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How to identify parts of speech and names in a text with Swift

Learn to use the linguistic tagging possibilities provided by the Natural Language framework in iOS.

15 May 2023 · 2 min read

As we learned in the developer guide on the Natural Language framework, it supports linguistic tagging. Linguistic tagging, also known as part-of-speech tagging, is the process of assigning grammatical tags to words in a text based on their role and function within a sentence.

We could use linguistic tagging for example to identify parts of speech in a text like verbs and nouns, or names like people names, place names or organization names in texts.

Let's look at how it works.

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The linguistic tagging functionality is provided by the Natural Language framework's NLTagger type. The tagger is initialized with a scheme of type NLTagScheme which specifies what kind of tags should be used for classification.

For example, we could use .tokenType as a scheme, which would classify parts of a text with the following tags: .word, .punctuation, .whitespace and .other.

Another example for a scheme is .lexicalClass, which classifies parts of a text with the tags .noun, .verb, .adjective, .adverb etc.

Let's look at the following function which extracts all verbs from a text:

func getVerbs(from text: String) -> [String] {
let tags = tags(for: text, tagScheme: .lexicalClass)
return tags.filter { $0.tag == .verb }.map { $0.word }
}

The function uses the following helper function which creates pairs of words and their tags based on the provided text and scheme.

func tags(for text: String, tagScheme: NLTagScheme) -> [(word: String, tag: NLTag)] {
var taggedWords: [(String, NLTag)] = []
let tagger = NLTagger(tagSchemes: [tagScheme])
tagger.string = text
tagger.enumerateTags(in: text.startIndex..<text.endIndex,
unit: .word,
scheme: tagScheme,
options: [.omitPunctuation, .omitWhitespace]) { tag, tokenRange in
if let tag = tag {
taggedWords.append((String(text[tokenRange]), tag))
}
return true
}
return taggedWords
}

We can use the same helper function to extract other words, for example names. The following code extracts place names from a given text:

func getPlaceNames(from text: String) -> [String] {
let tags = tags(for: text, tagScheme: .nameType)
return tags.filter { $0.tag == .placeName }.map { $0.word }
}

And that's basically it. The NLTagger makes it really easy for us to identify parts of speech in a text.

Check out the official NLTagScheme documentation to learn more about supported classification possibilities.

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