Part-of-speech tagging is the process of assigning unambiguous grammatical categories to words in context. The crux of the problem is that surface forms of words can often be assigned more than one part-of-speech by morphological analysis. For example in English, the word "trap" can be both a singular noun ("a trap") or a verb ("I'll trap it").
This page intends to give an overview of how part-of-speech tagging works in Apertium, primarily within the
apertium-tagger, but giving a short overview of constraints (as in constraint grammar) and restrictions (as in
apertium-tagger) as well.
- See also: Morphological dictionaries
Consider the following sentence in Spanish ("She came to the beach"):
- Vino (noun or verb) a (pr) la (det or prn) playa (noun)
We can see that two out of the four words are ambiguous, "vino", which can be a noun ("wine") or verb ("came") and "la", which can be a determiner ("the") or a pronoun ("her" or "it"). This gives the following possibilities for the disambiguated analysis of the sentence:
- noun, pr, det, noun → Wine to the beach
- verb, pr, det, noun → She came to the beach
- noun, pr, prn, noun → Wine to it beach
- verb, pr, prn, noun → She came to it beach
As can be seen, only one of these interpretations (verb, pr, det, noun) yields the correct translation. So the task of part-of-speech tagging is to select the correct interpretation. There are a number of ways of doing this, involving both linguistically motivated rules (as constraint grammar and the Brill tagger) and statistically based (such as the TnT tagger or the ACOPOST tagger).
The tagger in Apertium (
apertium-tagger) uses a combination of rules and a statistical (hidden Markov) model.
Before we explain what a hidden Markov model is, we need to give some preliminaries, that is define what we mean by tagset and ambiguity class. The tagset (often shown as ) is the set of valid tags (parts of speech, etc.) to be used in the model, for example:
- '<noun>', '<verb>', '<adj>',
The ambiguity classes (noted as ) of a model are the set of possible ambiguities, for example between noun and verb, or verb and adjective, e.g.
- 'noun|verb', 'det|prn', 'det|prn|verb',
Hidden Markov models
A hidden Markov model is made up of two matrices, representing transition and emission probabilities and a vector representing the initial probabilities of the model. The is often expressed as:
Where is the model, is the matrix of transition probabilities, is the matrix of emission probabilities and is the vector of initial probabilities. These probabilities are calculated between the tag set and the ambiguity classes from a training set. This is referred to as parameter estimation.
The easiest way to estimate the parameters of a hidden Markov model is to use maximum likelihood (ML). This method requires a pre-tagged corpus. We're going to make a very small training corpus so that we can train a model which can be used to disambiguate the example sentence above. The corpus is much smaller than would be normally used, but will let us demonstrate step-by-step how the model is constructed and used.
Untagged Analysed Tagged Vino a la playa Vino
Voy a la casa Voy
Bebe vino en casa Bebe
La casa es grande La
Es una ciudad grande Es
In this corpus, the "untagged" text would come from anywhere, the "analysed" text would be the result after being passed through a morphological analyser, and the "tagged" text would be manually disambiguated from the analysed text by one or more humans.
|Matrix of transition counts|
- Calculating the transition probabilities
We're training a bigram model, so we need to make a two-dimensional matrix. The axes of this matrix are the tag set. The first thing we do is sum up the transition counts. For example, if we see a determiner, then a noun four times in the course of the tagged corpus, then we put a four in the element (
It should be possible to see from the counts in the table on the right that already this models some information about the corpus we have. We can see that determiners are followed by nouns and that verbs very often start a sentence. If the corpus were larger, there would be fewer zeroes. These counts are quite easy to calculate.
The next thing to do is calculate the matrix of transition probabilities, . This is usually written as
and means the element at is the probability of appearing given the previous tag . We can give an example for determiner followed by noun as:
|Matrix of transition probabilities ()|
|Second tag ()|
|First tag ()||verb||noun||det||prn||pr||adj||sent|
Or for a more ambiguous example:
Where stands for the number of time that is seen in the training set.
- Also referred to as "parts-of-speech", e.g. Noun, Verb, Adjective, Adverb, Conjunction, etc.