Tag Archives: nlp

Avogadro Corp Book Review / AI Speculation

Avogadro CorpAvogadro Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than It Appears, by William Hertling, is the first sci-fi book I’ve read with a semi-plausible AI origin story. That’s because the premise isn’t so simple as “increased computing power -> emergent AI”. It’s a much more well defined formula: ever increasing computing power + powerful language processing + never ending stream of training data + goal oriented behavior + deep integration into internet infrastructure -> AI. The AI in the story is called ELOPe, which stands for Email Language Optimization Program, and its function is essentially to improve the quality of emails. WARNING there will be spoilers below, but only enough to describe ELOPe and speculate about how it might be implemented.

What is ELOPe

The idea behind ELOPe is to provide writing suggestions as a feature of a popular web-based email service. These writing suggestions are designed to improve the outcome of your email, whatever that may be. To take an example from the book, if you’re requesting more compute resources for a project, then ELOPe’s job is to offer writing suggestions that are most likely to get your request approved. By taking into account your own past writings, who you’re sending the email to, and what you’re asking for, it can go as far as completely re-writing the email to achieve the optimal outcome.

Using the existence of ELOPe as a given, the author writes a enjoyable story that is (mostly) technically accurate with plenty of details, without being boring. If you liked Daemon by Daniel Suarez, or you work with any kind of natural language / text-processing technology, you’ll probably enjoy the story. I won’t get into how an email writing suggestion program goes from that to full AI & takes over the world as a benevolent ghost in the wires – for that you need to read the book. What I do want to talk about is how this email optimization system could be implemented.

How ELOPe might work

Let’s start by defining the high-level requirements. ELOPe is an email optimizer, so we have the sender, the receiver, and the email being written as inputs. The output is a re-written email that preserves the “voice” of the sender while using language that will be much more likely to achieve the sender’s desired outcome, given who they’re sending the email to. That means we need the following:

  1. ability to analyze the email to determine what outcome is desired
  2. prior knowledge of how the receiver has responded to other emails with similar outcome topics, in order to know what language produced the best outcomes (and what language produced bad outcomes)
  3. ability to re-write (or generate) an email whose language is consistent with the sender, while also using language optimized to get the best response from the receiver

Topic Analysis

Determining the desired outcome for an email seems to me like a sophisticated combination of topic modeling and deep linguistic parsing. The goal would be to identify the core reason for the email: what is the sender asking for, and what would be an optimal response?

Being able to do this from a single email is probably impossible, but if you have access to thousands, or even millions of email chains, accurate topic modeling is much more do-able. Nearly every email someone sends will have some similarity to past emails sent by other people in similar situations. So you could create feature vectors for every email chain (using deep semantic parsing), then cluster the chains using feature similarity. Now you have topic clusters, and from that you could create training data for thousands of topic classifiers. Once you have the classifiers, you can run those in parallel to determine the most likely topic(s) of a single email.

Obviously it would be very difficult to create accurate clusters, and even harder to do so at scale. Language is very fuzzy, humans are inconsistent, and a huge fraction of email is spam. But the core of the necessary technology exists, and can work very well in limited conditions. The ability to parse emails, extract textual features, and cluster & classify feature vectors are functionality that’s available in at least a few modern programming libraries today (i.e. Python, NLTK & scikit-learn). These are areas of software technology that are getting a lot of attention right now, and all signs indicate that attention will only increase over time, so it’s quite likely that the difficulty level will decrease significantly over the next 10 years. Moving on, let’s assume we can do accurate email topic analysis. The next hurdle is outcome analysis.

Outcome Analysis

Once you can determine topics, now you need to learn about outcomes. Two email chains about acquiring compute resources have the same topic, but one chain ends with someone successfully getting access to more compute resources, while the other ends in failure. How do you differentiate between these? This sounds like next-generation sentiment analysis. You need to go deeper than simple failure vs. success, positive vs. negative, since you want to know which email chains within a given topic produced the best responses, and what language they have in common. In other words, you need a language model that weights successful outcome language much higher than failure outcome language. The only way I can think of doing this with a decent level of accuracy is massive amounts of human verified training data. Technically do-able, but very expensive in terms of time and effort.

