Retrieving Customary Web Language to Assist Writers
This paper introduces Netspeak, a Web service which assists writers in finding adequate expressions. To provide statistically relevant suggestions, the service indexes more than 1.8 billion n-grams, n ≤ 5, along with their occurrence frequencies on the Web. If in doubt about a wording, a user can specify a query that has wildcards inserted at those positions where she feels uncertain.
Queries define patterns for which a ranked list of matching n-grams along with usage examples are retrieved. The ranking reflects the occurrence frequencies of the n-grams and informs about both absolute and relative usage. Given this choice of customary wordings, one can easily select the most appropriate. Especially second-language speakers can learn about style conventions and language usage.
To guarantee response times within milliseconds we have developed an index that considers occurrence probabilities, allowing for a biased sampling during retrieval. Our analysis shows that the extreme speedup obtained with this strategy (factor 68) comes without significant loss in retrieval quality.
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