Abstract

A new nonparametric estimator of Shannon's entropy on a countable alphabet is proposed and analyzed against the well-known plug-in estimator. The proposed estimator is developed based on Turing's formula, which recovers distributional characteristics on the subset of the alphabet not covered by a size-n sample. The fundamental switch in perspective brings about substantial gain in estimation accuracy for every distribution with finite entropy. In general, a uniform variance upper bound is established for the entire class of distributions with finite entropy that decays at a rate of O(ln(n)/n) compared to O([ln(n)]2/n) for the plug-in. In a wide range of subclasses, the variance of the proposed estimator converges at a rate of O(1/n), and this rate of convergence carries over to the convergence rates in mean squared errors in many subclasses. Specifically, for any finite alphabet, the proposed estimator has a bias decaying exponentially in n. Several new bias-adjusted estimators are also discussed.

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