Deriving a probabilistic syntacto-semantic grammar for biomedicine based on domain-specific terminologies

Jung Wei Fan, Carol Friedman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

Biomedical natural language processing (BioNLP) is a useful technique that unlocks valuable information stored in textual data for practice and/or research. Syntactic parsing is a critical component of BioNLP applications that rely on correctly determining the sentence and phrase structure of free text. In addition to dealing with the vast amount of domain-specific terms, a robust biomedical parser needs to model the semantic grammar to obtain viable syntactic structures. With either a rule-based or corpus-based approach, the grammar engineering process requires substantial time and knowledge from experts, and does not always yield a semantically transferable grammar. To reduce the human effort and to promote semantic transferability, we propose an automated method for deriving a probabilistic grammar based on a training corpus consisting of concept strings and semantic classes from the Unified Medical Language System (UMLS), a comprehensive terminology resource widely used by the community. The grammar is designed to specify noun phrases only due to the nominal nature of the majority of biomedical terminological concepts. Evaluated on manually parsed clinical notes, the derived grammar achieved a recall of 0.644, precision of 0.737, and average cross-bracketing of 0.61, which demonstrated better performance than a control grammar with the semantic information removed. Error analysis revealed shortcomings that could be addressed to improve performance. The results indicated the feasibility of an approach which automatically incorporates terminology semantics in the building of an operational grammar. Although the current performance of the unsupervised solution does not adequately replace manual engineering, we believe once the performance issues are addressed, it could serve as an aide in a semi-supervised solution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)805-814
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biomedical Informatics
Volume44
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2011

Keywords

  • Biomedical terminology
  • Natural language processing
  • Probabilistic parsing
  • Semantic grammar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Informatics

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