What really pushes the bounds of plausibility is that the language model can’t be universal. Everyone has their own likes, dislikes, biases, and preferences. So you need language models that are specific to individuals, or clusters of individuals that respond similarly on the same topic. Since these clusters are topic specific, every individual would belong to many (topic, cluster) pairs. Given N topics and an average of M clusters within each topic, that’s N*M language models that need to be created. And one of the major plot points of the book falls out naturally: ELOPe needs access to huge amounts of high end compute resources.

This is definitely the least do-able aspect of ELOPe, and I’m ignoring all the implicit conceptual knowledge that would be required to know what an optimal outcome is, but let’s move on 🙂

Language Generation

Assuming that we can do topic & outcome analysis, the final step is using language models to generate more persuasive emails. This is perhaps the simplest part of ELOPe, assuming everything else works well. That’s because natural language generation is the kind of technology that works much better with more data, and it already exists in various forms. Google translate is a kind of language generator, chatbots have been around for decades, and spammers use software to spin new articles & text based on existing writings. The differences in this case are that every individual would need their own language generator, and it would have to be parameterized with pluggable language models based on the topic, desired outcome, and receiver. But assuming we have good topic & receiver specific outcome analysis, plus hundreds or thousands of emails from the sender to learn from, then generating new emails, or just new phrases within an email, seems almost trivial compared to what I’ve outlined above.

Final Words

I’m still highly skeptical that strong AI will ever exist. We humans barely understand the mechanisms of own intelligence, so to think that we can create comparable artificial intelligence smells of hubris. But it can be fun to think about, and the point of sci-fi is to tell stories about possible futures, so I have no doubt various forms of AI will play a strong role in sci-fi stories for years to come.

NLTK 2 Release Highlights

NLTK 2.0.1, a.k.a NLTK 2, was recently released, and what follows is my favorite changes, new features, and highlights from the ChangeLog.

New Classifiers

The SVMClassifier adds support vector machine classification thru SVMLight with PySVMLight. This is a much needed addition to the set of supported classification algorithms. But even more interesting…

The SklearnClassifier provides a general interface to text classification with scikit-learn. While scikit-learn is still pre-1.0, it is rapidly becoming one of the most popular machine learning toolkits, and provides more advanced feature extraction methods for classification.


NLTK has moved development and hosting to github, replacing google code and SVN. The primary motivation is to make new development easier, and already a Python 3 branch is under active development. I think this is great, since github makes forking & pull requests quite easy, and it’s become the de-facto “social coding” site.


Coinciding with the github move, the documentation was updated to use Sphinx, the same documentation generator used by Python and many other projects. While I personally like Sphinx and restructured text (which I used to write this post), I’m not thrilled with the results. The new documentation structure and NLTK homepage seem much less approachable. While it works great if you know exactly what you’re looking for, I worry that new/interested users will have a harder time getting started.

New Corpora

Since the 0.9.9 release, a number of new corpora and corpus readers have been added:

ChangeLog Highlights

And here’s a few final highlights:

The Future

I think NLTK’s ideal role is be a standard interface between corpora and NLP algorithms. There are many different corpus formats, and every algorithm has its own data structure requirements, so providing common abstract interfaces to connect these together is very powerful. It allows you to test the same algorithm on disparate corpora, or try multiple algorithms on a single corpus. This is what NLTK already does best, and I hope that becomes even more true in the future.

Upcoming Talks

At the end of February and the beginning of March, I’ll be giving 3 talks in the SF Bay Area and one in St Louis, MO. In chronological order…

How Weotta uses MongoDB

Grant and I will be helping 10gen celebrate the opening of their new San Francisco office on Tuesday, February 21, by talking about
How Weotta uses MongoDB. We’ll cover some of our favorite features of MongoDB and how we use it for local place & events search. Then we’ll finish with a preview of Weotta’s upcoming MongoDB powered local search APIs.

NLTK Jam Session at NICAR 2012

On Thursday, February 23, in St Louis, MO, I’ll be demonstrating how to use NLTK as part of the NewsCamp workshop at NICAR 2012. This will be a version of my PyCon NLTK Tutorial with a focus on news text and corpora like treebank.

