Information Retrieval

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 416–435 | Cite as

Classifying Amharic webnews

  • Lars Asker
  • Atelach Alemu Argaw
  • Björn Gambäck
  • Samuel Eyassu Asfeha
  • Lemma Nigussie Habte


We present work aimed at compiling an Amharic corpus from the Web and automatically categorizing the texts. Amharic is the second most spoken Semitic language in the World (after Arabic) and used for countrywide communication in Ethiopia. It is highly inflectional and quite dialectally diversified. We discuss the issues of compiling and annotating a corpus of Amharic news articles from the Web. This corpus was then used in three sets of text classification experiments. Working with a less-researched language highlights a number of practical issues that might otherwise receive less attention or go unnoticed. The purpose of the experiments has not primarily been to develop a cutting-edge text classification system for Amharic, but rather to put the spotlight on some of these issues. The first two sets of experiments investigated the use of Self-Organizing Maps (SOMs) for document classification. Testing on small datasets, we first looked at classifying unseen data into 10 predefined categories of news items, and then at clustering it around query content, when taking 16 queries as class labels. The second set of experiments investigated the effect of operations such as stemming and part-of-speech tagging on text classification performance. We compared three representations while constructing classification models based on bagging of decision trees for the 10 predefined news categories. The best accuracy was achieved using the full text as representation. A representation using only the nouns performed almost equally well, confirming the assumption that most of the information required for distinguishing between various categories actually is contained in the nouns, while stemming did not have much effect on the performance of the classifier.


Web mining Text classification Semitic languages 



The authors would like to thank to Daniel Yacob at the Ge’ez Frontier Foundation; Mesfin Getachew, Dr. Girma Demeke, Dr. Gashaw Kebede, Kibur Lisanu, and Meshesha Legesse at Addis Ababa University; and Gunnar Eriksson, Fredrik Olsson, and Dr. Magnus Sahlgren at the Swedish Institute of Computer Science. The work was partially funded by Sida, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency through the ICT support programme of SAREC (the Department for Research Cooperation) and through SPIDER (the Swedish Programme for ICT in Developing Regions), as well as by the Faculty of Informatics at Addis Ababa University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lars Asker
    • 1
  • Atelach Alemu Argaw
    • 1
  • Björn Gambäck
    • 2
    • 3
  • Samuel Eyassu Asfeha
    • 4
  • Lemma Nigussie Habte
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Computer and Systems SciencesStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  2. 2.Department of Computer and Information ScienceNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway
  3. 3.SICS, Swedish Institute of Computer Science ABKistaSweden
  4. 4.Department of Information ScienceAddis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia

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