Synonyms and The Analysis Chainedit

The example we showed in Formatting Synonyms, used u s a as a synonym. Why did we use that instead of U.S.A.? The reason is that the synonym token filter sees only the terms that the previous token filter or tokenizer has emitted.

Imagine that we have an analyzer that consists of the standard tokenizer, with the lowercase token filter followed by a synonym token filter. The analysis process for the text U.S.A. would look like this:

original string                  → "U.S.A."
standard           tokenizer     → (U),(S),(A)
lowercase          token filter  → (u),(s),(a)
synonym            token filter  → (usa)

If we had specified the synonym as U.S.A., it would never match anything because, by the time my_synonym_filter sees the terms, the periods have been removed and the letters have been lowercased.

This is an important point to consider. What if we want to combine synonyms with stemming, so that jumps, jumped, jump, leaps, leaped, and leap are all indexed as the single term jump? We could place the synonyms filter before the stemmer and list all inflections:

"jumps,jumped,leap,leaps,leaped => jump"

But the more concise way would be to place the synonyms filter after the stemmer, and to list just the root words that would be emitted by the stemmer:

"leap => jump"

Case-Sensitive Synonymsedit

Normally, synonym filters are placed after the lowercase token filter and so all synonyms are written in lowercase, but sometimes that can lead to odd conflations. For instance, a CAT scan and a cat are quite different, as are PET (positron emission tomography) and a pet. For that matter, the surname Little is distinct from the adjective little (although if a sentence starts with the adjective, it will be uppercased anyway).

If you need use case to distinguish between word senses, you will need to place your synonym filter before the lowercase filter. Of course, that means that your synonym rules would need to list all of the case variations that you want to match (for example, Little,LITTLE,little).

Instead of that, you could have two synonym filters: one to catch the case-sensitive synonyms and one for all the case-insensitive synonyms. For instance, the case-sensitive rules could look like this:

"CAT,CAT scan           => cat_scan"
"PET,PET scan           => pet_scan"
"Johnny Little,J Little => johnny_little"
"Johnny Small,J Small   => johnny_small"

And the case-insensitive rules could look like this:

"cat                    => cat,pet"
"dog                    => dog,pet"
"cat scan,cat_scan scan => cat_scan"
"pet scan,pet_scan scan => pet_scan"

The case-sensitive rules would CAT scan but would match only the CAT in CAT scan. For this reason, we have the odd-looking rule cat_scan scan in the case-insensitive list to catch bad replacements.


You can see how quickly it can get complicated. As always, the analyze API is your friend—use it to check that your analyzers are configured correctly. See Testing Analyzers.