Haskell N-gram text generator

Character N-gram language models is an exciting idea that looks like the direction language modelling is taking. Functional programming is another idea that is receiving attention in the machine learning community. To learn more about them I'm playing around with a simple N-gram counter and text generator in Haskell.

Character level language models

I like the idea of character level language models (or even byte level) because that is the level on which human language is serialized. People are creative with text and things like ascii-art, novel emoticons, or neologisms and portmanteaus are impossible to handle with word-level systems.

Ultimately I want to learn a maximum entropy model in Haskell, but I'm still learning the language. So, given that N-gram language models are quite powerful already, here is what I have so far.

Training and generating script

Let's import some packages first.

import qualified Data.Map as M
import qualified Data.List as L
import qualified Data.Set as S
import qualified System.Environment as E
import qualified System.Random as R

There are two modes to the script. The count mode takes as input a stream of text and outputs N-gram counts. The apply mode takes N-gram counts as input and outputs a generated stream of text.

main = do
    args <- E.getArgs
    gen <- R.getStdGen
    case args of "count":n:_                -> interact $ show . getCounts (read n)
                 "apply":len:temp:start:_   -> interact $ apply gen (read len) (read temp) start . read 
                 _ -> do putStrLn "Usage: ngram count|apply" 
                         return ()

Counting N-grams

First we'll need a place to store the counts. For this we use a map where the key is a short piece of text and the value the number of times that text appears in our training data.

type Ngram = M.Map String Int

For example this will store 3-grams like

fromList [("\n\n\n",2),

Now we get the set of characters (vocabulary), and the counts by grouping and counting N-grams. n is the N-gram order.

getCounts :: Int -> String -> (Int, String, Ngram)
getCounts n x = (n, vocabulary x, count n x)

count :: Int -> String -> Ngram 
count n x = M.fromList . map (\ax@(x:xs) -> (x, length ax)) 
    . L.group . L.sort . take (length x - (n - 1)) 
    . map (take n) . L.tails $ x

vocabulary :: String -> String
vocabulary = S.toList . S.fromList

Sample from a Markov chain

Initially I thought we'd be in trouble here because we'd need a Random monad and I haven't figured out how to sample from it a variable number of times. But it turned out to be very simple to fold over R.randoms.

apply :: R.StdGen -> Int -> Float 
    -> String -> (Int, String, Ngram) -> String
apply gen len temp x (n, vocab, m) = 
    foldl (\acc rand -> step n vocab m temp acc rand) 
    x (take len $ R.randoms gen)

step :: Int -> String -> Ngram 
    -> Float -> String -> Float -> String
step n vocab m temp x rand =
    x ++ (sample rand vocab 
    $ map (candidateCounts n m temp x) vocab)

candidateCounts :: Int -> Ngram -> Float 
    -> String -> Char -> Float
candidateCounts n m temp x v =
    temp + (fromIntegral 
    $ lookupDefault 0 (constructNgram n v x) m)

constructNgram :: Int -> Char -> String -> String
constructNgram n v x = (drop (length x - n + 1) x) ++ [v]

lookupDefault :: (Ord b) => a -> b -> M.Map b a -> a
lookupDefault def key m = case M.lookup key m of Just x -> x
                                                 Nothing -> def

sample :: Float -> String -> [Float] -> String
sample r vocab p =
    [vocab !! (last $ L.findIndices (>=r) (accumulate p))]

accumulate :: [Float] -> [Float]
accumulate p = map normalize (accumulated p)
    where accumulated p =
        L.init $ foldr (\x acc -> (head acc + x):acc) [0] p
        normalize x = (x) / (head $ accumulated p)


Now let's read some Shakespeare!

$ cat input.txt | ./ngram count 2
fghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz",fromList [("\n\n",7223),(

Let's pipe the N-grams to apply:

$ cat input.txt | ./ngram count 2 | ./ngram apply 100 1 'The'
Therd lind's!
N spepaly w wa shevedid; Wh! y cal hald ad s ppases.
chan the f,

N vs smoothness

When we increase the N-gram order, the quality of the output increases. Up until a point where the training data is too sparse and the default count of 1 for unseen N-grams is too high. (Smoothing will help here but I'll leave that for another day).

$ cat input.txt | ./ngram count 5 | ./ngram apply 100 1 'The'


The weight of unknown N-grams steers the Markov chain into uncharted territory. We have to lower the 'prior count' of unseen N-grams, but even so it sometimes snaps into an even gibberisher mode:

$ cat input.txt | ./ngram count 5 | ./ngram apply 100 0.001 'The'
There we hers,
Shall weak of gripe,
And withou,

Say, than that the betters.
Hark! thee, good grey-eyed him
Doth not so;
In sicklingbroke harm.

Why, and is is throw our harlot sparel justice a fi&wStPFSnhTOmN$zWp$KNyTXjz&vG&HWgzyIc E3S;PJ3FC&QSV!pSKxlje-SoZgDKMtRdZsTEevzJ!-PHhoJS?WV?MsY$RV
 Kiss you give:
 Your good with us, sea-side.

 Those leasurest?
Written on December 27, 2015