Documentation of Matxin 1.0

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This page is a translation from Spanish into English of most of the documentation of Matxin with some minor alterations. The original documentation can be found here. This page does not describe how to install or use Matxin, for that please see the page on Matxin.

General architecture[edit]

The objectives are open-source, interoperability between various systems and being in tune with the development of Apertium and Freeling. In order to do this, for the analysis of Spanish, FreeLing is used (as it gives a deeper analysis than the analysis of Apertium) and in the transfer and generation, the transducers from Apertium are used.

The design is based on the classic transfer architecture of machine translation, with three basic components: analysis of Spanish, transfer from Spanish to Basque and generation of Basque. It is based on previous work of the IXA group in building a prototype of Matxin and in the design of Apertium. Two modules are added on top of the basic architecture, de-formatting and re-formatting which have the aim of maintaining the format of texts for translation and allowing surf-and-translate.

According to the initial design, no semantic disambiguation is done, but within the lexica a number of named entities, collocations and other multiword terms are added which makes this less important.

As the design was object-oriented, three main objects were defined, sentence, chunk and node. A chunk can encompass a phrase, but always depending on the the output of the analyser, and a node can encompass a word, but taking into account that some words can be multiword units.

There follows a short description of each stage.

De-formatter and re-formatter[edit]

To start with two formats, along with plain text, are supported, that is RTF and HTML.

Although the same technology as Apertium is used, the output of the deformatter and the input of the reformatter are two files as opposed to one. While in Apertium, superblanks, which contain formatting information are added, in Matxin, two files are generated, one with the format information and metadata referencing the text and another with the text converted first to plain text and then to XML with information out placement. This information which is described in part 3 goes in the attributes 'ord' (which expresses the order of the chunks in the sentence and in the nodes of the chunk) and alloc (the position in the analysed text).


The dependency analyser has been developed by the UPC and has been added to the existing modules of FreeLing (tokeniser, morphological analysis, disambiguation and chunking).

The analyser is called Txala, and annotates the dependency relations between nodes within a chunk and between chunks in a sentence. This information is obtained in the output format (see section 2) in an indirect way however in place of specific attributes, it is expressed implicitly in the form of the hierarchy of the tag, (for example, a node structure within another means that the node inside is dependent on the node outside).

As well as adding this functionality, the output of the analyser has been adapted to the interchange format which is described in section 2.

Information from the analysis[edit]

The result of the analysis is made up of three elements or objects (as previously described):

  • Nodes: These tag words or multiwords and have the following information: lexical form, lemma, part-of-speech, and morphological inflection information.
  • Chunks: These give information of (pseudo) phrase, type, syntactic information and dependency between nodes.
  • Sentence: Gives the type of sentence and the dependency between the chunks of itself.


For the phrase,

"porque habré tenido que comer patatas" (because I will have had to eat potatoes)

The output would be made up of the following chunks:

subordinate_conjunction: porque[cs]
noun_chain: patatas[ncfp]


In the transfer stage, the same objects and interchange format is maintained. The transfer stages are as follows:

  • Lexical transfer
  • Structural transfer in the sentence
  • Structural transfer within the chunk

Lexical transfer[edit]

Firstly, the lexical transfer is done using part of a bilingual dictionary provided by Elhuyar, which is compiled into a lexical transducer in the Apertium format.

Structural transfer within the sentence[edit]

Owing to the different syntactic structure of the phrases in each language, some information is transferred between chunks, and chunks can be created or removed.

In the previous example, during this stage, the information for person and number of the object (third person plural) and the type of subordination (causal) are introduced into the verb chain from the other chunks.

Structural transfer within the chunk[edit]

This is a complex process inside verb chains and easier in noun chains. A finite-state grammar (see section 3) has been developed for verb transfer.

To start out with, the design of the grammar was compiled by the Apertium dictionaries or by means of the free software FSA package, however this turned out to be untenable and the grammar was converted into a set of regular expressions that will be read and processed by a standard program that will also deal with the transfer of noun chains.


For the previously mentioned phrase:

"porque habré tenido que comer patatas"

The output from the analysis module was:

subordinate_conjunction: porque[cs]
noun_chain: patatas[ncfp]

and the output from the transfer will be:

jan(main) [partPerf] / behar(per) [partPerf] / izan(dum) [partFut] / edun(aux) [indPres][subj1s][obj3p]+lako[causal]
noun_chain: patata[noun]+[abs][pl]


This also keeps the same objects and formats. The stages as as follows:

  • Syntactic generation
  • Morphological generation

Syntactic generation[edit]

The main job of syntactic generation is to re-order the words in a chunk as well as the chunks in a phrase.

The order inside the chunk is effected through a small grammar which gives the element order inside Basque phrases and is expressed by a set of regular expressions.

The order of the chunks in the phrase is decided by a rule-based recursive process.

Morphological generation[edit]

Once the word order inside each chunk is decided, we proceed to the generation from the last word in the chunk with its own morphological information or that inherited from the transfer phase. This is owing to the fact that in Basque, normally the morphological inflectional information (case, number and other attributes) is assigned to the set of the phrase, adding it as a suffix to the end of the last word in the phrase. In the verbal chains as well as the last word, it is also necessary to perform additional morphological generation in other parts of the phrase.

This generation is performed using a morphological dictionary generated by IXA from the EDBL database which is compiled into a lexical transducer using the programs from Apertium and following their specifications and formats.


