PostHeaderIcon Parts-Of-Speech Tagging

This article gives an overview of Parts-Of-Speech Tagging.

What is tagging?

Automatic assignment of descriptors to the given tokens is called Tagging. The descriptor is called tag. The tag may indicate one of the parts-of-speech, semantic information, and so on. So tagging a kind of classification.

What is Parts-Of-Speech Tagging?

The process of assigning one of the parts of speech to the given word is called Parts Of Speech tagging. It is commonly referred to as POS tagging. Parts of speech include nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, pronouns, conjunction and their sub-categories.


Word: Paper, Tag: Noun
Word: Go, Tag:Verb
Word: Famous, Tag:Adjective

Note that some words can have more than one tag associated with. For example, chair can be noun or verb depending on the context.

Parts Of Speech tagger

Parts Of Speech tagger or POS tagger is a program that does this job. Taggers use several kinds of information: dictionaries, lexicons, rules, and so on. Dictionaries have category or categories of a particular word. That is a word may belong to more than one category. For example, run is both noun and verb. Taggers use probabilistic information to solve this ambiguity.

There are mainly two type of taggers: rule-based and stochastic. Rule-based taggers use hand-written rules to distinguish the tag ambiguity. Stochastic taggers are either HMM based, choosing the tag sequence which maximizes the product of word likelihood and tag sequence probability, or cue-based, using decision trees or maximum entropy models to combine probabilistic features.

Ideally a typical tagger should be robust, efficient, accurate, tunable and reusable. In reality taggers either definitely identify the tag for the given word or make the best guess based on the available information. As the natural language is complex it is sometimes difficult for the taggers to make accurate decisions about tags. So occasional errors in tagging is not taken as a major roadblock to research.


Tagset is the set of tags from which the tagger is supposed to choose to attach to the relevant word.
Every tagger will be given a standard tagset. The tagset may be coarse such as N (Noun), V(Verb), ADJ(Adjective), ADV(Adverb), PREP(Preposition), CONJ(Conjunction) or fine-grained such as NNOM(Noun-Nominative), NSOC(Noun-Sociative), VFIN(Verb Finite),VNFIN(Verb Nonfinite) and so on. Most of the taggers use only fine grained tagset.

Architecture of POS tagger

1.Tokenization: The given text is divided into tokens so that they can be used for further analysis. The tokens may be words, punctuation marks, and utterance boundaries.

2.Ambiguity look-up: This is to use lexicon and a guessor for unknown words. While lexicon provides list of word forms and their likely parts of speech, guessors analyze unknown tokens. Compiler or interpreter, lexicon and guessor make what is known as lexical analyzer.

3.Ambiguity Resolution: This is also called disambiguation. Disambiguation is based on information about word such as the probability of the word. For example, power is more likely used as noun than as verb. Disambiguation is also based on contextual information or word/tag sequences. For example, the model might prefer noun analyses over verb analyses if the preceding word is a preposition or article. Disambiguation is the most difficult problem in tagging.

Applications of POS tagger

The POS tagger can be used as a preprocessor. Text indexing and retrieval uses POS information. Speech processing uses POS tags to decide the pronunciation. POS tagger is used for making tagged corpora.

POS Tagging Techniques

Rule-based POS Tagging

Markov Models

Transformation-based Learning

For Further Study

Foundations of Statistical Natural Language Processing

Handbook of Natural Language Processing, Second Edition (Chapman & Hall/CRC Machine Learning & Pattern Recognition)