This lesson is still being designed and assembled (Pre-Alpha version)

Tokenising Text


Teaching: 0 min
Exercises: 0 min
  • What is tokenisation?

  • How can a string of raw text be tokenised?

  • Learn how to tokenise text

Tokenising text

But first … importing packages

Python has a selection of pre-written code that can be used. These come as in built functions and a library of packages of modules. We have already used the in-built function print(). In-built functions are available as soon as you start python. There is also a (software) library of modules that contain other functions, but these modules need to be imported.

For this course we need to import a few libraries into Python. To do this, we need to use the import command.

NLTK is the tool which we’ll be using to do much of the text processing in this workshop so we need to run import nltk. We will also use numpy to represent information in arrays and matrices, string to process some strings and matplotlib to visualise the output.

If there is a problem importing any of these modules you may need to revisit the appropriate install in the prerequisites list.

import nltk
import numpy
import string
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

Tokenising a string

In order to process text we need to break it down into tokens. As we explained at the start, a token is a letter, word, number, or punctuation which is contained in a string.

To tokenise we first need to import the word_tokenize method from the tokenize package from NLTK which allows us to do this without writing the code ourselves.

from nltk.tokenize import word_tokenize

We will also download a specific tokeniser that NLTK uses as default. There are different ways of tokenising text and today we will use NLTK’s in-built punkt tokeniser by calling:'punkt')

Now we can assign text as a string variable and tokenise it. We will save the tokenised output in a list using the humpty_tokens variable. We can inspect this list by inspecting the humpty_tokens variable.

humpty_string = "Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall; All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again."
humpty_tokens = word_tokenize(humpty_string)
# Show first 10 entries of the tokens list
['Humpty', 'Dumpty', 'sat', 'on', 'a', 'wall', ',', 'Humpty', 'Dumpty', 'had']

As you can see, some of the words are uppercase and some are lowercase. To further analyse the data, for example counting the occurrences of a word, we need to normalise the data and make it all lowercase.

You can lowercase the strings in the list by going through it and calling the .lower() method on each entry. You can do this by using a for loop to loop through each word in the list.

lower_humpty_tokens = [word.lower() for word in humpty_tokens]
# Show first 10 entries of the lowercased tokens list
['humpty', 'dumpty', 'sat', 'on', 'a', 'wall']

Task: Printing token in list

Print the 13th token of the nursery rhyme (remember that a list index starts with 0).



Key Points

  • Tokenisation means to split a string into separate words and punctuation, for example to be able to count them.

  • Text can be tokenised using the a tokeniser, e.g. the punkt tokeniser in NLTK.