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
             ord           CDATA        #REQUIRED
             ref           CDATA        #REQUIRED
             ord           CDATA        #IMPLIED
             ref           CDATA        #IMPLIED
             length        CDATA        #IMPLIED
             type          (sn|grup-sp|grup-verb|conj-subord|F|...)
             si            (subj|obj|...) #IMPLIED
             mi            CDATA        #IMPLIED
             prep          CDATA        #IMPLIED
             cas           CDATA        #IMPLIED
             casref        CDATA        #IMPLIED
             casalloc      CDATA        #IMPLIED
             sub           CDATA        #IMPLIED
             subref        CDATA        #IMPLIED
             suballoc      CDATA        #IMPLIED
             rel           CDATA        #IMPLIED
             relref        CDATA        #IMPLIED
             relalloc      CDATA        #IMPLIED
             trans         CDATA        #IMPLIED
             subMi         CDATA        #IMPLIED
             objMi         CDATA        #IMPLIED
             datMi         CDATA        #IMPLIED
             headlem       CDATA        #IMPLIED
             headpos       CDATA        #IMPLIED
             headsem       CDATA        #IMPLIED
             leafpos       CDATA        #IMPLIED
             ord           CDATA        #IMPLIED
             form          CDATA        #IMPLIED
             lem           CDATA        #REQUIRED
             pos           CDATA        #IMPLIED
             mi            CDATA        #REQUIRED
             ref           CDATA        #IMPLIED
             alloc         CDATA        #REQUIRED
             sem           CDATA        #IMPLIED
             prep          CDATA        #IMPLIED
             cas           CDATA        #IMPLIED
             sub           CDATA        #IMPLIED

DTD for XML-based intercommunication format

For the previously given phrase, the stages are:

"porque habré tenido que comer patatas" ( because I will have had to eat potatoes)

The output from analysis is:

subordinate_conjunction: porque[cs]
noun_chain: patatas[ncfp]

The output from the transfer stage is:

jan(main) [partPerf] / behar(per) [partPerf] / izan(dum) [partFut] /
edun(aux) [indPres][subj1s][obj3p]+lako[causal]
noun_chain: patata[noun]+[abs][pl]

After the generation phase, the final result will be:

"patatak jan behar izango ditudalako"[1]

Although the details of the modules and the linguistic data is presented in section 3 it is necessary to underline that the design is modular, being organised in the basic modules of analysis, transfer and generation, and with clear separation of data and algorithms. And within the data, the dictionaries and the grammars are also clearly separated.

Intercommunication between modules[edit]

An XML format has been designed in order to communicate between the various stages of the translation process. All of these formats are specified within a single DTD. A format sufficiently powerful for the translation process, but also light enough to allow for a fairly fast translation process has been designed.

This format will facilitate interoperability (anyone can change any of the modules while keeping the rest the same) and the addition of new languages (although in this case the transfer phase would need to be adjusted).

Although the post-edition of the results is not one of the specified objectives of the project, the format keeps this in mind (by means of a ref tag) which will facilitate the use of these tools in future projects.

The format comes described in the following DTD which can be used in order to validate the syntax of the interchange formats.

As you can see, there are two attributes ord and alloc which are used in order to get back the format and ref for postedition. The rest of the attributes correspond to the previously-mentioned linguistic information.

An XSLT stylesheet has been prepared in order to see the output of each of the modules in a graphical format.

Three examples of the application of this format through each of the basic phases of translation (analysis, transfer and generation) will now be described taking as an example the translation of the phrase "Un triple atentado sacude Bagdad". A triple bombing shakes Baghdad.

Analysis format[edit]

Is represented in an interchange format as follows:

A dependency diagram for the phrase Un triple atentado sacude Bagdad.
<?xml version='1.0' encoding='iso-8859-1'?>
<?xml-stylesheet type='text/xsl' href='profit.xsl'?>
<SENTENCE ord='1'>
<CHUNK ord='2' type='grup-verb' si='top'>
  <NODE ord='4' alloc='19' form='sacude' lem='sacudir' mi='VMIP3S0'> </NODE>
  <CHUNK ord='1' type='sn' si='subj'>
    <NODE ord='3' alloc='10' form='atentado' lem='atentado' mi='NCMS000'>
      <NODE ord='1' alloc='0' form='Un' lem='uno' mi='DI0MS0'> </NODE>
      <NODE ord='2' alloc='3' form='triple' lem='triple' mi='AQ0CS0'> </NODE>
  <CHUNK ord='3' type='sn' si='obj'>
    <NODE ord='5' alloc='26' form='Bagdad' lem='Bagdad' mi='NP00000'> </NODE>
  <CHUNK ord='4' type='F-term' si='modnomatch'>
    <NODE ord='6' alloc='32' form='.' lem='.' mi='Fp'> </NODE>

The dependency hierarchy which has already been described here is expressed more clearly as a result of the indentation, however the programs obtain this as by the tags chunk and node. As can be seen, the format is simple but very powerful.

The same information processed by the above-mentioned stylesheet is presented to the left for the phrase "Un triple atentado sacude Bagdad".

Transfer format[edit]

Intermediate dependency representation for "Atentatu hirukoitz batek Bagdad astintzen du".

The format remains the same, but the information is translated. The attribute ref is added in order to maintain the information about the order of the source sentence. The post-edition will require the information of interchange between the various phases. On the other hand the information corresponding to the attribute ord disappears as the new order will be calculated in the generation stage.

It is also possible to see that various elements have been removed although their information has been inherited by other elements.

<?xml version='1.0' encoding='iso-8859-1'?>
<?xml-stylesheet type='text/xsl' href='profit.xsl'?>
<SENTENCE ord='1' ref='1'>
  <CHUNK ord='2' ref='2' type='adi-kat' si='top' headpos='[ADI][SIN]' headlem='_astindu_'
             trans='DU' objMi='[NUMS]' cas='[ABS]' length='2'>
    <NODE form='astintzen' ord='0' ref='4' alloc='19' lem='astindu' 
             pos='[NAG]' mi='[ADI][SIN]+[AMM][ADOIN]+[ASP][EZBU]'>
      <NODE form='du' ord='1' ref='4' alloc='19' lem='edun' pos='[ADL]' 
    <CHUNK ord='0' ref='1' type='is' si='subj' mi='[NUMS]' headpos='[IZE][ARR]'
             headlem='atentatu' cas='[ERG]' length='3'>
      <NODE form='atentatu' ord='0' ref='3' alloc='10' lem='atentatu' pos='[IZE][ARR]'
        <NODE form='batek' ord='2' ref='1' alloc='0' lem='bat' pos='[DET][DZH]'> </NODE>
        <NODE form='hirukoitz' ord='1' ref='2' alloc='3' lem='hirukoitz' pos='[IZE][ARR]'/>
    <CHUNK ord='1' ref='3' type='is' si='obj' mi='[NUMS]' headpos='[IZE][LIB]' headlem='Bagdad'
             cas='[ABS]' length='1'>
      <NODE form='Bagdad' ord='0' ref='5' alloc='26' lem='Bagdad' pos='[IZE][LIB]' mi='[NUMS]'> </NODE>
    <CHUNK ord='3' ref='4' type='p-buka' si='modnomatch' headpos='Fp' headlem='.' cas='[ZERO]'
      <NODE form='.' ord='0' ref='6' alloc='32' lem='.' pos='Fp'> </NODE>

