Natural Language Processing

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What Does Natural Language Processing (NLP) Mean?

Natural language processing (NLP) is the ability of a computer program to understand spoken and written human language.


NLP programming automates the translation process between computers and humans by manipulating unstructured data (words) in the context of a specific task (conversation). An important goal of NLP is to help the computer to comprehend the intent — as well as the meaning — of a human being’s written or spoken words.

NLP is an interdisciplinary field that spans across across several areas of study, including linguistics, computer science, statistics and artificial intelligence. It plays an important role in helping natural language generation (NLG) chatbot programs respond appropriately to spoken or written communication and translate text from one language to another.

NLP is difficult because human language is full of ambiguities. Recent advancements in deep learning and artificial intelligence (AI) have had a significant positive impact on natural language processing.

Techopedia Explains Natural Language Processing (NLP)

An important goal of Natural Language Processing is to make it possible for computers to understand unstructured text and get meaningful information from it. Natural Language Processing systems use both linguistic and domain knowledge to interpret input.

At its best, NLP applications will continuously seek to understand the context of written or spoken language and adjust outputs accordingly. Popular use cases for NLP include:

Natural language toolkit (NLTK) is a Python library for natural language processing and is supported by a large community of developers.


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Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor
Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.