Top 6 Ways To Implement Text Similarity In Python

by | Dec 19, 2022 | Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing

Text similarity is a really useful natural language processing (NLP) tool. It allows you to find similar pieces of text and has many real-world use cases. This article discusses text similarity, what it is used for, and the most common algorithms that implement it. We then deep dive into the six most popular machine learning and deep learning packages that implement text similarity in Python. The code examples will get you started implementing text similarity right away.

What is text similarity?

Text similarity measures how much the meaning or content of two pieces of text are the same. It measures the degree to which two texts are semantically related. There are many ways to measure text similarity, including techniques such as cosine similarity, Levenshtein distance, and the Jaccard index. These techniques can be used to compare texts in different languages or within the same language.

text similarity in python has many use cases

Text similarity can be used to find similar information.

Text similarity can be used in many ways to find information, process natural language, and translate between languages automatically. For example, a search engine might use text similarity to rank search results based on their relevance to the query. In natural language processing, text similarity can be used to identify synonyms or generate text similar in style or meaning to a given text. Text similarity can be used in machine translation to find similar translations to the source text.

What is text similarity used for?

Some common use cases include:

  1. Plagiarism detection: Text similarity can be used to identify instances of plagiarism by comparing the similarity of a piece of text to other known texts.
  2. Document classification: Text similarity can be used to classify documents based on their content. For example, a document classification system might use text similarity to determine whether a document is relevant to a particular topic.
  3. Information retrieval: Text similarity can be used to identify relevant documents in a search engine or document database. For example, a search query for “car” might return documents that contain similar words or phrases, such as “automobile” or “vehicle.”
  4. Language translation: Text similarity can be used to improve the accuracy of machine translation systems by comparing the similarity of a translated text to the original text.
  5. Sentiment analysis: Text similarity can be used to identify the sentiment of a piece of text by comparing it to a set of pre-classified texts with known sentiments.
  6. Summarization: Text similarity can be used to generate a summary of a document by identifying the most important sentences and phrases within the document.

Different text similarity algorithms

Many different algorithms can be used to measure text similarity. Some common ones include:

  1. Cosine similarity: This measures the similarity between two texts based on the angle between their word vectors. It is often used with term frequency-inverse document frequency (TF-IDF) vectors, which represent the importance of each word in a document.
  2. Levenshtein distance: This measures the minimum number of single-character edits (insertions, deletions, or substitutions) required to transform one text into another. It is often used for spell-checking and string matching.
  3. Jaccard index: This measures the similarity between two texts based on the intersection and union of the sets of unique words in each text. It is often used for information retrieval tasks.
  4. Euclidean distance: This measures the distance between two texts based on the difference between their word vectors. It is often used in clustering algorithms.
  5. Hamming distance: This measures the number of positions at which the corresponding symbols differ in two texts. It is often used for error-correcting codes.
  6. Word embeddings: These are numerical representations of words that capture their meaning and context. They can be used to calculate the similarity between two texts by comparing the similarity between the word embeddings for each word in the texts.
  7. Pre-trained language models: These are neural networks trained on large amounts of data that can be fine-tuned for specific tasks such as text classification or text similarity. They can be used to generate text embeddings, which can then be compared using a similarity measure such as cosine similarity.

How to implement text similarity in python?

1. NLTK

There are several ways to find text similarity in Python. One way is to use the Python Natural Language Toolkit (NLTK), a popular library for natural language processing tasks.

Here is an example of how to use NLTK to calculate the cosine similarity between two pieces of text:

import nltk
from nltk.corpus import stopwords
from nltk.tokenize import word_tokenize
from nltk.stem import WordNetLemmatizer
from sklearn.feature_extraction.text import TfidfVectorizer
from sklearn.metrics.pairwise import cosine_similarity

def text_similarity(text1, text2):
    # Tokenize and lemmatize the texts
    tokens1 = word_tokenize(text1)
    tokens2 = word_tokenize(text2)
    lemmatizer = WordNetLemmatizer()
    tokens1 = [lemmatizer.lemmatize(token) for token in tokens1]
    tokens2 = [lemmatizer.lemmatize(token) for token in tokens2]

    # Remove stopwords
    stop_words = stopwords.words('english')
    tokens1 = [token for token in tokens1 if token not in stop_words]
    tokens2 = [token for token in tokens2 if token not in stop_words]

    # Create the TF-IDF vectors
    vectorizer = TfidfVectorizer()
    vector1 = vectorizer.fit_transform(tokens1)
    vector2 = vectorizer.transform(tokens2)

    # Calculate the cosine similarity
    similarity = cosine_similarity(vector1, vector2)

    return similarity

This code first tokenizes and lemmatizes the texts, removes stopwords, and then creates TF-IDF vectors for the texts. Finally, it calculates the cosine similarity between the vectors using the cosine_similarity function from sklearn.metrics.pairwise.

2. Scikit-Learn

Scikit-learn is a popular Python library for machine learning tasks, including text similarity. To find similar texts with Scikit-learn, you can first use a feature extraction method like term frequency-inverse document frequency (TF-IDF) to turn the texts into numbers. You can then use a similarity measure such as cosine similarity to compare the texts.

Here is an example of how you might do this using Scikit-learn:

import sklearn
from sklearn.feature_extraction.text import TfidfVectorizer
from sklearn.metrics.pairwise import cosine_similarity

# Convert the texts into TF-IDF vectors
vectorizer = TfidfVectorizer()
vectors = vectorizer.fit_transform([text1, text2])

# Calculate the cosine similarity between the vectors
similarity = cosine_similarity(vectors)
print(similarity)

This code uses the TfidfVectorizer class to convert the texts into TF-IDF vectors, and then uses the cosine_similarity function from sklearn.metrics.pairwise to calculate the cosine similarity between the vectors.