The result is the phrase: "Atentatu hirukoitz batek Bagdad astintzen du"[2]

Generation format[edit]

Generation dependency representation of "Atentatu hirukoitz batek Bagdad astintzen du"

The most important changes are the reordering by the value calcuated for the ord attribute and the morphological generation of some of the nodes (edun → ditudalako, patata → patatak).

<?xml version='1.0' encoding='iso-8859-1'?>
<?xml-stylesheet type='text/xsl' href='profit.xsl'?>
<SENTENCE ord='1' ref='1'>
   <CHUNK ord='2' ref='2' type='adi-kat' si='top' headpos='[ADI][SIN]' headlem='_astindu_'
               trans='DU' objMi='[NUMS]' cas='[ABS]' length='2'>
     <NODE form='astintzen' ord='0' ref='4' alloc='19' lem='astindu' pos='[NAG]' mi='[ADI][SIN]+
       <NODE form='du' ord='1' ref='4' alloc='19' lem='edun' pos='[ADL]' mi='[ADL][A1][NR_HU]
              [NK_HU]'/> </NODE>
     <CHUNK ord='0' ref='1' type='is' si='subj' mi='[NUMS]' headpos='[IZE][ARR]'
              headlem='atentatu' cas='[ERG]' length='3'>
       <NODE form='atentatu' ord='0' ref='3' alloc='10' lem='atentatu' pos='[IZE][ARR]'
         <NODE form='batek' ord='2' ref='1' alloc='0' lem='bat' pos='[DET][DZH]'> </NODE>
         <NODE form='hirukoitz' ord='1' ref='2' alloc='3' lem='hirukoitz' pos='[IZE][ARR]'/>
     <CHUNK ord='1' ref='3' type='is' si='obj' mi='[NUMS]' headpos='[IZE][LIB]' headlem='Bagdad'
              cas='[ABS]' length='1'>
       <NODE form='Bagdad' ord='0' ref='5' alloc='26' lem='Bagdad' pos='[IZE][LIB]' mi='[NUMS]'>
     <CHUNK ord='3' ref='4' type='p-buka' si='modnomatch' headpos='Fp' headlem='.' cas='[ZERO]'
       <NODE form='.' ord='0' ref='6' alloc='32' lem='.' pos='Fp'> </NODE>

The result is the sentence: "Atentatu hirukoitz batek Bagdad astintzen du."

Detailed architecture[edit]

An overview of the Matxin architecture

It is necessary to remember that the analysis stage re-uses the FreeLing package and thus the documentation which will be used is from that project: and also auxiliary functions from the Apertium package will be used for the generation and lexical transfer stages and in order to do de/re-formatting of texts. The documentation for this can be found on and

The detailed architecture of Matxin can be found in figure 1.

The application which has been developed is stored in an SVN repository which is mirrored for public access at The elements in the figure can be found in four subdirectories:

  • trunk/src -- Here the sourcecode of the programs is found which corresponds almost one to one with the names of the processes in figure 1.
  • trunk/data/dict -- The dictionaries used in the transfer stage and in the generation stage
  • trunk/data/gram -- The grammars for transfer and generation
  • trunk/bin -- Executable programs

As can be seen in the figure, on one hand the three phases of analysis, transfer and generation are distinguished and on the other hand the modules corresponding to the programs, the dictionaries and the grammars are distinguished. This helps to achieve an open and modular architecture which allows the addition of new languages without requiring changes in the programs. As it is free software, it will be possible to improve the system without needing to modify the programs, all that will be required is to improve and expand the dictionaries and grammars without needing to understand the code of the programs. Of course it will also be possible to modify the code.

We will now detail the elements of the various phases:

  • LT: Lexical transfer
    • Bilingual dictionary (compiled) -- (eseu.bin)
    • Dictionary of chunk types -- (eseu_chunk_type.txt)
    • Dictionary of semantic information -- (eu_sem.txt)
  • ST_intra: Syntactic transfer within the chunk
    • Grammar to exchange information between nodes (intrachunk_move.dat)
  • ST_inter: Syntactic transfer between chunks
    • Verb subcategorisation dictionary (eu_verb_subcat.txt)
    • Preposition dictionary (eseu_prep.txt)
    • Grammar to exchange information between chunks (interchunk_move.dat)
  • ST_verb: Syntactic transfer of the verb
    • Grammar of verb transfer (compiled) (eseu_verb_transfer.dat)
  • SG_intra: Conversion and ordering within the chunk
    • Dictionary of conversion of syntactic information (eu_changes_sint.txt)
    • Grammar of ordering within the chunk (eu_intrachunk_order.dat)
  • SG_inter: Ordering between chunks
    • Grammar for ordering between chunks (eu_interchunk_order.dat)
  • MG: Morphological generation
    • Dictionary for converting morphological information (compiled) (eu_changes_morph.bin)
    • Morphological generation dictionary (compiled) (eu_morph_gen.bin)
    • Morphological generation dictionary for any lemma (compiled) (eu_morph_nolex.bin)
    • Morphological generation dictionary for measures (eu_measures_gen.bin)
    • Morphological preprocessing grammar (eu_morph_preproc.dat)

In the next section the linguistic resources which have been used will be described, followed by the structure of the individual programs.

Format of linguistic data[edit]

With the objective of encouraging good software engineering as well as facilitating the modification of the system by linguists, the linguistic information is distributed in two types of resources (dictionaries and grammars) and these resources have been given the most abstract and standard format possible.

