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What is spaCy in Natural Language Processing (NLP)?

  • Neelam Tyagi
  • Apr 06, 2020
What is spaCy in Natural Language Processing (NLP)? title banner

In order to unlock the compelling and actionable clue from the original diaries column through software developers, many investigators reckon intellection NLP libraries. Yet, software fictions transcribed in natural language are entirely distinct from other textual records due to the usage of natural language.


Natural language is the most prevailing script that researchers use to illustrate software needs. Even though easy to read, it doesn’t feature the main concept and connections like reliance and rivalry. (Assuming you have heard about OpenAI’s GPT-2 and Google’s Bert that earlier inventions in the field of NLP)  


Let’s understand how natural language functions, how it works with the most promising package spaCy. Further, you will explore the excellent features of spaCy and the difference with NLTK that leaves its fascinating glimpse in NLP.



Prefacing with Natural Language Processing (NLP)


Natural Language Processing is an imperative technology that inspires significant Artificial Intelligence applications today. It makes computers understand, process and produce language just as a human does. 


(Speaking of Artificial Intelligence, you can also take a look at how this technology is impacting our daily lives. )


NLP helps in extracting information automatically from machine-readable documents. It is used for multiple purposes such as knowledge extraction, web scraping, text mining, and so many. You must visit our previous blog for more information about NLP.


There are many NLP libraries for developers and researchers to conduct fundamental NLP tasks such as segmentation, NER, tokenization, lemmatization, and POS tagging without developing from scratch. (See the similar method “Bag of Words” and python code in the NLP)    


However, they also face some challenges in choosing the most appropriate library such as data type, production and efficiency, and adaptability.


Executing an NLP system demands significant expert efforts such as forging data-structure to symbolize language construction, studying corpora commentary into these data-structures, implementing the NLP tool to enhance the text portrayal, dragging features and training Machine Learning components, etc. (You can also take a look at the features extraction techniques highly implemented in NLP)


For example, Natural Language Processing (NLP) is broadly exploited in the sentiment analysis, since researchers are generally compelled to determine the complete sentiment from a large volume of textual data that can be exhausted for humans to go through. It is also used in the advertisement structures for addressing the subject of an entity of the text and locating a related advertisement automatically. 


Furthermore, it’s used in chatbots, voice assistants, and other apps where machines demand to learn and respond quickly to the input that appears in the type of natural human language.



About spaCy


spaCy is a notorious and straightforward natural language processing library in Python. It contributes state-of-the-art efficiency and agility and has a proactive open-source association.


spaCy is almost a new package for “Industrial strength NLP in Python” evolved by Matt Hannibal at Explosion AI.  it is devised while considering applied data scientists in mind.


“spaCy doesn’t weigh the user cascade with the resolution across what mystical algorithms to implement and solve specific tasks with a fast processing system as implemented in Cython.”

Similar to the Python data science stack, spaCy is NumPy for NLP which is automatic and highly efficient. 



What spaCy isn’t?


  • spaCy is not an API or Platform: Dissimilar to a specific platform, spaCy doesn’t furnish software-services or a well-functional web application. It is an open-source library that aids in designing and constructing  NLP applications, not convenient assistance. 


  • spaCy is not an inventive Chatbot device: It is a widely deployed colloquial language application but not modeled for chatbots particularly that serves only hidden text processing potential.


  • spaCy isn’t an investigatory operating system: It is fundamentally framed on the latest probe and designed to address complex tasks. It demands a completely disparate frame other than NLTK or CoreNLP( designed for learning and exploration). Possessing the difference as a major highlight, spaCy is unified and assertive, it evades inquiring users to select amongst numerous algorithms that transfer comparable functionality.   



spaCy Toolkit


spaCy acts as a one-stop-shop for various tasks used in NLP projects, such as Tokenization, Lemmatisation, Part-of-speech(POS) tagging, Entity recognition, Dependency parsing, Sentence recognition, Word-to-vector transformations, and other cleaning and normalization text methods.


Let's get an overview of some of the high tools that fascinate spaCy in the following terms;



  • Tokenization: It is the process of breaking a portion of text into words, comma, spaces, symbols, punctuation, and other elements thereby making “tokens”.  


  • Lemmatization: A work-related to tokenization, lemmatization is the method of decreasing the word to its base form, or origin form. Different forms of the word embedded from the same root meaning. For example, practice, practicing and practiced all represent the same thing. It becomes essential sometimes to regulate words having similar meanings to their original form.


  • Part-of-speech (POS) Tagging: It is the process of appointing grammatical properties like a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, etc to words. Even, the words that show the same POS tag require to pursue an analogous beneficial semantic format and are beneficial in rules-based methods. 


  • Entity Recognition: The major method of labeling named entities discovered in the text into the pre-defined group such as persons, places, enterprises, dates, etc. spaCy uses the statistical model to categorize the wide range of entities covering events, persons, working status and nationalities/religions.

Outlining the most useful spaCy tools including Tokenization, lemmatization, POS tagging, Entity recognition, Dependency parsing, Word Vector Representation.

spaCy toolkit

  • Dependency Parsing: It is the method of driving the dependency parse of a sentence to show its grammatical format. It denotes the dependency relationship between the foremost words and their dependents. The head of a sentence doesn’t exhibit dependency and is termed as the root of the sentence like a verb is the sentence-head and other words are connected to the headword.


  • Word Vector Representation: Addressing words along in a text, it is evident that the machine finds it difficult to interpret and understand the links that a human can understand frequently. E.g a car and an engine have a common connection, but the link is not acknowledged to a computer. Therefore, the Word-Vector is the numeric depiction of a word that broadcasts the relationship between other words.



spaCy vs NLTK


The two imperative libraries are NLTK (Natural Language Toolkit) and spaCy that are used in NLP, both retain valuable differences between them, that follows;


  1. spaCy owns the suitable algorithm for an issue in its toolbox and manages and renovates it. Whereas, NLTK gives a plethora of algorithms to select from them for a particular issue which is boon and ban for researchers and developers respectively.


  1. spaCy uses statistical models for seven jargons including English, German, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and Italian. In contrast to this, NLTK  supports multiple languages.


  1. During parsing a text like sentiment analysis, spaCy deploys object-oriented strategy, it responds back to document objects in which words and sentences are objects themselves. Where NLTK is a string processing library, it considers input and reverts back output as string or bunch of strings.


  1. The spaCy back holds word vectors and NLTK doesn’t.


  1. spaCy accepts the most recent and better algorithms, it supports tokenization, POS-tagging and gives better results as compared to NLTK. Whereas, in sentence tokenization NLTK exceeds spaCy.





spaCy is open source library software for advanced NLP, that is scripted in the programming language of Python and Cython and gets published under the MIT license. spaCy is a contemporary and decisive framework in NLP that is the classic source for performing NLP with Python  with excellent features as speed, accuracy, extensibility. It rapidly became the central part of the NLP production-pipeline. 


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