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Stemming – Definition & explanation

Stemming is the process of removing the suffixes of words, reducing them to their stem. It is commonly used in natural language processing to improve a piece of software’s ability to understand a text. By removing suffixes, words on the same general topic like “Cyclist” and “Cycling” are changed to “Cycl,” making it easier for computers to understand what the text is about.

Stemming is a relatively basic technique commonly used in conjunction with other NLP techniques.

What is stemming used for?

Stemming can be used for a range of different things and has various benefits. One of the main reasons it is used is to decrease the complexity of a text, making it easier for software to process and see topic patterns.

Stemming can be used to reduce the number of unique words while still maintaining the meaning of most of the terms. By reducing words to their stems, it’s easier to find patterns in a text as words on similar topics will commonly be turned into identical words.

For example, if multiple paragraphs contain words like “writing” and “writer,” reducing them to the stem “writ,” requires fewer unique words to be processed while making it clear that the terms are on the same topic. This makes it easier to spot patterns in the text and understand parts of the text on similar topics.

The difference between stemming and lemmatization

Lemmatization is a term you’ll commonly hear when talking about stemming. Although these two methods are similar, there is an important difference between them. Stemming removes the prefixes of the words, often resulting in terms that aren’t actual words, like “cycl” instead of “cycle,” or “writ” instead of “write.”

Lemmatization, on the other hand, uses dictionaries to find the real base word, also called the lemma. This would result in “cycling,” “cycler,” and “cycled” all being shortened to “cycle.” Although this method is more complex and often takes more computing power, it can lead to better results due to the fact that all word variations are grouped to the same base word.

Importance in SEO and marketing

NLP is an important part of search engine algorithms. Getting a better understanding of the different methods that might be used can help marketers improve their understanding of how these algorithms might function. NLP is also used in various other marketing facets, with increased adoption in a range of different technologies.

Stemming can also be used to create internal databases, improve the search feature on a website, or for things like chatbots or other internal/external features.

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