Leveraging syntax to better capture the semantics of elliptical coordinated compound noun phrases

Catherine Blake, Tom Rindflesch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Full-text scientific articles are increasingly available, but capturing the meaning conveyed within an article automatically remains a bottleneck for semantic search and reasoning systems. In this paper we consider elliptical coordinated compound noun phrases that authors use to save space in an article. Systems that do not attend to coordination would incorrectly interpret “breast or lung cancer” as a body part (breast) and a disease (lung cancer) rather than two diseases. The algorithmic approach introduced in this paper uses a generate-and-test strategy where candidate expansions for forward, backward and complex ellipses are generated from syntactic dependencies. Dependencies are also used to create a dictionary of non-coordinated noun phrases that is used during the test phrase. Experiments on 21,280 full-text articles show that more than a million noun phrases were impacted by coordinated ellipses. The system achieves 73.07% precision, 75.38% recall, 74.23% F-score and 94.72% accuracy for new noun phrases in the development set. The precision was higher for backward (82.62 vs. 78.63) and forward expansions (64.82 vs. 60.17) and lower for complex expansions (63.41 vs. 72.59) in a test set. On average 10.79% of all noun phrases would be missed if coordination were not resolved, which corresponds to 48 new noun phrases per article in the journal Carcinogenesis, 52 new phrases per article in Diabetes, and 56 new phrases per article in Endocrinology. Results also show coordinated ellipses are more prevalent in abstracts (12.31% of all noun phrases) than in the body of an article (10.70%). To further test the generalizability of this approach the system (without modification) was used on two new collections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120-131
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biomedical Informatics
StatePublished - Aug 2017


  • Elliptical coordinated compound noun phrases
  • Entity recognition
  • Natural language processing
  • Noun phrase semantics
  • Text mining

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Informatics


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