In lexicalist linguistic theories, argument structure is assumed to be predictable from the meaning of verbs. As a result, the verb is the primary determinant of the meaning of a clause. In contrast, construction grammarians propose that argument structure is encoded in constructions (or form-meaning pairs) that are distinct from verbs. Two decades of psycholinguistic research have produced substantial empirical evidence in favor of the construction view. Here we adapt several psycholinguistic studies to probe for the existence of argument structure constructions (ASCs) in Transformer-based language models (LMs). First, using a sentence sorting experiment, we find that sentences sharing the same construction are closer in embedding space than sentences sharing the same verb. Furthermore, LMs increasingly prefer grouping by construction with more input data, mirroring the behavior of non-native language learners. Second, in a “Jabberwocky” priming-based experiment, we find that LMs associate ASCs with meaning, even in semantically nonsensical sentences. Our work offers the first evidence for ASCs in LMs and highlights the potential to devise novel probing methods grounded in psycholinguistic research.
As large and powerful neural language models are developed, researchers have been increasingly interested in developing diagnostic tools to probe them. There are many papers with conclusions of the form “observation X is found in model Y”, using their own datasets with varying sizes. Larger probing datasets bring more reliability, but are also expensive to collect. There is yet to be a quantitative method for estimating reasonable probing dataset sizes. We tackle this omission in the context of comparing two probing configurations: after we have collected a small dataset from a pilot study, how many additional data samples are sufficient to distinguish two different configurations? We present a novel method to estimate the required number of data samples in such experiments and, across several case studies, we verify that our estimations have sufficient statistical power. Our framework helps to systematically construct probing datasets to diagnose neural NLP models.
Transformer language models have shown remarkable ability in detecting when a word is anomalous in context, but likelihood scores offer no information about the cause of the anomaly. In this work, we use Gaussian models for density estimation at intermediate layers of three language models (BERT, RoBERTa, and XLNet), and evaluate our method on BLiMP, a grammaticality judgement benchmark. In lower layers, surprisal is highly correlated to low token frequency, but this correlation diminishes in upper layers. Next, we gather datasets of morphosyntactic, semantic, and commonsense anomalies from psycholinguistic studies; we find that the best performing model RoBERTa exhibits surprisal in earlier layers when the anomaly is morphosyntactic than when it is semantic, while commonsense anomalies do not exhibit surprisal at any intermediate layer. These results suggest that language models employ separate mechanisms to detect different types of linguistic anomalies.
Eye movement data during reading is a useful source of information for understanding language comprehension processes. In this paper, we describe our submission to the CMCL 2021 shared task on predicting human reading patterns. Our model uses RoBERTa with a regression layer to predict 5 eye-tracking features. We train the model in two stages: we first fine-tune on the Provo corpus (another eye-tracking dataset), then fine-tune on the task data. We compare different Transformer models and apply ensembling methods to improve the performance. Our final submission achieves a MAE score of 3.929, ranking 3rd place out of 13 teams that participated in this shared task.
Tone is a prosodic feature used to distinguish words in many languages, some of which are endangered and scarcely documented. In this work, we use unsupervised representation learning to identify probable clusters of syllables that share the same phonemic tone. Our method extracts the pitch for each syllable, then trains a convolutional autoencoder to learn a low-dimensional representation for each contour. We then apply the mean shift algorithm to cluster tones in high-density regions of the latent space. Furthermore, by feeding the centers of each cluster into the decoder, we produce a prototypical contour that represents each cluster. We apply this method to spoken multi-syllable words in Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese and evaluate how closely our clusters match the ground truth tone categories. Finally, we discuss some difficulties with our approach, including contextual tone variation and allophony effects.
Word class flexibility refers to the phenomenon whereby a single word form is used across different grammatical categories. Extensive work in linguistic typology has sought to characterize word class flexibility across languages, but quantifying this phenomenon accurately and at scale has been fraught with difficulties. We propose a principled methodology to explore regularity in word class flexibility. Our method builds on recent work in contextualized word embeddings to quantify semantic shift between word classes (e.g., noun-to-verb, verb-to-noun), and we apply this method to 37 languages. We find that contextualized embeddings not only capture human judgment of class variation within words in English, but also uncover shared tendencies in class flexibility across languages. Specifically, we find greater semantic variation when flexible lemmas are used in their dominant word class, supporting the view that word class flexibility is a directional process. Our work highlights the utility of deep contextualized models in linguistic typology.
Machine learning has shown promise for automatic detection of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) through speech; however, efforts are hampered by a scarcity of data, especially in languages other than English. We propose a method to learn a correspondence between independently engineered lexicosyntactic features in two languages, using a large parallel corpus of out-of-domain movie dialogue data. We apply it to dementia detection in Mandarin Chinese, and demonstrate that our method outperforms both unilingual and machine translation-based baselines. This appears to be the first study that transfers feature domains in detecting cognitive decline.
There is growing evidence that changes in speech and language may be early markers of dementia, but much of the previous NLP work in this area has been limited by the size of the available datasets. Here, we compare several methods of domain adaptation to augment a small French dataset of picture descriptions (n = 57) with a much larger English dataset (n = 550), for the task of automatically distinguishing participants with dementia from controls. The first challenge is to identify a set of features that transfer across languages; in addition to previously used features based on information units, we introduce a new set of features to model the order in which information units are produced by dementia patients and controls. These concept-based language model features improve classification performance in both English and French separately, and the best result (AUC = 0.89) is achieved using the multilingual training set with a combination of information and language model features.