Corpus Bootstrapping with NLTK at Strata 2012

As part of the Strata 2012 Deep Data program, I’ll talk about Corpus Bootstrapping with NLTK on Tuesday, February 28. The premise of this talk is that while there’s plenty of great algorithms and methods for natural language processing, most of them require a training corpus, and chances are the training corpus you really need doesn’t exist. So how can you quickly create a quality corpus at minimal cost? I’ll cover specific real-world examples to answer this question.

NLTK Tutorial at PyCon 2012

Introduction to NLTK will be a 3 hour tutorial at PyCon on Thursday, March 8th. You’ll get to know NLTK in depth, learn about corpus organization, and train your own models manually & with nltk-trainer. My goal is that you’ll walk out with at least one new NLP superpower that you can put to use immediately.

Bay Area NLP Meetup

This Thursday, June 7 2011, will be the first meeting of the Bay Area NLP group, at Chomp HQ in San Francisco, where I will be giving a talk on NLTK titled “NLTK: the Good, the Bad, and the Awesome”. I’ll be sharing some of the things I’ve learned using NLTK, operating text-processing.com, and doing random consulting on natural language processing. I’ll also explain why NLTK-Trainer exists and how awesome it is for training NLP models. So if you’re in the area and have some time Thursday evening, come by and say hi.

Update on 07/10/2011: slides are online from my talk: NLTK: the Good, the Bad, and the Awesome.

Interview and Article about NLTK and Text-Processing

I recently did an interview with Zoltan Varju (@zoltanvarju) about Python, NLTK, and my demos & APIs at text-processing.com, which you can read here. There’s even a bit about Erlang & functional programming, as well as some insight into what I’ve been working on at Weotta. And last week, the text-processing.com API got a write up (and a nice traffic boost) from Garrett Wilkin (@garrettwilkin) on programmableweb.com.

Analyzing Tagged Corpora and NLTK Part of Speech Taggers

NLTK Trainer includes 2 scripts for analyzing both a tagged corpus and the coverage of a part-of-speech tagger.

Analyze a Tagged Corpus

You can get part-of-speech tag statistics on a tagged corpus using analyze_tagged_corpus.py. Here’s the tag counts for the treebank corpus:

$ python analyze_tagged_corpus.py treebank
loading nltk.corpus.treebank
100676 total words
12408 unique words
46 tags

  Tag      Count
=======  =========
#               16
$              724
''             694
,             4886
-LRB-          120
-NONE-        6592
-RRB-          126
.             3874
:              563
CC            2265
CD            3546
DT            8165
EX              88
FW               4
IN            9857
JJ            5834
JJR            381
JJS            182
LS              13
MD             927
NN           13166
NNP           9410
NNPS           244
NNS           6047
PDT             27
POS            824
PRP           1716
PRP$           766
RB            2822
RBR            136
RBS             35
RP             216
SYM              1
TO            2179
UH               3
VB            2554
VBD           3043
VBG           1460
VBN           2134
VBP           1321
VBZ           2125
WDT            445
WP             241
WP$             14
WRB            178
``             712
=======  =========

By default, analyze_tagged_corpus.py sorts by tags, but you can sort by the highest count using <span class="pre">--sort</span> count <span class="pre">--reverse</span>. You can also see counts for simplified tags using <span class="pre">--simplify_tags</span>:

$ python analyze_tagged_corpus.py treebank --simplify_tags
loading nltk.corpus.treebank
100676 total words
12408 unique words
31 tags

  Tag      Count
=======  =========
#               16
$              724
''             694
(              120
)              126
,             4886
.             3874
:              563
ADJ           6397
ADV           2993
CNJ           2265
DET           8192
EX              88
FW               4
L               13
MOD            927
N            19213
NP            9654
NUM           3546
P             9857
PRO           2698
S                1
TO            2179
UH               3
V             6000
VD            3043
VG            1460
VN            2134
WH             878
``             712
=======  =========

Analyze Tagger Coverage

You can analyze the coverage of a part-of-speech tagger against any corpus using analyze_tagger_coverage.py. Here’s the results for the treebank corpus using NLTK’s default part-of-speech tagger:

