Combining active and semi-supervised learning for spoken language understanding

Gokhan Tur, Dilek Hakkani-Tür, Robert E. Schapire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

190 Scopus citations


In this paper, we describe active and semi-supervised learning methods for reducing the labeling effort for spoken language understanding. In a goal-oriented call routing system, understanding the intent of the user can be framed as a classification problem. State of the art statistical classification systems are trained using a large number of human-labeled utterances, preparation of which is labor intensive and time consuming. Active learning aims to minimize the number of labeled utterances by automatically selecting the utterances that are likely to be most informative for labeling. The method for active learning we propose, inspired by certainty-based active learning, selects the examples that the classifier is the least confident about. The examples that are classified with higher confidence scores (hence not selected by active learning) are exploited using two semi-supervised learning methods. The first method augments the training data by using the machine-labeled classes for the unlabeled utterances. The second method instead augments the classification model trained using the human-labeled utterances with the machine-labeled ones in a weighted manner. We then combine active and semi-supervised learning using selectively sampled and automatically labeled data. This enables us to exploit all collected data and alleviates the data imbalance problem caused by employing only active or semi-supervised learning. We have evaluated these active and semi-supervised learning methods with a call classification system used for AT&T customer care. Our results indicate that it is possible to reduce human labeling effort significantly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-186
Number of pages16
JournalSpeech Communication
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2005
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Science Applications


  • Active learning
  • Call classification
  • Semi-supervised learning
  • Spoken language understanding


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