Word Sense Disambiguation CS 4740 – Introduction to NLP


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1 Introduction
Word Sense Disambiguation (WSD) is a task to find the correct meaning of
a word given context. Because many words in natural language are polysemous, humans perform WSD based on various cues from the context including
both verbal and non-verbal. In this assignment, you are going to implement a
WSD system by using one of two different methods: a supervised method or
a dictionary-based method. Since many problems in natural language understanding are related to knowing the sense of each word in a document, WSD
can be utilized as a building block for a variety of high-level tasks in the future.
Through this assignment, you will use the English Lexical Sample task from
Senseval for training and testing your system. Training and evaluating on these
data, you will analyze the pros and cons of your selected WSD approach. We
will also setup a Kaggle competition so that you can submit the prediction
results of your WSD system.
2 Dataset
The data files for this project are available via CMS and consist of training data,
test data, and a dictionary that describes commonly used senses for each word.
All these files are in XML format. Every lexical item in the dictionary contains
multiple sense items, and the examples in the training data are annotated with
the correct sense of the target word in the given context.
The file training-data.data contains several < lexelt > elements corresponding to each word in the training set. Each < lexelt > element has an item
attribute whose value is word.pos, where word is the target word for which we
are to predict the sense and pos represents the part-of-speech of the target word
where ’n’, ’v’, and ’a’ stand for noun, verb, and adjective, respectively.
Each < lexelt > element has several < instance > elements, each corresponds to a training instance for the word that corresponds to the parent
< lexelt > element. Each < lexelt > element also has an id attribute and
contains one or more < answer > and a < context > element.
Every < answer > element has two attributes, instance and senseid. The
senseid attribute identifies the correct sense from the dictionary for the present
word in the current context. A special value ”U” is used to indicate that the
correct sense is not clear.
A < context > element contains:
prev-context < head > target-word < /head > next-context
• prev-context is the actual text given before the target word for which we
are predicting the sense.
• head is the actual appearance of the target word to be disambiguated.
Note that it may be morphological variant of the target word. For example, the word ”begin.v” could show up as ”beginning” instead of ”begin”.
• next-context is the actual text that follows the target word.
The structure of the test-data.data file is the same as training-data.data except
that it does not have < answer > elements inside < instance > elements.
Instead, your system will predict the answer senses.
In the dictionary file, every sense item contains a gloss field to indicate the
corresponding definition. Each gloss consists of commonly used definitions (It
is possible to explain a certain sense in multiple ways inside a single sense item
entry) delimited by a semicolon, and may have multiple real examples wrapped
by quotation marks being also delimited by a semicolon. The format of the gloss
field is not highly uniform, so, you may find some glosses that do not have real
3 Supervised WSD
This section will show a simple probabilistic approach called the Naive-Bayes
model to perform supervised WSD. It is also explained in the text book. This
model takes a word in context as an input and outputs a probability distribution over predefined senses, indicating how likely each sense corresponds to the
correct meaning of the target word within the given context. Specifically, it
picks the best sense by the following:
sˆ = argmaxs∈S(w)P(s|
In the above equation, S(w) is the predefined set of senses for the target word
w, and ~f is a feature vector extracted from the context surrounding w. Thus
the equation says we are going to choose the most probable sense as the correct
meaning of the target word w given the feature vector ~f. By applying Bayes
~f) = P(
As the denominator does not change with respect to s ∈ S(w), the best sense ~s
is determined by
~s = argmaxs∈S(w)P(
The model then naively assumes that features in the feature vector ~f are conditionally independent given the sense of the word s. This assumption yields the
following decomposition:
~f|s) = Yn
P(fj |s) where f = (f1, f2, …, fn)
In other words, the probability of a feature vector given a particular sense
can be es- timated by the product of the probabilities of its individual features
given that sense. Hence the best sense is determined by
~s = argmaxs∈S(w)P(
~f|s)P(s) = argmaxs∈S(w)P(s)
P(fj |s)
What you have to implement for this model is given below. Read the following
instructions carefully.
