Development of a Stemmer for the IsiXhosa Language

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University of Fort Hare


IsiXhosa language is one of the eleven official languages and the second most widely spoken language in South Africa. However in terms of computational linguistics, the language did not get attention and natural language related work is almost non-existent. Document retrieval using unstructured queries requires some kind of language processing, and an efficient retrieval of documents can be achieved if we use a technique called stemming. The area that inlvolves document storage and retrieval is called Information Retrieval (IR). Basically, IR systems make use of a Stemmer to index document representations and also terms in users’ queries to retrieve matching documents. In this dissertation, we present the developed Stemmer that can be used in both conditions. The Stemmer is used in IR systems, like Google to retrieve documents written in isiXhosa. In the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa many public schools take isiXhosa as a subject and also a number of Universities in South Africa teach isiXhosa. Therefore, for a language important such as this, it is important to make valuable information that is available online accessible to users through the use of IR systems. In our efforts to develop a Stemmer for the isiXhosa language, an investigation on how others have developed Stemmers for other languages was carried out. From the investigation we came to realize that the Porter stemming algorithm in particular was the main algorithm that many of other Stemmers make use of as a reference. We found that Porter’s algorithm could not be used in its totality in the development of the isiXhosa Stemmer because of the morphological complexity of the language. We developed an affix removal that is embedded with rules that determine which order should be followed in stripping the affixes. The rule is that, the word under consideration is checked against the exceptions, if it’s not in the exceptions list then the stripping continue in the following order; Prefix removal, Suffix removal and finally save the result as stem. The Stemmer was successfully developed and was tested and evaluated in a sample data that was randomly collected from the isiXhosa text books and isiXhosa dictionary. From the results obtained we concluded that the Stemmer can be used in IR systems as it showed 91 % accuracy. The errors were 9 % and therefore these results are within the accepted range and therefore the Stemmer can be used to help in retrieval of isiXhosa documents. This is only a noun Stemmer and in the future it can be extended to also stem verbs as well. The Stemmer can also be used in the development of spell-checkers of isiXhosa.



IsiXhosa, Stemming, Stemmer, Stemming Algorithm and Information Retrieval