Word embedding is a feature learning technique which aims at mapping words from a vocabulary into vectors of real numbers in a low-dimensional space. By leveraging large corpora of unlabeled text, such continuous space representations can be computed for capturing both syntactic and semantic information about words. Word embeddings, when used as the underlying input representation, have been shown to be a great asset for a large variety of natural language processing (NLP) tasks. Recent techniques to obtain such word embeddings are mostly based on neural network language models (NNLM). In such systems, the word vectors are randomly initialized and then trained to predict optimally the contexts in which the corresponding words tend to appear. Because words occurring in similar contexts have, in general, similar meanings, their resulting word embeddings are semantically close after training. However, such architectures might be challenging and time-consuming to train. In this thesis, we are focusing on building simple models which are fast and efficient on large-scale datasets. As a result, we propose a model based on counts for computing word embeddings. A word co-occurrence probability matrix can easily be obtained by directly counting the context words surrounding the vocabulary words in a large corpus of texts. The computation can then be drastically simplified by performing a Hellinger PCA of this matrix. Besides being simple, fast and intuitive, this method has two other advantages over NNLM. It first provides a framework to infer unseen words or phrases. Secondly, all embedding dimensions can be obtained after a single Hellinger PCA, while a new training is required for each new size with NNLM. We evaluate our word embeddings on classical word tagging tasks and show that we reach similar performance than with neural network based word embeddings. While many techniques exist for computing word embeddings, vector space models for phrases remain a challenge. Still based on the idea of proposing simple and practical tools for NLP, we introduce a novel model that jointly learns word embeddings and their summation. Sequences of words (i.e. phrases) with different sizes are thus embedded in the same semantic space by just averaging word embeddings. In contrast to previous methods which reported a posteriori some compositionality aspects by simple summation, we simultaneously train words to sum, while keeping the maximum information from the original vectors. These word and phrase embeddings are then used in two different NLP tasks: document classification and sentence generation. Using such word embeddings as inputs, we show that good performance is achieved in sentiment classification of short and long text documents with a convolutional neural network. Finding good compact representations of text documents is crucial in classification systems. Based on the summation of word embeddings, we introduce a method to represent documents in a low-dimensional semantic space. This simple operation, along with a clustering method, provides an efficient framework for adding semantic information to documents, which yields better results than classical approaches for classification. Simple models for sentence generation can also be designed by leveraging such phrase embeddings. We propose a phrase-based model for image captioning which achieves similar results than those obtained with more complex models. Not only word and phrase embeddings but also embeddings for non-textual elements can be helpful for sentence generation. We, therefore, explore to embed table elements for generating better sentences from structured data. We experiment this approach with a large-scale dataset of biographies, where biographical infoboxes were available. By parameterizing both words and fields as vectors (embeddings), we significantly outperform a classical model.