When one searches on Google’s search page, the Chinese words and phrases can strung together without separation, just as in normal writing. What isn’t immediately obvious is that it looks like behind the scenes Google has taken the Chinese pages it crawls and segments the texts into individual words before storing the terms in its database. For example, in Google’s search of web pages, the term 中国 reports over 1 billion hits. With the same term in quotes to indicate an exact phrase, “中国” reports 5 billion hits (with the discrepancy hard to explain). However, when a space is inserted into the word, the exact phrase “中 国” reports 4.3 million pages, which is 0.08% of the amount for the single word “中国”. The kinds of pages returned from the space-separated query include matches for: 中國 in traditional script (for unknown reasons); words separated by punctuation, especially “中(国)” and “中。国” (i.e., one sentence ends with 中 and the next sentence starts with 国); and pages where every character is separated, as if the page were encoded or decoded incorrectly. These results suggest that Google treats Chinese searches the same as other languages, by storing pages in its back end database indexed by the individual words in the page. Storing the terms this way allows Google to quickly return results for a variety of queries, whether the user wants the terms anywhere in the page or as a connected phrase.
Archive for August, 2012