C.m. Downey


2022

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A Masked Segmental Language Model for Unsupervised Natural Language Segmentation
C.m. Downey | Fei Xia | Gina-Anne Levow | Shane Steinert-Threlkeld
Proceedings of the 19th SIGMORPHON Workshop on Computational Research in Phonetics, Phonology, and Morphology

We introduce a Masked Segmental Language Model (MSLM) for joint language modeling and unsupervised segmentation. While near-perfect supervised methods have been developed for segmenting human-like linguistic units in resource-rich languages such as Chinese, many of the world’s languages are both morphologically complex, and have no large dataset of “gold” segmentations for supervised training. Segmental Language Models offer a unique approach by conducting unsupervised segmentation as the byproduct of a neural language modeling objective. However, current SLMs are limited in their scalability due to their recurrent architecture. We propose a new type of SLM for use in both unsupervised and lightly supervised segmentation tasks. The MSLM is built on a span-masking transformer architecture, harnessing a masked bidirectional modeling context and attention, as well as adding the potential for model scalability. In a series of experiments, our model outperforms the segmentation quality of recurrent SLMs on Chinese, and performs similarly to the recurrent model on English.