Teaching Machines to Find Names

Teaching Machines to Find Names

Raymond Chiong (Swinburne University of Technology, Sarawak Campus, Malaysia)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-849-9.ch229
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Abstract

In the field of Natural Language Processing, one of the very important research areas of Information Extraction (IE) comes in Named Entity Recognition (NER). NER is a subtask of IE that seeks to identify and classify the predefined categories of named entities in text documents. Considerable amount of work has been done on NER in recent years due to the increasing demand of automated texts and the wide availability of electronic corpora. While it is relatively easy and natural for a human reader to read and understand the context of a given article, getting a machine to understand and differentiate between words is a big challenge. For instance, the word ‘brown’ may refer to a person called Mr. Brown, or the colour of an item which is brown. Human readers can easily discern the meaning of the word by looking at the context of that particular sentence, but it would be almost impossible for a computer to interpret it without any additional information. To deal with the issue, researchers in NER field have proposed various rule-based systems (Wakao, Gaizauskas & Wilks, 1996; Krupka & Hausman, 1998; Maynard, Tablan, Ursu, Cunningham & Wilks, 2001). These systems are able to achieve high accuracy in recognition with the help of some lists of known named entities called gazetteers. The problem with rule-based approach is that it lacks the robustness and portability. It incurs steep maintenance cost especially when new rules need to be introduced for some new information or new domains. A better option is thus to use machine learning approach that is trainable and adaptable. Three wellknown machine learning approaches that have been used extensively in NER are Hidden Markov Model (HMM), Maximum Entropy Model (MEM) and Decision Tree. Many of the existing machine learning-based NER systems (Bikel, Schwartz & Weischedel, 1999; Zhou & Su, 2002; Borthwick, Sterling, Agichten & Grisham, 1998; Bender, Och & Ney, 2003; Chieu & Ng, 2002; Sekine, Grisham & Shinnou, 1998) are able to achieve near-human performance for named entity tagging, even though the overall performance is still about 2% short from the rule-based systems. There have also been many attempts to improve the performance of NER using a hybrid approach with the combination of handcrafted rules and statistical models (Mikheev, Moens & Grover, 1999; Srihari & Li, 2000; Seon, Ko, Kim & Seo, 2001). These systems can achieve relatively good performance in the targeted domains owing to the comprehensive handcrafted rules. Nevertheless, the portability problem still remains unsolved when it comes to dealing with NER in various domains. As such, this article presents a hybrid machine learning approach using MEM and HMM successively. The reason for using two statistical models in succession instead of one is due to the distinctive nature of the two models. HMM is able to achieve better performance than any other statistical models, and is generally regarded as the most successful one in machine learning approach. However, it suffers from sparseness problem, which means considerable amount of data is needed for it to achieve acceptable performance. On the other hand, MEM is able to maintain reasonable performance even when there is little data available for training purpose. The idea is therefore to walkthrough the testing corpus using MEM first in order to generate a temporary tagging result, while this procedure can be simultaneously used as a training process for HMM. During the second walkthrough, the corpus uses HMM for the final tagging. In this process, the temporary tagging result generated by MEM will be used as a reference for subsequent error checking and correction. In the case when there is little training data available, the final result can still be reliable based on the contribution of the initial MEM tagging result.
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Introduction

In the field of Natural Language Processing, one of the very important research areas of Information Extraction (IE) comes in Named Entity Recognition (NER). NER is a subtask of IE that seeks to identify and classify the predefined categories of named entities in text documents. Considerable amount of work has been done on NER in recent years due to the increasing demand of automated texts and the wide availability of electronic corpora. While it is relatively easy and natural for a human reader to read and understand the context of a given article, getting a machine to understand and differentiate between words is a big challenge. For instance, the word ‘brown’ may refer to a person called Mr. Brown, or the colour of an item which is brown. Human readers can easily discern the meaning of the word by looking at the context of that particular sentence, but it would be almost impossible for a computer to interpret it without any additional information.

To deal with the issue, researchers in NER field have proposed various rule-based systems (Wakao, Gaizauskas & Wilks, 1996; Krupka & Hausman, 1998; Maynard, Tablan, Ursu, Cunningham & Wilks, 2001). These systems are able to achieve high accuracy in recognition with the help of some lists of known named entities called gazetteers. The problem with rule-based approach is that it lacks the robustness and portability. It incurs steep maintenance cost especially when new rules need to be introduced for some new information or new domains.

A better option is thus to use machine learning approach that is trainable and adaptable. Three well-known machine learning approaches that have been used extensively in NER are Hidden Markov Model (HMM), Maximum Entropy Model (MEM) and Decision Tree. Many of the existing machine learning-based NER systems (Bikel, Schwartz & Weischedel, 1999; Zhou & Su, 2002; Borthwick, Sterling, Agichten & Grisham, 1998; Bender, Och & Ney, 2003; Chieu & Ng, 2002; Sekine, Grisham & Shinnou, 1998) are able to achieve near-human performance for named entity tagging, even though the overall performance is still about 2% short from the rule-based systems.

There have also been many attempts to improve the performance of NER using a hybrid approach with the combination of handcrafted rules and statistical models (Mikheev, Moens & Grover, 1999; Srihari & Li, 2000; Seon, Ko, Kim & Seo, 2001). These systems can achieve relatively good performance in the targeted domains owing to the comprehensive handcrafted rules. Nevertheless, the portability problem still remains unsolved when it comes to dealing with NER in various domains.

As such, this article presents a hybrid machine learning approach using MEM and HMM successively. The reason for using two statistical models in succession instead of one is due to the distinctive nature of the two models. HMM is able to achieve better performance than any other statistical models, and is generally regarded as the most successful one in machine learning approach. However, it suffers from sparseness problem, which means considerable amount of data is needed for it to achieve acceptable performance. On the other hand, MEM is able to maintain reasonable performance even when there is little data available for training purpose. The idea is therefore to walkthrough the testing corpus using MEM first in order to generate a temporary tagging result, while this procedure can be simultaneously used as a training process for HMM. During the second walkthrough, the corpus uses HMM for the final tagging. In this process, the temporary tagging result generated by MEM will be used as a reference for subsequent error checking and correction. In the case when there is little training data available, the final result can still be reliable based on the contribution of the initial MEM tagging result.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Natural Language Processing (NLP): An area of study concerning the problems inherent in the processing and manipulation of natural language with the aim to make computers understand statements written in human languages.

Gazetteer: A list of named entities with the names of persons, organizations, locations, expressions of times, quantities, monetary values, percentages, etc.

Information Extraction (IE): A process of selecting information from a dataset or text based on certain specifications using templates, and it is often delivered in the form of fragments of documents.

British National Corpus (BNC): A 100 million word collection of samples of written and spoken language from a wide range of sources, designed to represent a wide cross-section of current British English, both spoken and written.

Hidden Markov Model (HMM): A statistical model for determining the hidden parameters based on the observable parameters using probability distribution in order to perform analysis and pattern recognition.

Named Entity Recognition (NER): A subtask of IE that seeks to identify and classify named entities in text into predefined categories such as the names of persons, organizations, locations, expressions of times, quantities, monetary values, percentages, etc.

Machine Learning: An area of study concerning the development of techniques which allow machines or computers to improve their performance based on previous results and learning experience.

Maximum Entropy Model (MEM): A statistical model for analyzing the available information in order to determine a unique epistemic probability distribution based on partial information about the probabilities of possible outcomes of an experiment, and chooses the probabilities so as to maximize the uncertainty about the missing information.

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