Technological innovation has paved the path for introducing revolutionary advancements such as blockchain, robotics, and automation systems. Would you have imagined a smart home device performing different tasks to make your life better? For example, Alexa or Siri could listen to your requests, understand them, and take necessary actions to fulfill your service requests. How do you think robotic assistants understand human language? This is where you would come across natural language processing NLP techniques.

Natural language processing helps you ‘train’ machines to understand human language and respond like humans. The earliest example of using machines to understand human language was identified in 1954. The use of machine translation by IBM for translating Russian sentences into English showcased the possibilities of prominent advantages with machine translation.

Natural language processing could serve multiple functionalities other than creating voice assistants. The effective use of NLP tools could help in using massive amounts of unstructured text data for natural language understanding. NLP could unlock a broad range of applications for machine learning alongside capitalizing on massive volumes of knowledge. Let us understand the history of Natural Language Processing, how it works, different types of NLP tasks, types of language models, and examples of NLP in real life.

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Background of NLP 

The history of NLP could provide an ideal start to a Natural Language Processing introduction for beginners. IBM showcased the first demonstration of using machine translation to translate more than 60 sentences from Russian to English. The tech giant leveraged six grammar rules within a dictionary featuring 250 words. However, such types of rules-based approaches could not find a place in production systems.

MIT came up with another NLP model in the late 1960s, which used natural language. The SHRDLU model was created using LISP programming language and helped users in querying and modifying the state of a virtual world. The virtual world or blocks world included multiple blocks, and the world could be manipulated through different use commands. While the model provided a successful demonstration, it could not find its way to complex environments. 

The next phase in the history of NLP created the foundation for evolution of new language models. For example, chatbot-style applications gained momentum during the 1970s and early 1980s. At the same time, other applications like the Lehnert Plot Units helped in implementing narrative summarization. 

The late 1980s introduced new types of language models in NLP with the transition to statistical models from rule-based approaches. Subsequently, the arrival of the internet helped in improving NLP systems research as it enabled easier access to massive repositories of textual information for machines.

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Definition of Natural Language Processing

The next important aspect in a guide to “What is natural language processing?” would point at its definition. Natural language processing is a discipline in computer science or machine learning and AI that helps enable computers to understand spoken words and text in natural language. NLP features a combination of computational linguistics with machine learning, deep learning, and statistical models.

Computational linguistics represents the rule-based models for simulating human language. The combination of computational linguistics with machine learning, deep learning, and statistical models helps computers in processing text and voice data in natural language. NLP helps computers understand the exact meaning of the text or voice data in natural language with a clear description of the writer or speaker’s intent, sentiments, and context of the statement.

The growing curiosity to learn NLP can be attributed to the role of NLP in driving computer applications that could respond to user commands, summarize large chunks of text, or translate text into different languages. Such types of NLP applications also provide real-time functionalities with instant results according to your queries.

You can find natural language processing examples in interactions with digital assistants, voice-operated GPS systems, and AI chatbots. On top of it, NLP also serves a formidable role in powering enterprise solutions, which could support mission-critical business processes and increase employee productivity.

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Working Mechanism of NLP

The best method for understanding NLP is to dive deeper into its working mechanism. Natural language processing helps machines decipher human language through analysis of different factors such as syntax, morphology, and semantics. Subsequently, the natural language processing NLP systems use linguistic knowledge for developing rule-based machine learning algorithms. In the context of NLP, machine learning helps machines in absorbing massive volumes of natural language data.

NLP can decipher the meaning of the natural language data through syntactic analysis and semantic analysis. Syntactic analysis relies on the use of grammatical and syntax rules to obtain meaning from text. On the other hand, semantic analysis ensures that machine learning algorithms focus on meaning of the words and how they have been used in specific contexts.

Types of Language Models 

The working mechanisms of NLP must also emphasize the different types of language models in NLP and their advantages. You can teach a machine how to interpret natural language by developing language models. The language models provide directions to the computer for interpretation of natural language inputs.

First of all, you can come across rules-based models, which are trained with all the rules of a particular language. Such types of models include grammatical rules, important conventions, and words directly programmed into the model. Rule-based models offer better control over the behavior of the model, albeit with a time-consuming and complicated development process.     

Machine learning models are also another entry in a natural language processing introduction as they work through training with massive volumes of data. It uses the training data for learning how to understand natural language. Trained machine learning models with access to high-quality data could perform better than rules-based models.

Any individual who wants to learn NLP must also familiarize themselves with large language models or LLMs. Most of the NLP use cases you see today are based on LLMs, where ‘large’ denotes the volume of training data. You can find majority of predictive language models to be large language models.

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What are the Different Types of NLP Tasks?

The guides to natural language processing must also shed light on the different types of tasks you can achieve with NLP. Human language is riddled with complexities and confusing meanings. Therefore, it is difficult to create software that could provide an accurate impression of the intended meaning of voice data or text. 

