Skip to content

Data preparation

Preparing text

Operations can be pre-run on a corpus, with the results cached to a table, which can be persisted thus allowing for manipulation in q.

Operations undertaken to parse the dataset:

operation effect
Tokenization splits the words; e.g. John’s becomes John as one token, and ‘s as a second
Sentence detection characters at which a sentence starts and ends
Part of speech tagger parses the sentences into tokens and gives each token a label e.g. lemma, pos, tag etc.
Lemmatization converts to a base form e.g. ran (verb) to run (verb)


Creates a parser

Syntax: .nlp.newParser[spacymodel;fields]


  • spacymodel is a model or language (symbol)
  • fields is the field/s you want in the output (symbol atom or vector)

returns a function to parse the text.

The optional fields are:

field type content
text list of characters original text
tokens list of symbols the tokenized text
sentChars list of lists of longs indexes of start and end of sentences
sentIndices list of integers indexes of the first token of each sentences
pennPOS list of symbols the Penn Treebank tagset
uniPOS list of symbols the Universal tagset
lemmas list of symbols the base form of the word
isStop boolean is the token part of the stop list?
likeEmail boolean does the token resembles an email?
likeURL boolean does the token resembles a URL?
likeNumber boolean does the token resembles a number?
keywords list of dictionaries significance of each term
starts long index that a token starts at

The resulting function is applied to a list of strings.

Spell check can also be performed on the text by passing in spell as in input field. This updates any misspelt words to their most likely alternative. This is performed on text prior to parsing.

Parsing the novel Moby Dick:

/ creating a parsed table
corpus:myparser mobyDick
cols corpus

Finding part-of-speech tags in a corpus

This is a quick way to find all of the nouns, adverbs, etc. in a corpus. There are two types of part-of-speech (POS) tags you can find: Penn Tree tags and Universal Tree tags.


Runs of tokens whose POS tags are in the set passed

Syntax: .nlp.findPOSRuns[tagtype;tags;document]


  • tagtype is uniPos or pennPos
  • tags is one or more POS tags (symbol atom or vector)
  • document is parsed text (dictionary)

returns a general list:

  1. text of the run (symbol vector)
  2. indexes of the first occurrence of each token (long vector)

Importing a novel from a plain text file, and finding all the proper nouns in the first chapter of Moby Dick:

q)corpus:myparser mobyDick

q).nlp.findPOSRuns[`pennPOS;`NNP`NNPS;corpus 0][;0]

Feature vectors

We can generate a dictionary of descriptive terms, which consist of terms and their associated weights. These dictionaries are called feature vectors and they are very useful as they give a uniform representation that can describe words, sentences, paragraphs, documents, collections of documents, clusters, concepts and queries.

Calculating feature vectors for documents

The values associated with each term in a feature vector are how significant that term is as a descriptor of the entity. For documents, this can be calculated by comparing the frequency of words in that document to the frequency of words in the rest of the corpus.

Sorting the terms in a feature vector by their significance, you get the keywords that distinguish a document most from the corpus, forming a terse summary of the document. This shows the most significant terms in the feature vector for one of Enron CEO Jeff Skilling’s email’s describing a charity bike ride.

TF-IDF is an algorithm that weighs a term’s frequency (TF) and its inverse document frequency (IDF). Each word or term has its respective TF and IDF score. The product of the TF and IDF scores of a term is called the TF-IDF weight of that term.


TF-IDF scores for all terms in the document

Syntax: .nlp.TFIDF x

Where x is a table of documents, returns for each document, a dictionary with the tokens as keys, and relevance as values.

Extract a specific document and find the most significiant words in that document:

q)queriedemail:jeffcorpus[where jeffcorpus[`text] like "*charity bike*"]`text;
q)5#desc .nlp.TFIDF[jeffcorpus]1928
bikers   | 17.7979
biker    | 17.7979
strenuous| 14.19154
route    | 14.11932
rode     | 14.11136

In cases where the dataset is more similar to a single document than a collection of separate documents, a different algorithm can be used. This algorithm is taken from Carpena, P., et al. “Level statistics of words: Finding keywords in literary texts and symbolic sequences”. The idea behind the algorithm is that more important words occur in clusters and less important words follow a random distribution.


For an input which is conceptually a single document, such as a book, this will give better results than TF-IDF

Syntax: .nlp.keywordsContinuous x

Where x is a table of documents, returns a dictionary where the keys are keywords and the values are their significance.

Treating all of Moby Dick as a single document, the most significant keywords are Ahab, Bildad, Peleg (the three captains on the boat) and whale.

q)10#keywords:.nlp.keywordsContinuous corpus
ahab     | 65.23191
peleg    | 52.21875
bildad   | 46.56072
whale    | 42.72953
stubb    | 38.11739
queequeg | 35.34769
steelkilt| 33.96713
pip      | 32.90067
starbuck | 32.05286
thou     | 32.05231

Calculating feature vectors for words

The feature vector for a word can be calculated as a collection of how well other words predict the given keyword. The weight given to these words is a function of how much higher the actual co-occurrence rate is from the expected co-occurrence rate the terms would have if they were randomly distributed.


Feature vector for a term

Syntax: .nlp.findRelatedTerms[x;y]


  • x is a list of documents
  • y is a symbol which is the token for which to find related terms

returns a dictionary of the related tokens and their relevances.

peleg | 1.653247
bildad| 1.326868
ahab  | 1.232073
ship  | 1.158671
cabin | 0.9743517

Phrases can be found by looking for runs of words with an above-average significance to the query term.


Runs of tokens that contain the term where each consecutive word has an above-average co-occurrence with the term

Syntax: .nlp.extractPhrases[corpus;term]


  • corpus is a subcorpus (table)
  • term is the term to extract phrases around (symbol)

returns a dictionary with phrases as the keys and their relevance as the values.

Search for the phrases that contain captain and see which phrase has the largest occurrence; we find captain ahab occurs most often in the book: 31 times.

"captain ahab"        | 31
"captain peleg"       | 12
"captain bildad"      | 7
"captain sleet"       | 5
"stranger captain"    | 4
"said the captain"    | 3
"sea-captain"         | 2
"whaling captain"     | 2
"captain's cabin"     | 2
"captain ahab,\" said"| 2
"captain pollard"     | 2
"captain d'wolf"      | 2
"way, captain"        | 2