What is Natural Language Processing (NLP)?

Last Updated on November 12, 2022

The field of computer science known as “natural language processing” (NLP) is more particularly the field of “artificial intelligence” (AI) that is concerned with providing computers with the capacity to comprehend written and spoken words in a manner similar to that of humans.

NLP blends statistical, machine learning, and deep learning models with computational linguistics—rule-based modelling of human language. With the use of these technologies, computers are now able to process human language in the form of text or audio data and fully “understand” what is being said or written, including the speaker’s or writer’s intentions and sentiments.

Computer programmes that translate text between languages, reply to spoken commands, and quickly summarise vast amounts of text—even in real-time—are all powered by NLP. You’ve probably used NLP in the form of voice-activated GPS devices, digital assistants, speech-to-text dictation programmes, customer service chatbots, and other consumer conveniences. The use of NLP in corporate solutions, however, is expanding as a means of streamlining business operations, boosting worker productivity, and streamlining mission-critical business procedures.

How Does Natural Language Processing Work?

Computers can now comprehend natural language just like people do thanks to NLP. Natural language processing use artificial intelligence to take real-world input, process it, and make sense of it in a way that a computer can comprehend, regardless of whether the language is spoken or written. Computers have reading programmes and microphones to collect audio, much as people have various sensors like ears to hear and eyes to see. Computers have a programme to process their various inputs, just as humans have a brain to do so. The input is eventually translated into computer-readable code during processing.

It accomplishes this in five steps, they are discussed below:

Lexical Analysis

It entails recognising and examining word structures. A language’s vocabulary is the entire corpus of words and expressions. The entire text is broken down into paragraphs, phrases, and words by lexical analysis.

Syntactic Analysis

It entails grammar examination of the sentence’s words and word arrangement that demonstrates the relationships between the words. The English syntactic analyzer rejects sentences like “The school travels to boy.”

Semantic Analysis

It takes the text’s exact meaning or dictionary definition. The text is examined for relevance. It is accomplished by translating the task domain’s objects to syntactic structures. Sentences like “heated ice-cream” are disregarded by the semantic analyzer.

Discourse Integration

Any sentence’s meaning is influenced by the meaning of the sentence that comes before it. It also contributes to the meaning of the statement that follows it.

Pragmatic Analysis

During this, what was stated is rephrased to reflect its true meaning. It entails determining those features of language that demand knowledge of the outside world.

Techniques of Natural Language Processing

Natural language processing primarily employs two techniques: syntax analysis and semantic analysis.

The placement of words in a phrase to ensure proper grammar is known as syntax. NLP use syntax to evaluate a language’s meaning based on grammatical rules. Several syntax strategies are:


This is a sentence’s grammatical analysis. Example: The phrase “The dog barked” is supplied to a natural language processing algorithm. Parsing is dividing this statement into its component pieces, such as dog as a noun and barked as a verb. For more difficult downstream processing tasks, this is helpful.

Word segmentation

This is the process of extracting word formations from a string of text. An individual scans a handwritten paper into a computer, for instance. The algorithm would be able to examine the page and identify that white spaces separate the words.

Sentence breaking

In lengthy texts, this establishes sentence boundaries. Example: Text is input into a natural language processing system, “The puppy barking loudly. I woke up.” The sentence-breaking algorithm can detect the period used to break up sentences.

Morphological segmentation

This divides words into smaller parts called morphemes. Example: The word untestably would be broken into [[un[[test]able]]ly], where the algorithm recognizes “un,” “test,” “able” and “ly” as morphemes. This is especially useful in machine translation and speech recognition.


In this way, words with inflection are separated into their base forms. For instance, if a user were to search a text for all occurrences of the word “bark” and all of its conjugations, the algorithm would be able to identify that the word’s root is “bark” in the line “The dog barked.” Even when the characters are different, the computer can still tell that they are essentially the same word.

Word sense disambiguation

This uses context to determine a word’s meaning. Example: Think about the phrase “The pig is in the pen.” There are various meanings for the word pen. This approach enables an algorithm to recognise that the word “pen” in this context refers to a fenced-in space rather than a writing tool.

Named entity recognition

This establishes which words can be divided into groups. Using this technique, an algorithm may examine a news story and find any mentions of a specific business or item. It would be able to distinguish between things that look the same using the semantics of the text. Just take a look at this: “Daniel McDonald’s son went to McDonald’s and ordered a Happy Meal.” The algorithm was able to distinguish between the two “McDonald’s” instances as two distinct entities, one of which was a restaurant and the other a person.

Natural language generation

Determining the semantics of words and creating new text, requires a database. Example: By associating specific terms and phrases with aspects of the data in the BI platform, an algorithm may automatically produce a summary of findings from the BI platform. Another illustration would be the automatic creation of news articles or tweets based on a specific body of training content.

Deep learning, a branch of AI that looks for and exploits patterns in data to enhance a program’s comprehension, is the foundation of current approaches to natural language processing. Building this kind of big data set is one of the primary challenges in natural language processing because deep learning models need enormous volumes of labelled data for the algorithm to train on and find pertinent relationships.

A more rules-based approach was used in earlier attempts at natural language processing, in which simpler machine learning algorithms were instructed on what words and phrases to look for in text and were given precise responses when those words or phrases appeared. Deep learning, however, is a more flexible and intuitive method that teaches algorithms to recognise speakers’ intent from many instances, much like how a kid would learn human language.

Why is Natural Language Processing Important?

Natural language processing can be used to evaluate huge amounts of text data, including social media comments, customer service issues, online reviews, news articles, and more, which is one of the key reasons it is so important for organisations.

All of this business data has a wealth of insightful information, and NLP can help organisations quickly identify those insights. It accomplishes this by enabling robots to understand human language more quickly, precisely, and consistently than human agents.

In order to guarantee that the results you receive are correct and devoid of inconsistencies, NLP tools process data in real time, around the clock, and according to the same criteria for all of your data. Businesses can begin to prioritise and arrange their data according to their needs once NLP systems can determine what a document is about and even assess things like the sentiment.

Challenges of NLP

Natural language processing faces a number of difficulties, but the advantages it offers to businesses make it well worth the investment. However, before using NLP, it’s crucial to understand what those difficulties are.

Human language is diverse, ambiguous, convoluted, and complex. There are more than 6,500 different languages spoken worldwide, and each has its unique set of syntactic and semantic conventions.
Even people have trouble understanding words.
Therefore, natural language must first be translated into an interpretable form before computers can grasp it.

In NLP, syntax and semantic analysis play a crucial role in comprehending a text’s grammatical structure and determining how words relate to one another in a particular context. However, it is challenging to convert text into a format that machines can understand.

Data scientists must impart to NLP tools the ability to see beyond word definitions and word order in order to comprehend context, word ambiguities, and other intricate language-related ideas.

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