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Computational Linguistics

Hwee Tou Ng, Editor
March 2010, Vol. 36, No. 1, Pages 129-149
(doi: 10.1162/coli.2010.36.1.36104)
© 2010 Association for Computational Linguistics
Automatically Identifying the Source Words of Lexical Blends in English
Article PDF (139.5 KB)

Newly coined words pose problems for natural language processing systems because they are not in a system's lexicon, and therefore no lexical information is available for such words. A common way to form new words is lexical blending, as in cosmeceutical, a blend of cosmetic and pharmaceutical. We propose a statistical model for inferring a blend's source words drawing on observed linguistic properties of blends; these properties are largely based on the recognizability of the source words in a blend. We annotate a set of 1,186 recently coined expressions which includes 515 blends, and evaluate our methods on a 324-item subset. In this first study of novel blends we achieve an accuracy of 40% on the task of inferring a blend's source words, which corresponds to a reduction in error rate of 39% over an informed baseline. We also give preliminary results showing that our features for source word identification can be used to distinguish blends from other kinds of novel words.