What is Natural Language Processing (NLP)?

Natural Language Processing commonly abbreviated as NLP is a subfield of computer science and artificial intelligence. It is mainly concerned with the interaction between computers and the languages humans speak, like English, Italian, French, among various others. It is used in particular to program machines to process and analyze large amounts of natural language data.

The development of NLP applications is quite challenging because computers traditionally require human beings to communicate to them through a programming language or a high-level language. Human speech, however, is not always precise, is often ambiguous and is dependent on factors like the emphasis on a particular word or expression. These are the factors that the computer finds very difficult to understand.

How does Natural Language Processing work?

Syntax and Semantic analysis are two main techniques that are used with NLP. The  Syntax is the arrangement of words in a sentence to make some grammatical sense. Different Syntax methods used are:

  • Parsing
  • Word segmentation
  • Sentence breaking
  • Morphological segmentation and
  • Stemming

The Semantic involves the use and meaning behind the words. NLP applies the algorithms to understand the grammar and meaning of the sentences. The techniques used by NLP in semantic Analysis are:

  • Named Entity Recognition
  • Natural Language Generation

The current approaches to NLP are mainly based on Deep Learning, which is a type of AI that examines and uses the patterns in data to improve programs understanding. It is basically dependent on supervised learning, which consists of a training set and a test set.

Three tools very commonly used for NLP are NLTK, Gensim, and Intel NLP Architect. Natural Language Toolkit(NLTK), is an open-source python module with data sets and tutorials. Gensim is a Python library for topic modeling and document indexing. Intel NLP Architect is also another Python library for deep learning topologies and techniques.

What are the Uses of Natural Language Processing?

Although, NLP came into existence for the first time by Alan Turing when he published an article titled “Computer Machinery and Intelligence,”. The vast use came into effect only from the 80s, after the introduction of Machine Learning. Before 1980, the most natural language processing systems were based on complex sets of hand-written rules. Writing these rules included a lot of labor and was inaccurate due to diversity in the pronunciation of a language. Introduction of Machine Learning speeded up the development of Natural Language Processing.

Natural language Processing is very widely used today in our daily routine. It finds its application in:

  • Chatbots – Chatbots handle various clients and answer their query without considerable human effort. Chatbots are trained on a vast set of data and hence process only the essential part from a conversation. Companies like Uber, Zomato use the Chatbots to minimize human involvement.
  • Voice Assistants – The most significant use of NLP is implemented for this purpose. Technological giants like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, etc. use their own personal voice assistant to help in communicating with smart devices quickly. Amazon assigns over 1000 personnel globally for enhancing its voice assistant.
  • Very brilliant use of NLP came with the name Grammarly, which is a tool that keeps on a check on writers’ write-ups, and points out grammatical errors and suggests better phrases.
  • Google translate also uses NLP to translate a webpage from one language to another by understanding its content.


What are the Challenges faced by NLP?

NLP, though a new technology with a lot of advantages isn’t completely developed. For Example – Semantic and Grammar Analysis is still a challenge for NLP. Other difficulties includes, NLP not relating to sarcasm easily, since NLP cannot figure the changing meaning of words on the basis of speaker emphasis. NLP is also challenged by the fact that the dialect of people changes with regions.

On a final note, Natural Language Processing is a very handy tool, although it is in the developing state and faces some difficulties. The recent development in the NLP has made it a gem for the Technological Giants. The future of NLP through Machine and Deep Learning seems quite bright.

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