Exploring Cross-Lingual Sense Mapping in a Multilingual Parallel Corpus

Francis Bond et Giulia Bonansinga


Cross-lingual approaches can make sense annotation of existing parallel corpora inexpensive, thus giving new means to improve any supervised Word Sense Disambiguation system. We compare two such approaches that can be applied to any multilingual parallel corpus, as long as large inter-linked sense inventories exist for all the languages involved.

This research was supported in part by the Erasmus Mundus Action 2 program MULTI of the European Union, grant agreement number 20105094-7.

1. Introduction

1Cross-lingual Word Sense Disambiguation (CLWSD) aims to automatically disambiguate a text in one language by exploiting its differences with other language(s) in a parallel corpus. Since the introduction of a dedicated task in SemEval-2013 (Lefever and Hoste, 2013), work on CL-WSD has increased, but parallel corpora have been used to this purpose for a long time; see for instance Brown et al. (1991), Gale et al. (1992), Ide et al. (2002), Ng et al. (2003) and, more recently, Chan and Ng (2005) and Khapra et al. (2011). Diab and Resnik (2002) exploit the semantic information inferred by translation correspondences in parallel corpora as a clue for WSD; Gliozzo et al. (2005) represent the milestone behind one of the approaches here evaluated, i.e. sense disambiguation exploiting the polysemic differential between two languages. As Bentivogli and Pianta (2005) pointed out, Word Sense Disambiguation (WSD) is so challenging mainly because most approaches require large amounts of high-quality sense-annotated data. Ten years later, the knowledge acquisition bottleneck still needs to be addressed for most languages.

2Given an ambiguous word in a parallel corpus, having access to the semantic space (here intended as all the senses associated to its lemma) of each of its aligned translations allows one to exploit similarities and differences in the languages involved and, consequently, to make more educated guesses of the intended meaning. This simple, yet powerful, intuition can be decisive, if not in disambiguating all words, at least in reducing ambiguity and thus the human effort in annotating a whole text from scratch.

3We explore two approaches of annotating a multilingual parallel corpus in English, Italian and Romanian built upon SemCor (SC) (Landes et al., 1998). We describe it in Section 2 along with a brief outline of the first approach, sense projection (SP), which was pioneered by Bentivogli and Pianta (2005). In Section 3 we list the requirements and the necessary preprocessing steps common to both approaches. In Section 4 we present the second approach, multilingual sense intersection (SI). Section 5 discusses the results achieved on the multilingual corpus with each method. We conclude in Section 6 anticipating future work.

2. SemCor, a corpus made multilingual by sense projection

4Developed at Princeton University, SC (Landes et al., 1998) is a sense-annotated subset of the Brown Corpus of Standard American English (Kučera and Francis, 1967). SemCor includes 352 texts, each around 2,000 words long; in 186 texts all content words are annotated, while in the remaining 166 only verbs are.

5MultiSemCor: Bentivogli and Pianta (2005) built an English-Italian parallel corpus by manually translating 116 texts from SC all-words component into Italian. Using the word alignment as a bridge, the Italian component was automatically sense-annotated by projection of the annotations available in English. Assuming that translations preserve the meaning of a text, if a senseannotated source text is aligned to its translation(s), then the annotations can be transferred, as long an inter-linked sense inventory is used by all languages. In this study, a multilingual WordNet with reference to WordNet 1.6 (WN 1.6), MultiWordNet1 (MWN) (Pianta et al., 2002), was used.

6Following Bentivogli and Pianta (2005), we replicated SP on MultiSemCor (MSC) after converting all sense annotations to WordNet 3.0 (WN 3.0).

7MultiSemCor+: Lupu et al. (2005) developed the Romanian SemCor (RSC) to build MultiSemCor+, which extended MSC with aligned Romanian translations. The MSC+ originally presented consists of 34 translations aligned to English (Lupu et al., 2005). Since then, the English-Romanian parallel corpus based on SC has grown, currently consisting of 81 texts (82 in the version released) (Ion, 2007) annotated following WN 3.0. Of these, 50 have Italian translations in MSC.

8In conclusion, SP can bootstrap the creation of sense-annotated parallel corpora by exploiting existing resources in well-represented languages, with word alignment and connected sense inventories as the only requirements.

