Candidate: Andrew Borthwick
Advisor: Ralph Grishman

A Maximum Entropy Approach to Named Entity Recognition

11:00 a.m., Tuesday, September 14, 1999
12th floor conference room, 719 Broadway


This thesis describes a novel statistical named-entity (i.e. ``proper name'') recognition system known as ``MENE'' (Maximum Entropy Named Entity). Named entity (N.E.) recognition is a form of information extraction in which we seek to classify every word in a document as being a person-name, organization, location, date, time, monetary value, percentage, or ``none of the above''. The task has particular significance for Internet search engines, machine translation, the automatic indexing of documents, and as a foundation for work on more complex information extraction tasks.

Two of the most significant problems facing the constructor of a named entity system are the questions of portability and system performance. A practical N.E. system will need to be ported frequently to new bodies of text and even to new languages. The challenge is to build a system which can be ported with minimal expense (in particular minimal programming by a computational linguist) while maintaining a high degree of accuracy in the new domains or languages.

MENE attempts to address these issues through the use of maximum entropy probabilistic modeling. It utilizes a very flexible object-based architecture which allows it to make use of a broad range of knowledge sources in making its tagging decisions. In the DARPA-sponsored MUC-7 named entity evaluation, the system displayed an accuracy rate which was well-above the median, demonstrating that it can achieve the performance goal. In addition, we demonstrate that the system can be used as a post-processing tool to enhance the output of a hand-coded named entity recognizer through experiments in which MENE improved on the performance of N.E. systems from three different sites. Furthermore, when all three external recognizers are combined under MENE, we are able to achieve very strong results which, in some cases, appear to be competitive with human performance.

Finally, we demonstrate the trans-lingual portability of the system. We ported the system to two Japanese-language named entity tasks, one of which involved a new named entity category, ``artifact''. Our results on these tasks were competitive with the best systems built by native Japanese speakers despite the fact that the author speaks no Japanese.