As has been previously described the basic linguistic resources, with the exception of those designed specifically for FreeLing are as follows:

  • Dictionaries:
    • Transfer: The Spanish→Basque bilingual dictionary, the Spanish→Basque syntactic tag dictionary, the Basque semantic dictionary, the Spanish→Basque preposition dictionary and the Basque verb subcategorisation dictionary.
    • Generation: The syntactic change dictionary, the morphological change dictionary and the Basque morphological dictionary.
  • Grammars:
    • Transfer: grammar for the transfer of verbal chains from Spanish→Basque and Spanish→Basque structural transfer grammars
    • Generation: Basque morphological preprocessing grammar, re-ordering grammar for both interchunk and intrachunk.

In the search for standardisation, the bilingual and morphological dictionaries are specified in the XML format described by Apertium which has been made compatible with this system.

We have tried to make the grammars finite-state, but in the case of the interchunk movement a recursive grammar has been opted for.

A special effort has been made to optimise the verb chain transfer grammar as the transformations are deep and may slow down the system. While standardising this grammar, the language of the xfst package (with some restrictions) has been chosen, it is well documented and very powerful, although it has the problem of not being free software. As a result of this, a compiler which transforms this grammar into a set of regular expressions that are processed in the transfer module.

The rest of the linguistic resources are grammars which take care of different objectives and which have a specific format. At the moment they have a format which is not based on XML but one which has been aimed at finding a compromise between something which is comprehensible for linguists and which is easily processed by the programs. In the future formats and compilers will be designed which will make the grammars more independent of the programs.

In any case the linguistic data is separated from the programs so that it can allow third parties to modify the behaviour of the translator without needing to change the source code.

Spanish→Basque bilingual dictionary[edit]

This follows the Apertium specification. It has been obtained from part of the Elhuyar bilingual dictionary and it contains the Basque equivalents for each of the entries in Spanish present in the FreeLing dictionary. Although a fraction of these equivalents are distributed on the SourceForge mirror site. The dictionary creation process is described in depth in reference.[6]

Given that there is no semantic disambiguation, only the first entry for each word has been entered (except with the prepositions which have been kept), but in order to improve the situation many multiword units have been entered, from both the Elhuyar dictionary and through an automatic process of searching for collocations.

In annex 2 the format (which is described in chapter 2 of reference [1]) will be presented and a small part of the bilingual dictionary.

Syntax tag dictionary[edit]

In this dictionary the equivalences between the syntactic tags that are given by the FreeLing analyser and the tags which are used in the transfer and generation of Basque are found. It is a very simple dictionary that allows us to remove the code for these transformations.

es_chunk_type eu_chunk_type #comment

Example of the content of this dictionary

sn        is        #sintagma nominal                      izen-sintagma
s-adj     adjs      #sintagma adjetivo                     adjektibo-sintagma
sp-de     post-izls #sint. preposicional con la prep. "de" izenlagun-sintagma
grup-sp   post-sint #sint. preposicional (excepto "de")    postposizio-sintagma
Fc        p-koma    #signo de puntuación "coma"            puntuazioa: koma
F-no-c    p-ez-koma #signos de puntuación(excep. "coma")   koma es diren punt-ikurrak
número    zki       #cualquier número cardinal             edozein zenbaki kardinal
grup-verb adi-kat   #grupo verbal                          aditz-katea
sadv      adbs      #sintagma adverbial                    adberbio-sintagma
neg       ez        #negación                              ezeztapena
coord     emen      #conjunción coordinada                 emendiozko juntagailua

Preposition dictionary[edit]

In this dictionary the prepositions of Spanish are found along with their possible translations in Basque (a case and sometimes a preposition), the selection condition (if there is one) of any of the possible translations, and if after seeing these conditions there is still more than one possible translation, a mark which shows which of the equivalences have been taken into account in the process of selection with information from verb subcategorisation.

es_preposition  eu_case  selectionCondition  subcategorisation

The selection condition has the format chunk-attribute='value'

where chunk can be "my" or "parent" depending on if it refers to an attribute of its own chunk or to an attribute in an ancestor chunk.

The field case_eu can be of two types:

  • A single declination class
  • A declination class ++ a preposition / declination class of the preposition

The declination class of the preposition will be used in the process of selection with verb subcategorisation.

en   [INE]                    -                       +
a    +[AMM][ADIZE]+[DEK][ALA] my.headpos='[ADI][SIN]' -
a    [INE]                    my.headpos='[Zm]'       -
a    [DAT]                    -                       +
a    [ABS]                    -                       +
a    [ALA]          'cc'              +
ante [GEN]++aldean/INE        parent.headlem='izan'   -
ante [GEN]++aurrean/INE       -                       +
ante [GEN]++aurrera/ALA       -                       +

Verb subcategorisation dictionary[edit]

This dictionary is used in the process of selecting the correct translation of the prepositions of the complements which accompany a verb.

It includes the information about transitivity of each verb.

VerbEu   transitivity/subjectCase1/complementCase2#transitivity2/subjectCase2...

The different possibilities of subcategorisation appear in frequency order from most frequent to least frequent according to corpus counts.

For some verbs it only gives information on transitivity

jario             ZAIO//#
jaulki            DU/ZAIO//#
jaundu            ZAIO//#
zuzenarazi        DA-DU//#
zuzeneratu        DA-DU//#
zuzperrarazi      DU//#

Semantic dictionary[edit]

In order to take some decisions in the translation process there are points where it is necessary to have semantic information about the words. This dictionary contains information about the semantic feature of the words.

nounEu  [semanticFeature Sign]

semanticFeature is the identification of a semantic feature and Sign is one of the signs +, -, or ?. The symbol '?' is used when for some of the translations it might be positive and for others negative or when it hasn't been possible to establish the direction.