$ python analyze_tagger_coverage.py treebank
loading tagger taggers/maxent_treebank_pos_tagger/english.pickle
analyzing tag coverage of treebank with ClassifierBasedPOSTagger

  Tag      Found
=======  =========
#               16
$              724
''             694
,             4887
-LRB-          120
-NONE-        6591
-RRB-          126
.             3874
:              563
CC            2271
CD            3547
DT            8170
EX              88
FW               4
IN            9880
JJ            5803
JJR            386
JJS            185
LS              12
MD             927
NN           13166
NNP           9427
NNPS           246
NNS           6055
PDT             21
POS            824
PRP           1716
PRP$           766
RB            2800
RBR            130
RBS             33
RP             213
SYM              1
TO            2180
UH               3
VB            2562
VBD           3035
VBG           1458
VBN           2145
VBP           1318
VBZ           2124
WDT            440
WP             241
WP$             14
WRB            178
``             712
=======  =========

If you want to analyze the coverage of your own pickled tagger, use <span class="pre">--tagger</span> PATH/TO/TAGGER.pickle. You can also get detailed metrics on Found vs Actual counts, as well as Precision and Recall for each tag by using the <span class="pre">--metrics</span> argument with a corpus that provides a tagged_sents method, like treebank:

$ python analyze_tagger_coverage.py treebank --metrics
loading tagger taggers/maxent_treebank_pos_tagger/english.pickle
analyzing tag coverage of treebank with ClassifierBasedPOSTagger

Accuracy: 0.995689
Unknown words: 440

  Tag      Found      Actual      Precision      Recall
=======  =========  ==========  =============  ==========
#               16          16  1.0            1.0
$              724         724  1.0            1.0
''             694         694  1.0            1.0
,             4887        4886  1.0            1.0
-LRB-          120         120  1.0            1.0
-NONE-        6591        6592  1.0            1.0
-RRB-          126         126  1.0            1.0
.             3874        3874  1.0            1.0
:              563         563  1.0            1.0
CC            2271        2265  1.0            1.0
CD            3547        3546  0.99895833333  0.99895833333
DT            8170        8165  1.0            1.0
EX              88          88  1.0            1.0
FW               4           4  1.0            1.0
IN            9880        9857  0.99130434782  0.95798319327
JJ            5803        5834  0.99134948096  0.97892938496
JJR            386         381  1.0            0.91489361702
JJS            185         182  0.96666666666  1.0
LS              12          13  1.0            0.85714285714
MD             927         927  1.0            1.0
NN           13166       13166  0.99166034874  0.98791540785
NNP           9427        9410  0.99477911646  0.99398073836
NNPS           246         244  0.99029126213  0.95327102803
NNS           6055        6047  0.99515235457  0.99722414989
PDT             21          27  1.0            0.66666666666
POS            824         824  1.0            1.0
PRP           1716        1716  1.0            1.0
PRP$           766         766  1.0            1.0
RB            2800        2822  0.99305555555  0.975
RBR            130         136  1.0            0.875
RBS             33          35  1.0            0.5
RP             213         216  1.0            1.0
SYM              1           1  1.0            1.0
TO            2180        2179  1.0            1.0
UH               3           3  1.0            1.0
VB            2562        2554  0.99142857142  1.0
VBD           3035        3043  0.990234375    0.98065764023
VBG           1458        1460  0.99650349650  0.99824868651
VBN           2145        2134  0.98852223816  0.99566473988
VBP           1318        1321  0.99305555555  0.98281786941
VBZ           2124        2125  0.99373040752  0.990625
WDT            440         445  1.0            0.83333333333
WP             241         241  1.0            1.0
WP$             14          14  1.0            1.0
WRB            178         178  1.0            1.0
``             712         712  1.0            1.0
=======  =========  ==========  =============  ==========

These additional metrics can be quite useful for identifying which tags a tagger has trouble with. Precision answers the question “for each word that was given this tag, was it correct?”, while Recall answers the question “for all words that should have gotten this tag, did they get it?”. If you look at PDT, you can see that Precision is 100%, but Recall is 66%, meaning that every word that was given the PDT tag was correct, but 6 out of the 27 words that should have gotten PDT were mistakenly given a different tag. Or if you look at JJS, you can see that Precision is 96.6% because it gave JJS to 3 words that should have gotten a different tag, while Recall is 100% because all words that should have gotten JJS got it.