3. Preprocessing and requirements

9Mapping to WN 3.0: As a preprocessing step, we mapped all annotations in MSC to WN 3.0. This is convenient in itself, as the corpus will be redistributed with reference to a widely used sense inventory, as comparison with related work will be easier. The English component is annotated with sense keys, stable across different WN versions, so the conversion was straightforward. On the sense keys alone, 95% of the WN 1.6 synsets can be correctly mapped to WN 3.0.2 The Italian texts use an offset-based encoding that is not consistent across WN versions; fortunately, there are freely available mappings3 inferred by exploiting both graph and non-structural information (Daudé et al., 2000; Daude et al., 2001).

10Sense inventories: Table 1 shows the coverage of WNs for our target languages. The Open Multilingual WordNet (OMW)4 is an open-source multilingual database that connects all open WNs linked to the English WN, including Italian (Pianta et al., 2002) among the 28 languages supported (Bond and Paik, 2012; Bond and Foster, 2013).

11Another valid option for the multilingual sense inventory would be BabelNet, created from the automatic integration of WN 3.0, OMW, Wikipedia and many other resources (Navigli and Ponzetto, 2012), with an estimated accuracy of 91% for the WN-Wikipedia mapping (Navigli et al., 2013). However, we chose to use OMW since we wanted to test our hypothesis on resources that were purposely built to be mapped to one another.

12The Romanian WordNet (RW) was created within the BalkaNet project (Stamou et al., 2002). The current version has 59,348 synsets in its latest release (Barbu Mititelu et al., 2014). The synsets were mapped to WN 3.0 with precision of 95% (Tufis¸ et al., 2013).

Table 1: Coverage of the WNs used.












13Aligning RSC to MSC: RSC is not wordaligned to any component of the parallel corpus, so it fails in meeting a necessary requirement to perform sense mapping. However, as the sentence alignment is available, we attempted to align all Romanian sense-annotated words to their English and Italian counterparts. For each aligned sentence pair, we first align all candidate pairs sharing the same sense annotation. If any words are left unaligned after this step, the remaining alignments are inferred by taking into account PoS information and synset similarity scores. Suppose the first step alone has aligned all Romanian content words but one, and that the corresponding English sentence has three content words left that are candidates for the alignment. Then, the aligner computes the most likely match by looking PoS correspondence and for higher proximity in the WN network, by looking at a combination of the path similarity score and the shortest path distance. This latter alignment strategy (the only possible source of errors) achieved 97% precision on a small sample (12%) of the alignments found.

4. Multilingual Sense Intersection

14Unlike SP, SI does not require any of the texts in a parallel corpus to be sense-annotated, so it can be applied to a wider range of existing resources. Its logical foundation is in that a polysemous word in a language is likely to be translated in different words in other languages, so the comparison with the semantic space of each translation should help select the sense actually intended. Consider, for instance, the problem of disambiguating the English word administration in Example 1.



The jury praised the administration and operation of the Atlanta Police Department.


Il jury ha elogiato l’amministrazione e l’operato del Dipartimento di Polizia di Atlanta.


Juriul a lǎudat administrarea şi conducerea Secţ iei de poliţie din Atlanta.

15Given the alignments, we can retrieve the set of synsets associated with the lemmas in the Italian and Romanian translations. Figure 1 shows how the intersection helps detecting the correct sense, which is the only one shared by all the lemmas.

Figure 1: Disambiguation via SI

Figure 1: Disambiguation via SI

16Most often, however, such a comparison will only partially reduce the ambiguity, especially as such a fine-grained sense inventory as WN is used. Yet, other approaches (employment of human annotators, or recourse to baselines) can be applied in a second phase to solve the disambiguation task, once it has been simplified.

  • 5 With the exception of the English corpus, which we have considered made of the 116 texts included i (...)

17The algorithm disambiguates one side of our multilingual parallel corpus at a time, having as target all texts aligned with at least one other component.5 Table 2 displays the basic statistics of each corpus and, for the sake of clarity, the number of words to be annotated (target words) before the migration to WN 3.0, as the changes in the WN structure do not set ideal conditions for a meaningful comparison with previous work.

18We use sense frequency statistics (SFS) whenever the target word is not fully disambiguated. These were calculated over all texts in the corpus except the one being annotated.

Table 2: Statistics for each text in the multilingual parallel corpus.



Target words

After mapping
















Table 3: Distribution of SI outcomes.

















