Is Word Segmentation Necessary for Deep Learning of Chinese Representations?

Xiaoya Li, Yuxian Meng, Xiaofei Sun, Qinghong Han, Arianna Yuan, Jiwei Li


Abstract
Segmenting a chunk of text into words is usually the first step of processing Chinese text, but its necessity has rarely been explored. In this paper, we ask the fundamental question of whether Chinese word segmentation (CWS) is necessary for deep learning-based Chinese Natural Language Processing. We benchmark neural word-based models which rely on word segmentation against neural char-based models which do not involve word segmentation in four end-to-end NLP benchmark tasks: language modeling, machine translation, sentence matching/paraphrase and text classification. Through direct comparisons between these two types of models, we find that char-based models consistently outperform word-based models. Based on these observations, we conduct comprehensive experiments to study why word-based models underperform char-based models in these deep learning-based NLP tasks. We show that it is because word-based models are more vulnerable to data sparsity and the presence of out-of-vocabulary (OOV) words, and thus more prone to overfitting. We hope this paper could encourage researchers in the community to rethink the necessity of word segmentation in deep learning-based Chinese Natural Language Processing.
Anthology ID:
P19-1314
Volume:
Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics
Month:
July
Year:
2019
Address:
Florence, Italy
Venue:
ACL
SIG:
Publisher:
Association for Computational Linguistics
Note:
Pages:
3242–3252
Language:
URL:
https://aclanthology.org/P19-1314
DOI:
10.18653/v1/P19-1314
Bibkey:
Cite (ACL):
Xiaoya Li, Yuxian Meng, Xiaofei Sun, Qinghong Han, Arianna Yuan, and Jiwei Li. 2019. Is Word Segmentation Necessary for Deep Learning of Chinese Representations?. In Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics, pages 3242–3252, Florence, Italy. Association for Computational Linguistics.
Cite (Informal):
Is Word Segmentation Necessary for Deep Learning of Chinese Representations? (Li et al., ACL 2019)
Copy Citation:
PDF:
https://aclanthology.org/P19-1314.pdf