Training Part of Speech Taggers with NLTK Trainer

NLTK trainer makes it easy to train part-of-speech taggers with various algorithms using train_tagger.py.

Training Sequential Backoff Taggers

The fastest algorithms are the sequential backoff taggers. You can specify the backoff sequence using the <span class="pre">--sequential</span> argument, which accepts any combination of the following letters:

a: AffixTagger
u: UnigramTagger
b: BigramTagger
t: TrigramTagger

For example, to train the same kinds of taggers that were used in Part of Speech Tagging with NLTK Part 1 – Ngram Taggers, you could do the following:

python train_tagger.py treebank --sequential ubt

You can rearrange ubt any way you want to change the order of the taggers (though ubt is generally the most accurate order).

Training Affix Taggers

The <span class="pre">--sequential</span> argument also recognizes the letter a, which will insert an AffixTagger into the backoff chain. If you do not specify the <span class="pre">--affix</span> argument, then it will include one AffixTagger with a 3-character suffix. However, you can change this by specifying one or more <span class="pre">--affix</span> N options, where N should be a positive number for prefixes, and a negative number for suffixes. For example, to train an aubt tagger with 2 AffixTaggers, one that uses a 3 character suffix, and another that uses a 2 character prefix, specify the <span class="pre">--affix</span> argument twice:

python train_tagger.py treebank --sequential aubt --affix -3 --affix 2

The order of the <span class="pre">--affix</span> arguments is the order in which each AffixTagger will be trained and inserted into the backoff chain.

Training Brill Taggers

To train a BrillTagger in a similar fashion to the one trained in Part of Speech Tagging Part 3 – Brill Tagger (using FastBrillTaggerTrainer), use the <span class="pre">--brill</span> argument:

python train_tagger.py treebank --sequential aubt --brill

The default training options are a maximum of 200 rules with a minimum score of 2, but you can change that with the <span class="pre">--max_rules</span> and <span class="pre">--min_score</span> arguments. You can also change the rule template bounds, which defaults to 1, using the <span class="pre">--template_bounds</span> argument.

Training Classifier Based Taggers

Many of the arguments used by train_classifier.py can also be used to train a ClassifierBasedPOSTagger. If you don’t want this tagger to backoff to a sequential backoff tagger, be sure to specify <span class="pre">--sequential</span> ''. Here’s an example for training a NaiveBayesClassifier based tagger, similar to what was shown in Part of Speech Tagging Part 4 – Classifier Taggers:

python train_tagger.py treebank --sequential '' --classifier NaiveBayes

If you do want to backoff to a sequential tagger, be sure to specify a cutoff probability, like so:

python train_tagger.py treebank --sequential ubt --classifier NaiveBayes --cutoff_prob 0.4

Any of the NLTK classification algorithms can be used for the <span class="pre">--classifier</span> argument, such as Maxent or MEGAM, and every algorithm other than NaiveBayes has specific training options that can be customized.

Phonetic Feature Options

You can also include phonetic algorithm features using the following arguments:

<span class="pre">--metaphone</span>: Use metaphone feature
<span class="pre">--double-metaphone</span>: Use double metaphone feature
<span class="pre">--soundex</span>: Use soundex feature
<span class="pre">--nysiis</span>: Use NYSIIS feature
<span class="pre">--caverphone</span>: Use caverphone feature

These options create phonetic codes that will be included as features along with the default features used by the ClassifierBasedPOSTagger. The <span class="pre">--double-metaphone</span> algorithm comes from metaphone.py, while all the other phonetic algorithm have been copied from the advas project (which appears to be abandoned).

I created these options after discussions with Michael D Healy about Twitter Linguistics, in which he explained the prevalence of regional spelling variations. These phonetic features may be able to reduce that variation where a tagger is concerned, as slightly different spellings might generate the same phonetic code.

