

After he had entered his single room he smoked a cigarette.


Excerpt out of 34 pages


Describing Travel in Terms of Scripts and Event-Frames
LMU Munich  (Anglistik)
Hauptseminar Categorization, Gestalts and Frames in Linguistic Analysis
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
4782 KB
Script, Frame, Restaurant, Charles J. Fillmore, Ungerer, artificial intelligence, Marvin Minsky
Quote paper
Martin Steger (Author), 2010, Describing Travel in Terms of Scripts and Event-Frames, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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