If you want successful natural language processing examples, then you must ensure that NLP systems can understand idioms, homonyms, sarcasm, usage exceptions, homophones, and variations in sentence structure, metaphors, and grammar. NLP tasks are a crucial component in the working of NLP systems as they help in breaking down voice data and human text so that computers can understand natural language. Here are some of the notable NLP tasks.

  • Speech Recognition 

Speech recognition is an important highlight in answers to “What is natural language processing?” and involves conversion of speech data to text. It is an important requirement for processes which require voice commands and respond to spoken questions. Speech recognition is a difficult task as people talk in different ways, such as with differences in pace or accents.

  • Grammatical Tagging

Grammatical tagging or part-of-speech tags are also another crucial NLP task. It involves determining the part of speech for a specific word or text according to its usage and context. For example, “I could make a cup of coffee for you” and “This is a different make of the coffee machine” have different meanings for ‘make.’ 

  • Named Entity Recognition 

Named Entity Recognition is an NLP task focused on identification of phrases or words as relevant entities. For example, NEM could help in identifying ‘California’ in the form of a location and ‘Ken’ as a person’s name. 

  • Natural Language Generation 

Another important highlight in the list of natural language processing NLP systems points to natural language generation. It is the opposite of speech-to-text or speech recognition and involves the organization of structured information in human language.

  • Word Sense Disambiguation 

Word sense disambiguation is another crucial NLP task that involves choosing the meaning of words with different meanings. It leverages semantic analysis to determine words that fit in the specific context. For example, word sense disambiguation can help in finding out the difference between ‘making a bet’ and ‘making it to the top.’

  • Sentiment Analysis 

The outline of natural language processing examples would also draw attention to sentiment analysis. It is a promising tool for extracting subjective elements such as emotions, confusion, attitudes, suspicion, and sarcasm from text data.

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What are the Popular Tools in NLP?

The outline of NLP tasks provides a clear impression of how an important subdomain of AI could transform computer systems. However, you should also learn about NLP tools that help in achieving such functionalities. Here is an outline of the popular tools used in the domain of natural language processing.

  • Python and Natural Language Toolkit

Python offers a broad range of libraries and tools focused on addressing common NLP tasks. Most of these tools are accessible through Natural Language Toolkit. The NLTK serves as an open-source array, including education resources, libraries, and programs for developing NLP solutions. 

The NLTK features libraries for different NLP tasks alongside libraries suited for subtasks, including word segmentation, lemmatization, sentence parsing, and stemming. It also features libraries that can help in implementation of features, including semantic reasoning, which offers the ability to infer logical conclusions according to facts obtained from textual data. 

  • Statistical Models, Deep Learning, and Machine Learning 

The most prominent highlight in a natural language processing introduction would point at statistical NLP, deep learning, and machine learning. It is important to note that the first generation of NLP systems followed a rules-based approach and manual programming approaches. However, the earliest NLP applications could not scale up to accommodate the growing volumes of voice data and text alongside emerging needs.

Statistical natural language processing NLP models feature a combination of computer algorithms for deep learning and machine learning models. It helps in extraction, classification, and labeling of different elements in text data and speech data. For example, deep learning models and machine learning techniques utilize recurrent neural networks and convolutional neural networks for powering NLP systems.

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Examples of NLP Use Cases

The final highlight required to learn NLP focuses on the different use cases of natural language processing. NLP serves as a powerful force for driving machine intelligence as a tool for transforming different real-world applications. Here is an outline of the examples of noticeable use cases of natural language processing.

  • Machine Translation 

The original use case of natural language processing focuses on machine translation. One of the most popular examples of machine translation points is Google Translate. 

  • Sentiment Analysis

Another prominent use case of different types of language models in NLP points to social media sentiment analysis. Natural language processing has emerged as a crucial business tool to uncover data insights hidden in social media networks. Sentiment analyzers could support analysis of communications used in social media posts, reviews, and responses for extracting insights about emotions for specific products.

  • Virtual Assistants and Chatbots

The next popular addition among use cases of NLP points at virtual assistants and chatbots. Businesses can leverage these use cases for personalizing user experiences by learning contextual cues in service requests. The advancements in conversational AI provide better opportunities for expanding the capabilities of virtual assistants and chatbots.

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The growing importance of natural language processing NLP systems is not a technology trend that will fade away. It is important to note that advancements in AI and machine learning depend on improvements in understanding and using training data. You can notice some of the popular natural language processing examples in virtual assistants like Alexa and AI chatbots.

Large language models, or LLMs, which serve as the foundation for popular tools like ChatGPT, use natural language processing. Therefore, it is important to learn natural language processing and the best practices for implementing it to achieve goals in desired use cases. Learn more about the fundamentals of natural language processing and discover how it could introduce revolutionary transformation in technology now.

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