At the moment only the information about the semantic feature "animate / inanimate" although in the future other necessary features will be included.

abarka     [BIZ-]
abarkagile [BIZ+]
abarketa   [BIZ-]
abarketari [BIZ+]
abaro      [BIZ-]
abarrategi [BIZ-]
abat       [BIZ?]
abata      [BIZ-]
abatari    [BIZ+]

Syntactic change dictionary[edit]

To order the nodes within a chunk specific syntactic information is needed about the category of the nodes. In the case that the determiners will vary according to the lemma of the determiner (meaning that a determiner of one type may appear before a noun or another of the same type after).

At the moment in this dictionary, the second column indicates which determiners are put before ([DET][IZL]) and which after ([DET][IZO]) according to the lemma and the category, information which is expressed in the first column.

lemma[syntacticInformation]  lemma[orderingInformation]
asko[DET][DZG]  asko[DET][IZO]
bana[DET][BAN]  bana[DET][IZO]
bat[DET][DZH]   bat[DET][IZO]
beste[DET][DZG] beste[DET][IZL]

Morphological changes dictionary[edit]

In order to generate the superficial form of the words in Basque it is necessary to inflect, which involves knowing the lemma, the word category and the information about case and number. However, sometimes the category which comes from the bilingual dictionary and which is used for ordering words within the chunk does not coincide with the set of categories used in the morphological dictionary. In this case we need to know the information on category which serves for the generation. This information can be obtained using the dictionary of morphological changes which follows the Apertium XML format.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="iso-8859-1"?>
  <section id="main" type="standard">
        <e><p><l>aitzindari izan[ADI][SIN]</l><r>izan[ADI][SIN]+[AMM][ADOIN]
        <e><p><l>bandotan antolatu[ADI][SIN]</l><r>antolatu[ADI][SIN]+[AMM][PART]
        <e><p><l>haize eman[ADI][SIN]</l><r>eman[ADI][SIN]+[AMM][ADOIN]</r></p></e>
        <e><p><l>haize emate[IZE][ARR]</l><r>eman[ADI][SIN]te[ATZ][IZE][ARR]

Morphological dictionary[edit]

Basque morphology is complex and owing to its agglutinative character, much of the standard free software for dealing with morphology (such as ispell, aspell and hunspell) is quite well adapted for it. When the IXA group designed the morphological processor for Basque, it opted for two-level morphology, based on lexica and morphological rules which allow the compilation of a transducer for both analysis and generation.

The problem is that at the time, there was no free software capable of compiling or transforming two level morphologies (currently there are two packages capable of doing this: sfst from Stuttgart and hfst from Helsinki). As a result of this restriction, it was opted to transform the dictionaries and rules into the Apertium format, removing the phonological changes and transforming them into additional paradigms. With this, pseudo-lemmas and pseudo-morphemes are generated which do not correspond to canonical forms.

This is inconvenient as the Apertium format is less expressive than two-level rules and the transformation was complicated and in some cases it was necessary to put up with lower coverage or overgeneration. The main problem is that it has limited the capacity of agglutinating morphemes in Basque, and as a result that although for generation this will not be a problem, it will be problematic if anyone wants to use the dictionary for analysis.

Furthermore, as it was generated automatically and uses non-canonical forms, the readability and comprehensibility suffers.

The Apertium format is the same as the bilingual dictionary which is described exhaustively in chapter 2 of reference [1]. It is composed of a section for the alphabet, another for the tags, a third for the paradigms and a fourth for the mappings between lemma and paradigms. In annex 3 a small part of the morphological dictionary is presented. The source file is XML and the output is a binary transducer.

Verb chain transfer grammar[edit]

This is one of the most complicated parts of the sytem as verbs chains are very different in the two languages. In reference [3] a description is made of the format and the function of the rules which are applied.

For the moment the format follows the syntax of xfst, that although it is not a standard and nor is it free software, it is well known for its power, flexibility and documentation. As a first attempt, it was attempted to convert the grammar to that of the free FSA, however there were problems in the tests due to the restrictiveness of the format and finally the problems of efficiency made it unworkable. In the end, a translator ( was created for the grammar (based on the syntax of xfst) eseu_verb_transfer.fst to a set of regular expressions eseu_verb_transfer.dat which are read and processed by one of the modules in the system.

The regular expressions are applied one by one to an input which contains the information of the analysis of the verb chain in Spanish, as well as the information of agreement with the objects and any information about subordination. The regular expressions make modifications to this input until they create an output which contains all of the information necessary to generate the verb chain in Basque.


The grammar is composed of three groups of rules:

  • Rules for identification and tagging
  • Rules for the conversion of attributes
  • Rules for the removal of superfluous information

The first are very simple and tag the different types of verb chains identified, six in total. The generic format is as follows:

[ esVerbChainType @-> ... BORDER euVerbChainSchema ]

The part on the left is a regular expression which identifies the type of verb chain which is looked for in Spanish and the part on the right gives a set of attributes corresponding to a schema of the equivalent verb chain in Basque.

The rules for the conversion of attributes which form the second group have the following structure:

[ "euAttribute" @-> "euValue" || ?* esValues ?* BORDER ?* euValues ?* _ ]

which indicates the value which an attribute takes in a given specified context.

The philosophy is that the first rules add various abstract attributes, and that these attributes are then substituted for concrete values according to the elements of the verb chain in Spanish, adding this information on the right side.

Finally, the removal rules get rid of information of the attributes in Spanish which aren't needed in the rest of the translation process.