1. In order to train the above model, you should learn the model parameters:
1) the prior probability of each sense P(s) and 2) the individual feature
probabilities P(fj |s). Those are computed by the Maximum Likelihood
Estimation (MLE) which simply counts the number of occurrences in the
training set. In particular for the i-th sense si of a word w,
P(si) = count(si
, w)
P(fj |si) = count(fj , si)
For instance, let’s assume there are 1,000 training examples corresponding
to the word ”bank”. Among them, 750 occurrences stand for bank1 which
covers the financial sense, and 250 occurrences for bank2 which covers the
river sense. Then the prior probabilities are
P(s1) = 750
= 0.75 P(s2) = 250
= 0.25
If the first feature ”credit” occurs 195 times within the context of bank1,
but only 5 times within the context of bank2,
P(f1 = ”credit”|s1) = 195
= 0.26 P(f1 = ”credit”|s2) = 5
= 0.02
2. Though the basic setup is given above, the performance of your WSD
system will mainly rely on how well you generate feature vectors from the context. Note that target words to be disambiguated are
always pro- vided within a sufficiently long sentence. As you have seen
in the above toy example, extracting informative features from the surrounding context will have the model parameters discriminate the unlikely
senses from the correct sense. In our model, this process of deciding model
parameters corresponds to the training. Of course, you have to train a
separate model per each target word in the training data.
3. When learning your model, be sure that you never use the test data for
training. Instead of marking the predicted senses directly into the testing
file, you are going to generate a separate output file consisting
of the predicted senses for test data. If you upload it to Kaggle, you
will get back your score until the submission deadline. You can find the
output file specification in Section 5.
4. If you want to evaluate the performance of your system before submitting
to Kaggle, or you designed multiple different models based on the NaiveBayes model, you should reserve a certain portion of the training data as
a validation set in order to measure the performance of your system (or
models). Since you know the true senses for the training data, testing
on the validation set will let you guess how well your system (or models)
works for the test data. This process is called validation. Note that you
must not train on the validation set if you use a validation step.
4 Dictionary-based WSD
This section will show a dictionary-based WSD approach which is different from
the previous supervised setting. This technique was discussed in class and in the
text book. Rather than training on the human-tagged dataset of true senses,
dictionary-based approaches utilize definitions given in the dictionary. See the
following example of disambiguating ”pine cone”.
• pine (the context)
1. a kind of evergreen tree with needle-shaped leaves
2. to waste away through sorrow or illness
• cone (the target word)
1. A solid body which narrows to a point
2. Something of this shape, whether solid or hollow
3. Fruit of certain evergreen trees
As bold faced in the above, the 3rd sense of the target word best matches the 1st
sense of the context word among all possible combinations. This process shows
the original Lesk algorithm to disambiguate senses based only on the crosscomparing the definitions. However, it is able to be extended to utilize examples
in the dictionary to get wider matching. Read the following instructions
1. Design a metric that rewards consecutive overlaps beyond treating them
as two distinct overlaps of a single word. Note that there would be morphological varia- tions in the definitions and examples. In order to increase
the matching, stemming or lemmatizing could be useful. (You can find
such tools in the WordNet).
2. Implement a dictionary-based WSD system that disambiguates the sense
by comparing the definitions of the target word to the definitions of relevant words in the context. In the same way that the performance of the
supervised system depends largely on the feature generation, here your
design decision of finding relevant words will determine the performance of
the dictionary- based system in combination with the metric you designed
3. In contrast to the supervised settings, there is no training process involved
here because we mainly use definitions and examples in the dictionary to
figure out the correct sense. As explained in the Section 2, the dictionary
file contains a certain amount of glosses and examples. If you conclude
those are not enough to perform the dictionary-based approach, using
the WordNet dictionary could be an alternative. If it is hard to find
the mapping between predefined senses of our dictionary and WordNet,
you may first find the correct sense in WordNet, and then may choose the
best sense in our dictionary based on the WordNet sense with its examples
and definitions. Though you may have to perform the matching algorithm
twice, incorporating WordNet may be helpful due to its richness and APIs.