No alignment




No match




No synset found




19Algorithm: Given an ambiguous target word, each of its aligned translations in the parallel sentences contributes to the disambiguation process by bringing in all its ‘set of senses’ retrieved from the inter-linked sense inventory.

20Intersection is then performed over each nonempty set retrieved. If the overlap only consists of one sense, then the target word is Disambiguated (see Table 3). If the overlap contains more than one sense, then it is further intersected with the set of most frequent senses available for the target lemma. If resorting to MFS statistics leads to an overlap containing one sense, the word is disambiguated (MFS-Subset); if the overlap still results in more than one sense, the most frequent one among the ones left is selected (MFS-Overlap). In the rare case in which no other language contributes to disambiguate, we assign the current target lemma its MFS. Disambiguation also fails when no match, synset or alignment is found. See also Table 3 for the distribution of all of the possible scenarios that may emerge.

5. Evaluation and discussion

Table 4: Comparison of the results scored with SP, SI and MFS baseline.











MFS (baseline)














SP (Bentivogli & Pianta)







3-way SI







21Table 4 shows the precision and coverage scores achieved with the approaches here analyzed, along with the Most Frequent Sense (MFS) baseline. We report the original results for SP (Bentivogli and Pianta, 2005) and ours after the mapping to WN 3.0; we evaluate on different figures (see Table 2) as a part of the original annotations was lost in the mapping process. We performed SP also on the current release of RSC for completeness.

22Coverage is overall reasonably high for all languages with SI and very high with the baseline. On the other hand, the precision achieved resorting to SFS is significantly lower for Italian, which makes more valuable the not very high score obtained by SI. Average ambiguity reduction is 54% (EN), 53% (IT) and 55% (Ro).

23Although SI and MFS perform comparably, we remind that SFS were computed on the same corpus, which is also not extremely large. Thus, we would expect MFS to compare at least slightly worse in more general cases (unfortunately, external statistics are hard to come by). This would make SI a valid and inexpensive cross-lingual disambiguation approach. We also performed 2-way intersection for each corpus pair. We find a slight decrease in precision (of 0.01 to 0.03) compared to the three-way intersection, depending on the corpus. While further restricting the semantic space does help in reducing ambiguity, the improvement is not striking. According to our error analysis, this is corpus-dependent, as the manually assigned correct senses against which we evaluate are very specific. Instead, as the WNs vary largely in coverage, senses found by intersection, though actually shared in all languages, are close, but not quite the same, to the very specific ones selected by the human annotator. In conclusion, coarse-grained evaluation would give a higher score, and in general the senses found by intersection would be just good enough in most cases. Also, as Italian and Romanian are quite similar, we would expect more differences if we added a language from a different language family.

6. Conclusions

24To our knowledge, this is the first attempt to disambiguate a parallel corpus by using multilingual SI. The more languages are considered, the more ambiguity should be reduced and the better SI is expected to perform. In future work, we plan to include the Japanese SemCor (Bond et al., 2012) to test our hypothesis that translations from a different language family will discriminate further. We also plan to use a different parallel corpus built on open translations of The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. We will also try to calculate SFS from untagged text, following McCarthy and Carroll (2003).

25Furthermore, we are investigating alternative ways to solve the ambiguity left whenever SI does not lead to a single synset; for instance, we plan to apply some implementation of Lesk (Lesk, 1986) on the subset found by SI. Finally, we aim to port to WN 3.0 the sense clustering carried out by Navigli (2006) to perform a coarse-grained evaluation, which would ignore minor sense distinctions. An initial comparison with Babelfly (Moro et al., 2014) would certainly be enlightening as well.

26All data and scripts derived by our work will be made available, except for those derived from RSC, as its license currently forbids it.


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1 http://multiwordnet.fbk.eu/

2 According to the HyperDic project: http://www.hyperdic.net/en/doc/mapping

3 http://www.talp.upc.edu/index.php/technology/tools/45-textual-processing-tools/98-wordnetmappings/

4 http://compling.hss.ntu.edu.sg/omw/summx.html

5 With the exception of the English corpus, which we have considered made of the 116 texts included in MSC.


Francis Bond

Linguistics and Multilingual Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore - bond@ieee.org

Giulia Bonansinga

Filologia, Letteratura e Linguistica, Universita di Pisa - giuliauni@gmail.com