Benjamin K. Bergen
Do Language Models Make Human-like Predictions about the Coreferents of Italian Anaphoric Zero Pronouns?
James A. Michaelov | Benjamin K. Bergen
Proceedings of the 29th International Conference on Computational Linguistics
Some languages allow arguments to be omitted in certain contexts. Yet human language comprehenders reliably infer the intended referents of these zero pronouns, in part because they construct expectations about which referents are more likely. We ask whether Neural Language Models also extract the same expectations. We test whether 12 contemporary language models display expectations that reflect human behavior when exposed to sentences with zero pronouns from five behavioral experiments conducted in Italian by Carminati (2005). We find that three models - XGLM 2.9B, 4.5B, and 7.5B - capture the human behavior from all the experiments, with others successfully modeling some of the results. This result suggests that human expectations about coreference can be derived from exposure to language, and also indicates features of language models that allow them to better reflect human behavior.
We investigate how neural language models acquire individual words during training, extracting learning curves and ages of acquisition for over 600 words on the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory (Fenson et al., 2007). Drawing on studies of word acquisition in children, we evaluate multiple predictors for words’ ages of acquisition in LSTMs, BERT, and GPT-2. We find that the effects of concreteness, word length, and lexical class are pointedly different in children and language models, reinforcing the importance of interaction and sensorimotor experience in child language acquisition. Language models rely far more on word frequency than children, but, like children, they exhibit slower learning of words in longer utterances. Interestingly, models follow consistent patterns during training for both unidirectional and bidirectional models, and for both LSTM and Transformer architectures. Models predict based on unigram token frequencies early in training, before transitioning loosely to bigram probabilities, eventually converging on more nuanced predictions. These results shed light on the role of distributional learning mechanisms in children, while also providing insights for more human-like language acquisition in language models.