Simple Natural Language Access Platform

Welcome to the SNAP Project Home Page

SNAP is a collaboration between Essex University and BICC Plc, jointly funded by the EPSRC and the DTI's SALT initiative.

Overview of SNAP

Information is increasingly stored in both database management systems and also textbase systems. Many organisations are recognising that locked within this mass of information lies their expertise, experience and knowledge base. In order to obtain the maximum advantage from this information it is important to ensure that personnel at all levels of the organisation have easy and transparent access to this information.

Using present day systems accessing this information can be a daunting task. Typically it requires the user to learn two separate querying languages, such as SQL to access structured information and a boolean query language to access unstructured information such as a textbase. The user is also faced with the problem of addressing these queries to two separate programs which were designed to work in isolation.

The SNAP project aims to build a platform from which structured and textual information about some domain can be accessed in an integrated way through natural language queries. The base line of SNAP is two existing systems:

A natural language interface to SQL databases developed at Essex University. You can read about Squirrel in more detail here and use our on-line demonstration.
An English to Boolean query convertor
A system allowing natural language queries to be presented to a commercial textbase management system.
The nature of these applications is very different: Squirrel performs full analysis including semantic interpretation; while the Boolean query module relies on shallow processing to extract search terms.

In the SNAP project we are investigating:

  1. How to build an environment in which two essentially different applications can be integrated whilst safeguarding system reliability and transparency.
  2. What the user requirements would be for such an integrated interface.
  3. The consequences of such an integration for the specification of customisation tools.


The SNAP Research Group at Essex is comprised of the following people: A project directory detailing contact information for those involved in the SNAP project is available.


A brief list of some of the publications related to the SNAP Project:

About this Web Page

If you have any comments about this page please contact the maintainer listed below.

This page is maintained by:
John Carson,
Department of Computer Science,

Last changed: May 1997

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