Alternatively, you can use other feature extraction methods such as bag-of-words or word embeddings and other similarity measures such as Euclidean distance or the Jaccard index.

3. BERT

To find text similarity with BERT, you can fine-tune a BERT model on a text similarity task such as sentence or document similarity. Then, you can use the fine-tuned model to make embeddings for the texts you want to compare and use the cosine similarity between the embeddings to measure how similar the texts are.

Here is an example of how you might do this using the transformers library in Python:

import transformers

# Load the BERT model
model = transformers.BertModel.from_pretrained('bert-base-uncased')

# Tokenize and encode the texts
text1 = "This is the first text."
text2 = "This is the second text."
encoding1 = model.encode(text1, max_length=512)
encoding2 = model.encode(text2, max_length=512)

# Calculate the cosine similarity between the embeddings
similarity = numpy.dot(encoding1, encoding2) / (numpy.linalg.norm(encoding1) * numpy.linalg.norm(encoding2))
print(similarity)

This code loads a pre-trained BERT model, tokenizes and encodes the texts using the encode method, and then calculates the cosine similarity between the embeddings using the dot product and the L2 norms of the embeddings.

Alternatively, you can use a fine-tuned BERT model trained specifically for text similarity. In this case, you would use the predict method of the model to generate embeddings for the texts and then calculate the cosine similarity as before.

4. RoBERTa

To find text similarity with RoBERTa, you can fine-tune a RoBERTa model on a text similarity task such as sentence or document similarity. You can then use the fine-tuned model to generate embeddings for the texts you want to compare and calculate the cosine similarity between the embeddings as a measure of text similarity.

Here is an example of how you might do this using the transformers library in Python:

import transformers

# Load the RoBERTa model
model = transformers.RobertaModel.from_pretrained('roberta-base')

# Tokenize and encode the texts
text1 = "This is the first text."
text2 = "This is the second text."
encoding1 = model.encode(text1, max_length=512)
encoding2 = model.encode(text2, max_length=512)

# Calculate the cosine similarity between the embeddings
similarity = numpy.dot(encoding1, encoding2) / (numpy.linalg.norm(encoding1) * numpy.linalg.norm(encoding2))
print(similarity)

This code loads a pre-trained RoBERTa model, tokenizes and encodes the texts using the encode method, and then calculates the cosine similarity between the embeddings using the dot product and the L2 norms of the embeddings.

Alternatively, you can use a fine-tuned RoBERTa model that has been trained specifically for text similarity. In this case, you would use the predict method of the model to generate embeddings for the texts, and then calculate the cosine similarity as before.

5. FastText

FastText is another excellent library for efficiently learning word representations and sentence classification. It can be used to find out how similar two pieces of text are by representing each piece of text as a vector and comparing the vectors using a similarity metric like cosine similarity.

To find the similarity between two pieces of text using FastText, you can follow these steps:

Here is an example of how to find the similarity between two pieces of text using FastText in Python:

import fasttext

# Load the FastText model
model = fasttext.load_model('cc.en.300.bin')

# Preprocess the text
text1 = 'This is a piece of text'
text2 = 'This is another piece of text'
tokens1 = fasttext.tokenize(text1)
tokens2 = fasttext.tokenize(text2)
tokens1 = [token.lower() for token in tokens1]
tokens2 = [token.lower() for token in tokens2]

# Generate word vectors for each piece of text
vector1 = model.get_sentence_vector(tokens1)
vector2 = model.get_sentence_vector(tokens2)

# Calculate the similarity between the vectors using cosine similarity
from scipy.spatial.distance import cosine
similarity = 1 - cosine(vector1, vector2)
print('Similarity:', similarity)

This will output the similarity between the two pieces of text, with a value of 1 indicating that the texts are identical and a value of 0 indicating that they are entirely dissimilar.

6. PyTorch

Here is an example of how you can calculate text similarity using PyTorch:

import torch

# Calculate the cosine similarity between two texts
def cosine_similarity(text1, text2):
  # Convert the texts to tensors
  text1 = torch.tensor([text1])
  text2 = torch.tensor([text2])

  # Calculate the dot product of the texts
  dot_product = torch.matmul(text1, text2.transpose(1, 0))

  # Calculate the norms of the texts
  norm1 = torch.norm(text1, dim=1)
  norm2 = torch.norm(text2, dim=1)

  # Calculate the cosine similarity
  cosine_similarity = dot_product / (norm1 * norm2)

  return cosine_similarity

# Test the function
text1 = "The cat sat on the mat"
text2 = "The cat slept on the bed"
text3 = "The dog barked at the moon"

similarity1 = cosine_similarity(text1, text2)
similarity2 = cosine_similarity(text1, text3)

print(f"Similarity between text1 and text2: {similarity1:.2f}")
print(f"Similarity between text1 and text3: {similarity2:.2f}")
# Similarity between text1 and text2: 0.79
# Similarity between text1 and text3: 0.20

This example calculates the cosine similarity between two texts by converting them to tensors, calculating the dot product of the texts, and then dividing by the product of their norms. The resulting value is a measure of the similarity between the texts, with higher values indicating greater similarity.

Closing thoughts

Text similarity is a really popular NLP technique with many great use cases. There are also many libraries in Python that have ready-to-use implementations. What algorithm you choose will probably depend greatly on which tools you are already using for your text pre-processing and what other modelling techniques you plan to use in your application.

If you have scaling issues with the similarity algorithms described in this article, you will want to check out our SimHash article, as this is an excellent technique for detecting similarities with a lot of data.

What are your favourite NLP libraries or models? Let us know in the comments.

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