"porque no habré tenido que comer patatas"

The information given by the analyser is as follows:

conjunction: porque[cs]
negative: no[rn]
verb_chain: haber[vaif1s]+tener[vmpp0sm]+que[cs]+comer[vmn]
noun_chain: patatas[ncfp]

Which after the process of lexical transfer is given as:


A rule of the first time (identification and tagging) with the form:

[ esVerbChainTypePerif1 @->... BORDER euVerbChainSchemaP1 ]

Transforms it into:

      ==>P1> (main)Aspm/Per Aspp/Dum Aspd/Aux TenseM SubjObjDat +RelM

One of the rules that transforms the periphrastic verbs looks like:

[     [ "Aspp" @-> "[partFut]" || ?* [VMIF|VMIC|VAIC] ?* BORDER "P1" ?* _ ]
  .o. [ "Aspp" @-> "[partImp]" || ?* [VMIP|VMII] ?*
        BORDER "P1" ?* [{hasi}|{amaitu}|{utzi}|{joan} ] _ ]
  .o. [ "Aspp" @-> "[verbRad]" || ?* BORDER "P1" ?* {ari} ?* _ ]
  .o. [ "Aspp" @-> "[partPerf]" || ?* BORDER "P1" ?*    ]

This transforms the input into:

BORDER P1> (main)[partPerf] / behar(per)[partPerf] / izan(dum)[partFut]
      / edun(aux)[indPres][subj1s][obj3p]+lako[causal morpheme]

Which after the cleaning ends up as:

jan(main)[partPerf] / behar(per)[partPerf] / izan(dum)[partFut]
      / edun(aux)[indPres][subj1s][obj3p]+lako[causal morpheme]

Compiled regular expressions[edit]

The format of the regular expressions after compilation is as follows:

leftContext   chainToSubstitute rightContext substitutingString
 *?\.querer\..*?            Per      .*?           nahi_izan
.*?(\=\=\>)P1.*?            ari_izan <PER>ADOIN.*? aritu
.*?\.acabar\..*?\.de\..*?\/ Prt      .*?           berri<PRT>[ADJ][IZO]
.*?dat2s.*?                 Ni       .*?           [NI_ZU]

In the first rule, for example, if it finds the chain "Per", having the left context ".querer.", it substitutes "Per" for "nahi_izan".

Intrachunk movement grammar[edit]

In this phase it is necessary to pass information from some of the nodes to the chunks to which they belong. These movements are defined in this grammar.

nodeCondition/originAttribute  chunkCondition/destinationAttribute writeMode

Where writeMode can be overwrite, no-overwrite or concat.

mi!=''     /mi     type!='adi-kat' /mi       no-overwrite
mi='[MG]'  /mi     type!='adi-kat' /mi       overwrite
prep!=''   /prep                   /prep     concat
prep!=''   /ref                    /casref   concat
prep!=''   /alloc                  /casalloc concat
pos!=''    /pos                    /headpos  no-overwrite
lem!=''    /lem                    /headlem  no-overwrite
sem!=''    /sem                    /headsem  no-overwrite
pos='[Z]'  /pos                    /leafpos  overwrite
pos='[Z]'  /'[MG]'                 /mi       overwrite
pos='[Zu]' /'[MG]'                 /mi       overwrite

If the condition is fulfilled both in the node and in the chunk (in the condition, one or more attributes and the value that they should or shouldn't have is specified), the value which is found in the origin attribute is passed to the destination attribute in the chunk in one of three writing modes:

  • overwrite (where it is written, deleting what was previously in the attribute),
  • no-overwrite (where it is only written if the attribute has no previous value) and
  • concat (where the value is added to the previous content of the attribute).

For example, if we interpret the first two rules of the example, in a verbal chunk (adi-kat), the morphological information (mi) of the first of the nodes which have any information information to the chunk. The information of those following will not be passed providing it doesn't have the value '[MG]'.

Interchunk movement grammar[edit]

In this phase it is necessary to pass information between chunks. This is defined in this grammar.

nodeCondition/originAttribute  chunkCondition/destinationAttribute direction writeMode

Where direction can be either up or down.

sub!=''&&type='adi-kat' /sub        si='obj'         /cas      down overwrite
sub!=''                 /sub        type='adi-kat'   /rel      down no_overwrite
sub!=''                 /subref     type='adi-kat'   /relref   down concat
sub!=''                 /suballoc   type='adi-kat'   /relalloc down concat
type='ez'               /'adi-kat-ez' type='adi-kat' /type     up   overwrite
si='subj'               /mi         type='adi-kat'   /subMi    up   overwrite
si='obj'                /mi         type='adi-kat'   /objMi    up   overwrite
si='iobj'&&cas!='[DAT]' /mi         type='adi-kat'   /objMi    up   overwrite

Between two chunks information of the source attribute to the target attribute will be passed, if it fufills the condition for both chunks. The condition gives one or more attributes and the value which they should or shouldn't contain. This process is applied in one of the three write-modes (see previous section), and in the direction marked, either down (the source chunk is the parent and the target chunk is its child) or up (the source chunk is the child of the parent chunk to which it passes the information).

In the last rule in the example, it says that if a chunk has syntactic information (si) with the value iobj (indirect object) and its case is not '[DAT]' (dative), it will pass the information in the attribute 'mi' to the chunk which is above it (direction 'up') overwriting the contents of the attribute 'objMi', but only if the chunk is of type 'adi-kat'.

Basque morphological preprocessing grammar[edit]

To generate the superficial form of the words in Basque that need to be generated it is necessary to have the lemma, the part-of-speech, the case and the number. However, depending on the part-of-speech and case this information needs to be ordered in one way or another in order to generate correctly (as the morphemes aren't always added in the same order). This grammar defines the ordering of this information

[IZE][(IZB)](.*?)[(INE|ALA|ABL|ABU|GEL)]    LemaMorf +[DEK] Num +[DEK] Kas
[IZE][(IZB|LIB)]                            LemaMorf +[DEK] Kas [MG]
[DET][ERKARR][NUMS](.*?)[(ABS|SOZ|DES|GEN)] LemaMorf +[DEK] Kas
[DET][ERKARR][NUMS](.*?)[(ERG|DAT)]         LemaMorf +[DEK] Kas Num
[DET][ERKARR][NUMS](.*?)[(INE|ABL)]         LemaMorf +[DEK] [MG] +[DEK] Kas
[DET][ERKARR][NUMS](.*?)[(.*?)]             LemaMorf +[DEK] Num +[DEK] Kas
[DET][ERKARR](.*?)[(SOZ|DES|GEN)]           LemaMorf +[DEK] Kas
[DET][ERKARR](.*?)[(ABS|ERG|DAT|INS)]       LemaMorf +[DEK] Kas Num
[DET][ERKARR](.*?)[(.*?)]                   LemaMorf +[DEK] Num +[DEK] Kas
gutxi[DET][DZH](.*?)                        LemaMorf +[DEK] Kas

(.*?) LemaMorf +[DEK] Num +[DEK] Kas

In the left-hand column a regular expression is given where any information can appear, for example, the lemma, the morphological or syntactic information and the case of the word to be generated. According to this information the morphemes are re-ordered in the order indicated by the second column. "lemaMorf" gives the lemma and the syntactic information, "Num" gives the number and "Kas" the case.

