Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 June 1999
In this paper, we describe a context-based method to semantically tag unknown proper nouns (U-PNs) in corpora. Like many others, our system relies on a gazetteer and a set of context-dependent heuristics to classify proper nouns. However, proper nouns are an open-end class: when parsing new fragments of a corpus, even in the same language domain, we can expect that several proper nouns cannot be semantically tagged. The algorithm that we propose assigns to an unknown PN an entity type based on the analysis of syntactically and semantically similar contexts already seen in the application corpus. The performance of the algorithm is evaluated not only in terms of precision, following the tradition of MUC conferences, but also in terms of information gain, an information theoretic measure that takes into account the complexity of the classification task.