In natural language processing, latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA) is a generative model that allows sets of observations to be explained by unobserved groups that explain why some parts of the data are similar. For example, if observations are words collected into documents, it posits that each document is a mixture of a small number of topics and that each word's creation is attributable to one of the document's topics. LDA is an example of a topic model and was first presented as a graphical model for topic discovery by David Blei, Andrew Ng, and Michael Jordan in 2003.
In LDA, each document may be viewed as a mixture of various topics. This is similar to probabilistic latent semantic analysis (pLSA), except that in LDA the topic distribution is assumed to have a Dirichlet prior. In practice, this results in more reasonable mixtures of topics in a document. It has been noted, however, that the pLSA model is equivalent to the LDA model under a uniform Dirichlet prior distribution.
For example, an LDA model might have topics that can be classified as CAT_related and DOG_related. A topic has probabilities of generating various words, such as milk, meow, and kitten, which can be classified and interpreted by the viewer as "CAT_related". Naturally, the word cat itself will have high probability given this topic. The DOG_related topic likewise has probabilities of generating each word: puppy, bark, and bone might have high probability. Words without special relevance, such as the (see function word), will have roughly even probability between classes (or can be placed into a separate category). A topic is not strongly defined, neither semantically nor epistemologically. It is identified on the basis of supervised labeling and (manual) pruning on the basis of their likelihood of co-occurrence. A lexical word may occur in several topics with a different probability, however, with a different typical set of neighboring words in each topic.