Google Research

A Challenge Set and Methods for Noun-Verb Ambiguity

Proceedings of the 2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, pp. 2562-2572


English part-of-speech taggers regularly make egregious errors related to noun-verb ambiguity, despite having achieved 97%+ accuracy on the WSJ Penn Treebank since 2002. These mistakes have been difficult to quantify and make taggers less useful to downstream tasks such as translation and text-to-speech synthesis. This paper creates a new dataset of over 30,000 naturally-occurring non-trivial examples of noun-verb ambiguity. Taggers within 1% of each other when measured on the WSJ have accuracies ranging from 57% to 75% accuracy on this challenge set. Enhancing the strongest existing tagger with contextual word embeddings and targeted training data improves its accuracy to 89%, a 14% absolute (52% relative) improvement. Downstream, using just this enhanced tagger yields a 28% reduction in error over the prior best learned model for homograph disambiguation for text-to-speech synthesis.

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