A tagger trained with any of these phonetic features will be an instance of nltk_trainer.tagging.taggers.PhoneticClassifierBasedPOSTagger, which means nltk_trainer must be included in your PYTHONPATH in order to load & use the tagger. The simplest way to do this is to install nltk-trainer using python setup.py install.

Python Text Processing with NLTK Cookbook Chapter 2 Errata

It has come to my attention that there are two errors in Chapter 2, Replacing and Correcting Words of Python Text Processing with NLTK Cookbook. My thanks to the reader who went out of their way to verify my mistakes and send in corrections.

In Lemmatizing words with WordNet, on page 29, under How it works…, I said that “cooking” is not a noun and does not have a lemma. In fact, cooking is a noun, and as such is its own lemma. Of course, “cooking” is also a verb, and the verb form has the lemma “cook”.

In Removing repeating characters, on page 35, under How it works…, I explained the repeat_regexp match groups incorrectly. The actual match grouping of the word “looooove” is (looo)(o)o(ve) because the pattern matching is greedy. The end result is still correct.

NLTK Default Tagger CoNLL2000 Tag Coverage

Following up on the previous post showing the tag coverage of the NLTK 2.0b9 default tagger on the treebank corpus, below are the same metrics applied to the conll2000 corpus, using the analyze_tagger_coverage.py script from nltk-trainer.

NLTK Default Tagger Performance on CoNLL2000

The default tagger is 93.9% accurate on the conll2000 corpus, which is to be expected since both treebank and conll2000 are based on the Wall Street Journal. You can see all the metrics shown below for yourself by running python analyze_tagger_coverage.py conll2000 --metrics. In many cases, the Precision and Recall metrics are significantly lower than 1, even when the Found and Actual counts are similar. This happens when words are given the wrong tag (creating false positives and false negatives) while the overall tag frequency remains about the same. The CC tag is a great example of this: the Found count is only 3 higher than the Actual count, yet Precision is 68.75% and Recall is 73.33%. This tells us that the number of words that were mis-tagged as CC, and the number of CC words that were not given the CC tag, are approximately equal, creating similar counts despite the false positives and false negatives.

Tag Found Actual Precision Recall
# 46 47 1 1
$ 2122 2134 1 0.6
1811 1809 1 1
( 0 351 None 0
) 0 358 None 0
, 13160 13160 1 1
-LRB- 351 0 0 None
-NONE- 59 0 0 None
-RRB- 358 0 0 None
. 10800 10802 1 1
: 1288 1285 0.7143 1
CC 6589 6586 0.6875 0.7333
CD 10325 10233 0.972 0.9919
DT 22301 22355 0.7826 1
EX 229 254 1 1
FW 1 42 1 0.0455
IN 27798 27835 0.7315 0.7899
JJ 15370 16049 0.7372 0.7303
JJR 1114 1055 0.5412 0.575
JJS 611 451 0.6912 0.7966
LS 13 0 0 None
MD 2616 2637 0.7143 0.75
NN 38023 36789 0.7345 0.8441
NNP 24967 24690 0.8752 0.9421
NNPS 589 550 0.4553 0.3684
NNS 17068 16653 0.8572 0.9527
PDT 24 65 0.6667 1
POS 2224 2203 0.6667 1
PRP 4620 4634 0.8438 0.7941
PRP$ 2292 2302 0.6364 1
RB 7681 7961 0.8076 0.8582
RBR 288 392 0.5 0.3684
RBS 90 240 0.5 0.1667
RP 634 95 0.1176 1
SYM 0 6 None 0
TO 6257 6259 1 0.75
UH 2 17 1 0.1111
VB 6681 7286 0.9042 0.8313
VBD 8501 8424 0.7521 0.8605
VBG 3730 4000 0.8493 0.8603
VBN 5763 5867 0.8164 0.8721
VBP 3232 3407 0.6754 0.6638
VBZ 5224 5561 0.7273 0.6906
WDT 1156 1157 0.6 0.5
WP 637 639 1 1
WP$ 38 39 1 1
WRB 566 571 0.9 0.75
1855 1854 0.6667 1

Unknown Words in CoNLL2000

The conll2000 corpus has 0 words tagged with -NONE-, yet the default tagger is unable to identify 50 unique words. Here’s a sample: boiler-room, so-so, Coca-Cola, top-10, AC&R, F-16, I-880, R2-D2, mid-1992. For the most part, the unknown words are symbolic names, acronyms, or two separate words combined with a “-“. You might think this can solved with better tokenization, but for words like F-16 and I-880, tokenizing on the “-” would be incorrect.

