Lemke, Tyll Robin; Horch, Eva; Reich, Ingo

Optimal encoding! – Information Theory constrains article omission in newspaper headlines

Proceedings of the 15th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Volume 2, Short Papers, Association for Computational Linguistics, pp. 131-135, Valencia, Spain, 2017.

In this paper we pursue the hypothesis that the distribution of article omission specifically is constrained by principles of Information Theory (Shannon 1948). In particular, Information Theory predicts a stronger preference for article omission before nouns which are relatively unpredictable in context of the preceding words. We investigated article omission in German newspaper headlines with a corpus and acceptability rating study. Both support our hypothesis: Articles are inserted more often before unpredictable nouns and subjects perceive article omission before predictable nouns as more well-formed than before unpredictable ones. This suggests that information theoretic principles constrain the distribution of article omission in headlines.