The nature of requests and commitments in email messages

Andrew Lampert*, Robert Dale, Cécile Paris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


It has long been established that many workplace tasks are managed through email communication, and that these tasks involve the exchange of requests and commitments. Users would be better able to manage and monitor tasks in their email if systems could identify the utterances which place responsibility for action on themselves or others. Such systems require a robust understanding of which utterances convey requests and commitments. Previous attempts to classify similar phenomena in email have mostly been at the message level and have lacked detailed and robust category definitions that allow unambiguous classification at the utterance level. To address this gap, this paper presents precise definitions for classifying requests and commitments in email, based on concepts from Speech Act Theory, and informed by the results of two independent manual annotation experiments using data from the Enron email corpus. The specific surface realisation of requests and commitments in email are also considered, with the aim of clarifying how a range of potentially difficult cases should be dealt with. This paper thus contributes a well-grounded definitional basis for the classification of task-oriented speech acts in email.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPapers from the 2008 AAAI Workshop
Subtitle of host publicationtechnical report
EditorsMark Dredze, Vitor R. Carvalho, Tessa Lau
Place of PublicationUSA
PublisherAssociation for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Event2008 AAAI Workshop - Chicago, IL, United States
Duration: 13 Jul 200813 Jul 2008


Other2008 AAAI Workshop
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityChicago, IL


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