Missing Symbols and Rare Tags

The default tagger apparently does not recognize parentheses or the SYM tag, and has trouble with many of the more rare tags, such as FW, LS, RBS, and UH. These failures highlight the need for training a part-of-speech tagger (or any NLP object) on a corpus that is as similar as possible to the corpus you are analyzing. At the very least, your training corpus and testing corpus should share the same set of part-of-speech tags, and in similar proportion. Otherwise, mistakes will be made, such as not recognizing common symbols, or finding -LRB- and -RRB- tags where they do not exist.

NLTK Default Tagger Treebank Tag Coverage

For some research I’m doing with Michael D. Healy, I need to measure part-of-speech tagger coverage and performance. To that end, I’ve added a new script to nltk-trainer: analyze_tagger_coverage.py. This script will tag every sentence of a corpus and count how many times it produces each tag. If you also use the --metrics option, and the corpus reader provides a tagged_sents() method, then you can get detailed performance metrics by comparing the tagger’s results against the actual tags.

NLTK Default Tagger Performance on Treebank

Below is a table showing the performance details of the NLTK 2.0b9 default tagger on the treebank corpus, which you can see for yourself by running python analyze_tagger_coverage.py treebank --metrics. The default tagger is 99.57% accurate on treebank, and below you can see exactly on which tags it fails. The Found column shows the number of occurrences of each tag produced by the default tagger, while the Actual column shows the actual number of occurrences in the treebank corpus. Precision and Recall, which I’ve explained in the context of classification, show the performance for each tag. If the Precision is less than 1, that means the tagger gave the tag to a word that it shouldn’t have (a false positive). If the Recall is less than 1, it means the tagger did not give the tag to a word that it should have (a false negative).

Tag Found Actual Precision Recall
# 16 16 1 1
$ 724 724 1 1
694 694 1 1
, 4887 4886 1 1
-LRB- 120 120 1 1
-NONE- 6591 6592 1 1
-RRB- 126 126 1 1
. 3874 3874 1 1
: 563 563 1 1
CC 2271 2265 1 1
CD 3547 3546 0.999 0.999
DT 8170 8165 1 1
EX 88 88 1 1
FW 4 4 1 1
IN 9880 9857 0.9913 0.958
JJ 5803 5834 0.9913 0.9789
JJR 386 381 1 0.9149
JJS 185 182 0.9667 1
LS 12 13 1 0.8571
MD 927 927 1 1
NN 13166 13166 0.9917 0.9879
NNP 9427 9410 0.9948 0.994
NNPS 246 244 0.9903 0.9533
NNS 6055 6047 0.9952 0.9972
PDT 21 27 1 0.6667
POS 824 824 1 1
PRP 1716 1716 1 1
PRP$ 766 766 1 1
RB 2800 2822 0.9931 0.975
RBR 130 136 1 0.875
RBS 33 35 1 0.5
RP 213 216 1 1
SYM 1 1 1 1
TO 2180 2179 1 1
UH 3 3 1 1
VB 2562 2554 0.9914 1
VBD 3035 3043 0.9902 0.9807
VBG 1458 1460 0.9965 0.9982
VBN 2145 2134 0.9885 0.9957
VBP 1318 1321 0.9931 0.9828
VBZ 2124 2125 0.9937 0.9906
WDT 440 445 1 0.8333
WP 241 241 1 1
WP$ 14 14 1 1
WRB 178 178 1 1
712 712 1 1

Unknown Words in Treebank

Suprisingly, the treebank corpus contains 6592 words tags with -NONE-. But it’s not that bad, since it’s only 440 unique words, and they are not regular words at all: *EXP*-2, *T*-91, *-106, and many more similar looking tokens.