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Morphosemantic parsing of medical compound words: Transferring a French analyzer to English

Elsevier Ireland Ltd
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2008.07.016
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Morphosemantic Analysis
  • Word Definition
  • Neoclassical Compounds
  • English
  • French
  • Design
  • Linguistics
  • Medicine


Abstract Purpose Medical language, as many technical languages, is rich with morphologically complex words, many of which take their roots in Greek and Latin—in which case they are called neoclassical compounds. Morphosemantic analysis can help generate definitions of such words. The similarity of structure of those compounds in several European languages has also been observed, which seems to indicate that a same linguistic analysis could be applied to neo-classical compounds from different languages with minor modifications. Methods This paper reports work on the adaptation of a morphosemantic analyzer dedicated to French (DériF) to analyze English medical neo-classical compounds. It presents the principles of this transposition and its current performance. Results The analyzer was tested on a set of 1299 compounds extracted from the WHO-ART terminology. 859 could be decomposed and defined, 675 of which successfully. Conclusion An advantage of this process is that complex linguistic analyses designed for French could be successfully transposed to the analysis of English medical neoclassical compounds, which confirmed our hypothesis of transferability. The fact that the method was successfully applied to a Germanic language such as English suggests that performances would be at least as high if experimenting with Romance languages such as Spanish. Finally, the resulting system can produce more complete analyses of English medical compounds than existing systems, including a hierarchical decomposition and semantic gloss of each word.

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