Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Machine Learning

pp 1027-1030

Word Sense Disambiguation

  • Rada Mihalcea


Learning word senses; Solving semantic ambiguity


Ambiguity is inherent to human language. In particular, word sense ambiguity is prevalent in all natural languages, with a large number of the words in any given language carrying more than one meaning. For instance, the English noun plant can mean green plant or factory; similarly the French word feuille can mean leaf or paper. The correct sense of an ambiguous word can be selected based on the context where it occurs, and correspondingly the problem of word sense disambiguation is defined as the task of automatically assigning the most appropriate meaning to a polysemous word within a given context.

Motivation and Background

Word sense disambiguation is considered one of the most difficult problems in natural language processing, due to the high semantic ambiguity that is typically associated with language. It was first noted as a problem in the context of machine translation, w ...

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