Automatic Nominalization and Lexical Formality Application for Academic Writing

Automatic paraphrasing has received much interest in the computational linguistics community in recent years. One type of paraphrasing is lexical substitution (McCarthy and Navigli, 2009), which replaces a word or short phrase with another. Paraphrasing can also involve manipulation of the clausal structure of a sentence with a range of options describable as the “Cline of Metaphoricity” (Halliday and Matthiessen, 2014). According to Halliday, metaphoricity happens inside a sentence when the actions (i.e. verbs and adjectives) are converted into nouns, a process that is known as “nomianlization”. Turning verbs into nouns through nominalization can turn a complex clause into a simple one (Halliday and Webster, 2004), a common feature of professional and academic English texts (Bhatia, 2014).

Developed by Dariush Saberi in the Halliday Centre, the Nominalization and Lexical Formality Application was part of a project entitled Meeting the Challenge of Teaching and Learning Language in the University: Enhancing Linguistic Competence and Performance in English and Chinese. It represents an endeavour to design an assisted academic English writing system that automates the nominalization and lexical substitution in ESL/EFL writings.

The contributions of the system include an algorithm for noun generation using a neural language model, a model design for an assisted writing system for CALL, mappings for nominalization, and academic lexical substitution. Evaluations of the system performance show that it is capable of significant impacts on students’ writing.

The open source application and the datasets are available online at The application is available as a browser-based tool at


Saberi, D., & Lee, J. & Webster, J. J. (2020). Automatic Assistance for Academic Word Usage. 28th International Conference on Computational Linguistics (COLING'2020), Barcelona, Spain.

Saberi, D., & Lee, J (2019). Noun Generation for Nominalization in Academic Writing. INLG 2019 Workshop on Computational Creativity in Natural Language Generation, Tokyo, Japan.

Lee, J. S.Y., Cheung, L. M. E, Saberi, D. & Webster, J. J. (2019). Expanding Students’ Registerial Repertoire with a Writing Assistance Tool. Journal of English for Academic Purposes

Lee, J., & Saberi, D., & Lam, M., & Webster, J. (2018). Assisted Nominalization for Academic English Writing. Proceedings of the Workshop on Intelligent Interactive Systems and Language Generation (2IS&NLG), pages 26–30, Tilburg, The Netherlands, November 5 2018.