Thusly we can see that in order to generate the declined forms of the demonstrative determiners in the singular "[DET][ERKARR][NUMS]" "hau", "hori" and "hora", depending on the case they are ordered differently than those in the plural "hauek", "horiek" and "haiek".

Sometimes, for example for "gutxi", this word is ordered differently than the rest of the words in this category.

On the last line the default order of morphemes is defined.

Basque intrachunk ordering grammars[edit]

The nodes within a chunk in Basque are ordered according to the patterns defined in this grammar.

chunkType (syntacticInformation)...(syntacticInformation)([BURUA])(syntacticInformation)...(syntacticInformation)

[BURUA] is the place where the root node of the chunk is placed. The rest of the nodes are placed according to their syntactic information

adi-kat ([ADB])([BURUA])([PER])([PRT])([ADM])([ADL])
adi-kat-ez      ([PRT])([ADL])([ADB])([BURUA])([PER])([ADM])

For example, for verb chains in affirmative sentences (adi-kat), they are ordered by putting before the root note, the node which has an adverb ([ADB]) if it exists and after a periphrastic verb ([PER]) the verbal particle ([PRT]) the modal verb ([ADM]) or the auxiliary verb ([ADL]), in this order and providing they exist.

For example, for verb chains in affirmative sentences (adi-kat), are ordered by putting the adverb ([ADB]), if it exists, before the root node. After the periphrastic verb ([PER]) comes the verbal particle ([PRT]), the modal verb ([ADM]), and the auxiliary verb ([ADL]). This order is followed providing that all of them exist.

It can be seen that in verb chains in negative sentences however (adi-kat-ez) the order changes, putting the verbal particle ([PRT]) before the auxiliary verb ([ADL]), and the adverb before the periphrastic verb ([PER]) and the modal.

The translations of "he tenido que venir" and "no he tenido que venir" would be ordered in the following way:

adi-kat >> etorri  behar izan   dut
           [BURUA] [PER] [ADM] [ADL]

adi-kat-ez >> dut    etorri behar izan
              [ADL] [BURUA] [PER] [ADM]
Note: the reason why the "is" (nominal?) rule has so many ([DET][IZL]) and ([ADJ][IZO]) is (probably) that there is no Kleene star (*) operator.

Basque interchunk ordering grammars[edit]

The order of the chunks in a phrase is decided following a recursive process, which traverses the tree in post-order, ordering each chunk with each of the chunks that are attached.

parentChunkType   childChunkType  relativePosition   order

Where order can be specified as follows:

  • x1.x2 -- The child chunk (x2) is put after the last chunk ordered up until now
--x1-- => --x1--x2
  • x2.x1 -- The child chunk (x2) is put immediately before the parent chunk
--x1-- => --x2 x1--
  • x2+x1 -- The child chunk (x2) is put immediately before the parent chunk (x1)
making sure that no other chunk is put between them. If another chunk
needs to be put after (with the order x2.x1 or x2+x1) it is put
immediately after the chunk we've just ordered.
--x1-- => --[x2 x1]--
  • x1+x2 -- As above, only the child chunk (x2) is put immediately after the parent chunk (x1)
Note: only implemented in branches/matxin as of yet.
  • x2.x1.x2 -- The first chunks of the child chunk (x2) are put before the head, with the very last one being put right after the head (the order of the child chunk depends on whether earlier rules have reordered it or not)
eg. [vbser [vblex [adv] [n]] where all three are chunks, ordered like "vbser vblex adv n" before the rule applies, would give the order "vblex adv vbser n"

relativePosition gives the position where the child chunk will be found with respect to the parent chunk in the source language sentence. If we have the following parse:

child_A child_B parent child_C child_D

then we can number them like this:

   -2     -1       0      1       2
child_A child_B parent child_C child_D

so the relativePosition of child_C is 1, etc.

adi-kat-ez ez   .*? x2+x1
adi-kat    .*?  >1  x1.x2
adi-kat    .*?  =1  x2.x1
adi-kat    .*?  <1  x2.x1
.*?        .*? .*?  x2.x1

When a verbal chain chunk (adi-kat-ez) has a leaf chunk of type 'ez' (a negative verbal particle equivalent to 'no' in Spanish) this particle is put immediately in front of the verbal chain and no other chunk can be put between them.

On the other hand, chunks that depend on an adi-kat chunk are put in front if in Spanish they are found in front of a verb (relative position < 1), or immediately after it (rel. pos. = 1). Ths chunks which are found in Spanish more to the right in Basque are also put after, leaving one after another in the same order that they were in Spanish.

For example the phrase "Yo corto el pan en casa para ti" (I cut the bread at home for you)

Matxin rel pos diagram.svg

is ordered as follows:

 <Nik><ogia><MOZTEN DUT><etxean><zuretzat>
 (yo) (el pan)   (corto)    (en casa) (para tí)

Note: the first matching rule is applied, ie. above rules have priority.

To sum up, these are the ordering relations:

# if child is before head (<1), put child before the head:
head	child 	<1	x2.x1
# if child is immediately after head (=1), put child immediately before head:
head	child 	=1	x2+x1
# if child is after head, but not immediately after (>1), put child after head:
head	child	>1	x1.x2
# we should've exhausted the possibilities by now, but put child after head:
head	child	.*?	x1.x2

You can also say eg. =3, etc.

Program design[edit]

In chapter two the general scheme has been described and in chapter four, the modules which make up the program. In this chapter we would like to expand on this in more detail, and more from the angle of software development.

The analyser, the transfer module and the generation module are the three fundamental components of the system (see figure 1). These modules communicate between themselves using an XML structure defined in chapter three.

