Massimo Poesio


One of the main stumbling blocks for research in semantics and discourse has been the lack of semantically annotated resources of a size and quality comparable to that of the Penn Treebank. As a result, a by-product of my research on anaphora has been my involvement in a number of projects concerned with the creation of such resources, including developing appropriate annotation schemes for several types of semantic information (particularly anaphoric information), with the development of tools for annotation, and with the creation of semantically annotated resources. Over the years, we have created several anaphorically annotated corpora, first in work with Renata Vieira, then in the GNOME project, and more recently in the ARRAU project. I've also been involved in the annotation of corpora of Italian, including VENEX with the University of Venice, and more recently the LiveMemories corpus of anaphora. In all of these projects the focus has been on creating linguistically motivated annotations, and in 'pushing the envelope' by attempting to annotate cases of anaphora beyond simple coreference among concrete entities--in particular, we devoted much attention to annotating bridging references (Poesio and Vieira 1998, Poesio Teufel and Vieira 1997, Poesio et al 2002), and reference to abstract objects (Poesio and Modjeska 2003, Artstein and Poesio 2006).

More recently, we started collecting anaphoric annotations by developing the Phrase Detectives game-with-a-purpose.


The first of such projects was  the EU-funded MATE project (, concerned with the development of  customizable tools for dialogue annotation based on XML standoff technology. I was responsible for the design of the coreference annotation guidelines in the project (see also (Poesio et al, 1999)). 


An important aspect of GNOME was the creation of a corpus annotated for syntactic, semantic and discourse information, such as anaphoric reference. The annotation scheme used in GNOME was based on the MATE guidelines, augmented with instructions for other types of semantic annotation. Creating the GNOME corpus involved quite a lot of work on agreement on semantic judgments, continuing the research initiated as part of my collaboration with Renata Vieira (see below); in particular, we found good agreement among our subjects on animacy, less good agreement on countability, and little on genericity, the assignment of thematic roles, and topichood (Poesio, 2000 ). The GNOME corpus is in continuous development, and has already been used to develop statistical models of NP realization and to study Centering theory (see above). Papers describing the corpus and its annotation scheme are available from the corpus web page,


The largest annotation project I've been involved in has been the creation of the ARRAU corpus, currently being distributed by LDC and through the Anaphoric Bank

Corpora for Italian

More recently, I have been involved in a collaborative project with the Universita' di Venezia,  VENEX, which has resulted in the creation of an anaphorically annotated corpus of Italian including both written text and spoken dialogue. 

Agreement (and Disagreement) in Interpretation

A problem that has particularly interested me over the years is that of disagreements in interpretation. There are many anaphoric expressions on whose interpretation people disagree without finding them ambiguous. An example are pronouns like IT in the following example,

Can you kindly hook up engine E3 to the boxcar at Elmira and send IT to Corning as soon as possible please?

We carried out a number of studies of disagreements in the interpretation, in particular of anaphoric expressions (Poesio and Vieira, 1998; Poesio 2004; Poesio and Artstein, 2005). This work also led us to write a review of the literature on coefficients of agreement such as K or Alpha used in CL to test agreement (Artstein and Poesio, 2008).

The Anaphoric Bank

Projects (in inverse chronological order)

The AnaWiki project , funded by EPSRC (2007-2009) was concerned with developing games with a purpose to collect data about anaphoric reference. The main outcome of the project is the Phrase Detectives game-with-a-purpose.

The ARRAU project , funded by EPSRC (2004-2007) was concerned with studying 'difficult' cases of anaphoric reference. One of its outcomes was the ARRAU corpus; another was the study by Artstein and Poesio.

The GNOME project, funded by EPSRC (1998-2000) was concerned with the generation of anaphoric expressions. One of its outcomes was the GNOME corpus.

Main publications