Thursday, November 30, 2006
4:15 pm
B17 Upson Hall

Computer Science
Fall 2006

H V Jagadish
University of Michigan

Towards Natural Language Query for Databases

Database query languages can be intimidating to the non-expert, leading to the immense recent popularity for keyword based search in spite of its significant limitations. The holy grail has been the development of a natural language query interface.

Whereas there has been a great deal of work in natural language understanding and question answering, our focus is on what happens once a natural query has been "understood". To be able to pose this against a database, one still requires knowledge of the database schema, and a mapping of the query to this schema.

In this talk, I will present our work on Schema-Free XQuery, permitting the expression of complex queries against XML databases with minimal schema knowledge. I will then show how these schema free querying facilities are used to develop NaLIX, a natural language query interface for an XML database. Our bottom line is that relatively simple techniques are sufficient to build systems that are good enough to be useful today.

H. V. Jagadish is a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. After earning his PhD from Stanford in 1985, he spent over a decade at AT&T Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J., eventually becoming head of AT&T Labs database research department at the Shannon Laboratory in Florham Park, N.J. He has also served as a Professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and as the Shaw Visiting Professor at the National University of Singapore.

Professor Jagadish is well-known for his broad-ranging research on information management, and has over 150 major papers and 33 patents. He is a fellow of the ACM ("The First Society in Computing") and a trustee of the VLDB (Very Large DataBase foundation). Among many professional positions he has held, he has previously been an Associate Editor for the ACM Transactions on Database Systems (1992-1995), Program Chair of the ACM SIGMOD annual conference (1996), and Program Chair of the ISMB conference (2005).