The first element, the analyser has been developed by the UPC and is distributed and documented independently in the package FreeLing (

The transfer and generation modules have a coherent design and implementation which makes use of, when appropriate, the basic modules from the package Apertium (

The programs which are referred to in the following sections are available under the GPL in the Matxin package (

Methodology and object orientation[edit]

As previously mentioned, an object oriented design has been implemented where the basic objects are the interchange format elements: node (word/lemma), chunk (pseudo-phrase) and sentence. As can be seen in the examples in chapter 4, with these elements a dependency tree of chunks of the phrase is represented, along with the dependencies between words/lemmas in each chunk, and the information of each word/lemma.

For the example which has been previously used:

"porque habré tenido que comer patatas"

The information that comes out of the analyser will be as follows:

  • A sentence
  • Three chunks: porque, habré_tenido_que_comer and patatas, in this dependency order, with the second depending on the first and the third on the second.
  • The second chunk is divided into four nodes, where comer is the root node and the other three depend on it.

This is represented as a tree (which will be the internal representation which is used) in the following way:

<SENTENCE ord="1">
  <CHUNK ord="1" type="conj-subord">
    <NODE ord="1" form="porque" lem="porque" mi="CS" alloc="1"/>
    <CHUNK ord="2" type="grup-verb">
      <NODE ord="4" form="comer" lem="comer" mi="VMN0000" alloc="25">
        <NODE ord="1" form="habré" lem="haber" mi="VAIF1S0" alloc="8"/>
        <NODE ord="2" form="tenido" lem="tener" mi="VMP00SM" alloc="14"/>
        <NODE ord="3" form="que" lem="que" mi="CS" alloc="21"/>
      <CHUNK ord="3" type="sn" si="obj">
        <NODE ord="1" form="patatas" lem="patata" mi="NCFP000" alloc="31"/>

In both the transfer as in the generation various stages are required. In transfer the lexical and syntactic transfer are distinguished, and in generation, syntactic and morphological. Structural transfer is divided in turn into subphases. We will call intra the process which deals with nodes within a chunk, and inter the process which treats chunks within a phrase.

Where possible the linguistic data has been separated from the algorithmic code, coming out with the grammars, dictionaries and other elements described in chapter 4.

In the next pages we describe the modules in more detail.

Transfer modules[edit]

The transfer process is complicated and has two basic modules:

  • Lexical transfer
  • Structural transfer

The structural transfer has two modules intra and inter which are described later.

Lexical transfer[edit]

This is based on the bilingual dictionary described in section 4.1. All of the lemmas coming from Spanish apart from the verb nodes which aren't roots (auxiliary verbs and components of periphrastic verbs) are marked and left for transformation in the structural transfer.

The pseudo-algorithm is as follows:

conversion of attribute ord to ref (sentence, chunk, node)

for chunk in chunks:
	if chunk == verbal chunk:
		for node in nodes:
			if node == chunk root: 
				dictionary_lookup_lemma_pos (node)
				no_transfer_mark_lemma (node)
		dictionary_lookup_lemma_pos_im (node)	
		semantic_lookup (node)

Structural transfer[edit]

This is implemented by doing transfers of attributes between nodes and chunks and in between chunks in order to get an equivalent structure in the target language.

Intrachunk structural transfer

The object to be processed is the chunk. In general attributes of the node are passed to the chunk to which they belong following the grammar of information exchange. When a node is left without a lemma, it is removed.

The pseudo-algorithm:

for chunk in chunks:
	for node in nodes:
		raise_attributes (grammar, nodes, chunk)
		if lemma == null:	
			remove_node (node)
Interchunk structural transfer

The object to be processed is the sentence. Attributes of a chunk are passed to another chunk according to the grammar. This also tries to identify the case of noun phrases (chunks) according to the type of main verb and the prepositions from the rest of the chunks, it also decides the transitivity of the verb in Basque.

The pseudo-algorithm:

for chunk in chunks:
	lower_attributes (current_chunk, chunk_dependents, grammar)
	translate_prepositions (chunk_dependents)

	if chunk == verbal chunk:
		subcategorisation (current_chunk, chunk_dependents)
		assign_transitivity (current_chunk)

	raise_attributes(current_chunk, chunk_ascendents)

	if chunk == null:
		remove_chunk (chunk)
Verb structure transfer

Uses the verb chain transfer grammar described in section 4.3 directly.


for chunk in verbal_chunks:
	apply_grammar_transfer (chunk)

Generation modules[edit]

As in the transfer there are two main stages however the order is reversed; first the syntactic generation is performed (which as the syntactic transfer works on the chunk and sentence level) and then the morphological generation is performed (which works on the node level).

Syntactic generation[edit]

The first part is the re-ordering of chunks within the sentence (inter) and then the re-ordering of nodes within the chunks (intra).

Interchunk syntactic generation

Works recursively and follows the interchunk ordering grammar. It traverses the tree in post-order and decides the relative order of a chunk and its children according to the rules defined in the grammar.

The pseudo-algorithm:

for chunk in order(chunk, post-order)
	define_order (chunk->parent, chunk->child)
Intrachunk syntactic generation

Orders the nodes within the chunks according to a regular expression grammar. This element is describes in part 5.13, the grammar is in trunk/data/gram/eu_intrachunk_order.dat


for chunk in chunks:
	define_order (chunk->nodes)

Morphological generation[edit]

Finally, the morphological information from the chunk is transferred to the node corresponding to the last word in order to make use of this information in the next stage.

This stage is based on the morphological dictionary described in section 4.2. Additionally there are two hash tables aiming at filling out and ordering the information.


for chunk in chunks:
	node = bilatu_azken_hitza                   <!-- find last word -->
	egokitu_lema_pos (node)                     <!-- -->
	kontsultatu_sorkuntzako_hash (node)         <!-- -->
	kontsultatu_ordenaketa_hash (node)          <!-- -->
	sortu_forma (node)                          <!-- create the form -->


  1. Note: The actual translation produced by the free version of Matxin is "Jan behar izango dut patata"
  2. The free version of Matxin gives "Astintzen du Bagdad hirukoitz atentatu bat"