4. Since there is no training process, you could verify the performance of your
dictionary-based system on the entire training set. You could also compare
the performance of two WSD systems via testing on the same validation
set you reserved from the training set. Similar to supervised WSD, you
have to submit prediction results for the test data to Kaggle.Your final
Kaggle submission can be the one with higher accuracy.
5 Scoring
We use accuracy (= No. of correct predictions / No. of total predictions) as
a score. Since a target word may contain multiple meanings at the same time,
a single prediction could be counted as incorrect unless your system predicts
exactly same senses with the ground-truth labels. Suppose that the target word
in a test example has k senses in the given context. Then you should predict
all k senses in your output file. The prediction file you will have to submit to
Kaggle consists of a single line per test instance and it should always begin with
the following line.
This line should be followed by several lines following the format below and
there should be one line for each test example.
< instanceidvalue >, < Senseid1 >< Senseid2 > … < Senseidk >
An example line in the correct format is shown below:
activate.v.bnc.00134704,38201 38203
6 Proposal
Describe your WSD system and implementation plan in 1 page: what kinds of
features are you planning to extract from the context if you elect to focus on
supervised WSD? Otherwise, What are you going to do for dictionary-based
WSD? Provide a clear and brief explanation of your planned system and algorithm. (You don’t have to repeat the basic WSD models that described in this
document) Rather than writing up every single detail, try to explain the motivation of your design decisions by providing the intuition via examples. Note
that the more examples you brainstorm, the higher accuracy you will likely get
in this assignment.
7 Report
You should submit a short document (5-6 pages will suffice) that consists of the
following sections. (Of course, you can add more sections if you wish!)
1. Approach: Explain the approach for your WSD system. Try to justify
your design decisions by providing intuitive examples.
2. Software: List any software that your system uses, but you did not write
by yourself. Make clear which parts of system rely on the software if it is
not obvious.
3. Results: Explain what kinds of experiments you perform for this assignment. Summarize the performance of your system on the test data. Minimally, you could compare your results to the baseline system that always
predicts to the most frequent sense. Note that having no comparisons
will not justify the experimental performance of your system. Please put
the results into clearly labeled tables and diagrams including a written
summary of the results.
4. Discussion: You should include observations that you make during the
experiments. One essential discussion for the machine learning based system is to analyze why and which features are informative based on the
real examples. Please report the top three features with the selected real
examples. Which aspect(s) of your dictionary based approach are most
important for good performance? Can you characterize the kinds of examples for which your system is particularly good(or bad)?
8 Guidelines
1. You should work in groups of 2 for this project.Working with people from
various backgrounds will highly benefit both implementation and analysis
for this assignment.
2. It is not allowed to use other pre-built WSD systems to implement or
fortify your own system. In contrast, using tool-kits such as NLTK or
OpenNLP is encouraged. Note that you should not use machine learning algorithms such as SVMs for this assignment unless they are used in
addition to Naive Bayes.
3. Start early and try to discuss the training and dictionary data together
before writing a proposal. Reserve enough time to provide an analysis of
your results.
4. Submitting to Kaggle is not optional, but mandatory for every team.
Detailed information about Kaggle competition will be updated via Piazza. Extra credit will be provided for top teams for each approach on
Kaggle. Details about extra credit are explained in the grading guidelines.
5. Grading
• Proposal: [10 pts]
• Implementation: [45 points]
• Report: [50 pts]
• Kaggle Submission[5 pts]
• Extra Credit by Kaggle Rank: #1 – 10 pts, #2 – 5pts, #3 – 3pts,
#4&5 – 2 pts, #6-10 – 1pt
6. What to submit
• Proposal (pdf into CMS, hardcopy at class)
• Source code (only the code that YOUR TEAM wrote, not for any of
the common packages that your team used).
• Prediction output (the files you submit to Kaggle)
• The report (pdf into CMS, hardcopy at class)
• Archive all of these except the proposal, and upload it to CMS.
7. When to submit
• Proposal due on Thursday 10/08. Submit hard copy in class and
upload soft copy to CMS
• Final project due on Monday 10/19 @ 11:59 pm. Upload project to
CMS in a .zip file