Lexical Selection for Machine Translation

  • Yasser Sabtan

    Student thesis: Phd


    Current research in Natural Language Processing (NLP) tends to exploit corpus resources as a way of overcoming the problem of knowledge acquisition. Statistical analysis of corpora can reveal trends and probabilities of occurrence, which have proved to be helpful in various ways. Machine Translation (MT) is no exception to this trend. Many MT researchers have attempted to extract knowledge from parallel bilingual corpora. The MT problem is generally decomposed into two sub-problems: lexical selection and reordering of the selected words. This research addresses the problem of lexical selection of open-class lexical items in the framework of MT. The work reported in this thesis investigates different methodologies to handle this problem, using a corpus-based approach. The current framework can be applied to any language pair, but we focus on Arabic and English. This is because Arabic words are hugely ambiguous and thus pose a challenge for the current task of lexical selection. We use a challenging Arabic-English parallel corpus, containing many long passages with no punctuation marks to denote sentence boundaries. This points to the robustness of the adopted approach. In our attempt to extract lexical equivalents from the parallel corpus we focus on the co-occurrence relations between words. The current framework adopts a lexicon-free approach towards the selection of lexical equivalents. This has the double advantage of investigating the effectiveness of different techniques without being distracted by the properties of the lexicon and at the same time saving much time and effort, since constructing a lexicon is time-consuming and labour-intensive. Thus, we use as little, if any, hand-coded information as possible. The accuracy score could be improved by adding hand-coded information. The point of the work reported here is to see how well one can do without any such manual intervention. With this goal in mind, we carry out a number of preprocessing steps in our framework. First, we build a lexicon-free Part-of-Speech (POS) tagger for Arabic. This POS tagger uses a combination of rule-based, transformation-based learning (TBL) and probabilistic techniques. Similarly, we use a lexicon-free POS tagger for English. We use the two POS taggers to tag the bi-texts. Second, we develop lexicon-free shallow parsers for Arabic and English. The two parsers are then used to label the parallel corpus with dependency relations (DRs) for some critical constructions. Third, we develop stemmers for Arabic and English, adopting the same knowledge -free approach. These preprocessing steps pave the way for the main system (or proposer) whose task is to extract translational equivalents from the parallel corpus. The framework starts with automatically extracting a bilingual lexicon using unsupervised statistical techniques which exploit the notion of co-occurrence patterns in the parallel corpus. We then choose the target word that has the highest frequency of occurrence from among a number of translational candidates in the extracted lexicon in order to aid the selection of the contextually correct translational equivalent. These experiments are carried out on either raw or POS-tagged texts. Having labelled the bi-texts with DRs, we use them to extract a number of translation seeds to start a number of bootstrapping techniques to improve the proposer. These seeds are used as anchor points to resegment the parallel corpus and start the selection process once again. The final F-score for the selection process is 0.701. We have also written an algorithm for detecting ambiguous words in a translation lexicon and obtained a precision score of 0.89.
    Date of Award1 Aug 2011
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • The University of Manchester
    SupervisorAllan Ramsay (Supervisor)


    • Arabic Part-of-Speech Tagging
    • Lexical Selection
    • Machine Translation
    • Arabic Natural Language Processing
    • Arabic Dependency Parsing

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