What is Statistical Language Modeling (SLM)

The goal of Statistical Language Modeling is to build a statistical language model that can estimate the distribution of natural language as accurate as possible. A statistical language model (SLM) is a probability distribution P(s) over strings S that attempts to reflect how frequently a string S occurs as a sentence.

By expressing various language phenomena in terms of simple parameters in a statistical model, SLMs provide an easy way to deal with complex natural language in computer.

The original (and is still the most important) application of SLMs is speech recognition, but SLMs also play a vital role in various other natural language applications as diverse as machine translation, part-of-speech tagging, intelligent input method and Text To Speech system.

Common SLM techniques

N-gram model and variants

N-gram model is the most widely used SLM today.
Without loss of generality we can express the probability of a string s: p(s) as

    p(s) = p(w1)p(w2|w1)p(w3|w1w2)...p(wl|w1...wl-1) = prod_i^l(p(wi|w1...wi-1))
    

In bigram models, we make the approximation that the probability of a word only depends on the identity of the immediately preceding word, hence we can approximate p(s) as:

    p(s) = prod_i^l p(wi|wi-1)
    
The parameters in a traditional N-gram model can be estimated with (Maximum Likelihood Estimation) MLE technique:
                  C(wi-1, wi)
    p(wi|wi-1) = --------------
                    C(wi-1)
    

N-gram models have received intensive research since its invention, several enhanced N-gram models have been proposed. Here are some typical extensions to traditional N-gram model:

Structural Language Model

to be written

Maximum Entropy Language Model

Maximum Entropy (ME) model is an elegant and general statistical model that can incorporate features from different sources freely. A conditional ME model has the form:

                1     
    p(w|h) =  ----- * exp [sum(lambda fi(h, w))]
               Z(h)
    
where lambda are parameters Z(h) is a normalization factor and fi(h, w) are arbitrary functions of the word history pair. A ME model that incorporates trigram, distance N-gram, trigger pairs was observed more than 30% perplexity reduction over baseline trigram model. (Rosenfeld, 1996). ME model can also be trained to incorporates topic information.

Whole Sentence Exponetial Model

The major drawback of conditional ME models is the huge computation involved, making it infeasible to handle large corpora. To address this issue and to overcome the inherent disadvantage of chain role Rosefield and his group at CMU proposed a whole sentence exponential model:

              1     
    P(s) =  ----- * P0(s) *  exp [sum(lambda fi)]
              Z
    
Here Z is a normalization constant and the lambda can be estimated via sampling.

SLM Software

Here is an (incomplete) list of common used SLM software available freely to SLM community:

SLM References

Some recommended papers on SLM technique, only papers that have on-line electrical version are listed. (TODO: sort papers based on their categories)

SLM Resources

To be written.

SLM Applications