Shaking Syntactic Trees on the Sesame Street: Multilingual Probing with Controllable Perturbations
Ekaterina Taktasheva | Vladislav Mikhailov | Ekaterina Artemova
Proceedings of the 1st Workshop on Multilingual Representation Learning
Recent research has adopted a new experimental field centered around the concept of text perturbations which has revealed that shuffled word order has little to no impact on the downstream performance of Transformer-based language models across many NLP tasks. These findings contradict the common understanding of how the models encode hierarchical and structural information and even question if the word order is modeled with position embeddings. To this end, this paper proposes nine probing datasets organized by the type of controllable text perturbation for three Indo-European languages with a varying degree of word order flexibility: English, Swedish and Russian. Based on the probing analysis of the M-BERT and M-BART models, we report that the syntactic sensitivity depends on the language and model pre-training objectives. We also find that the sensitivity grows across layers together with the increase of the perturbation granularity. Last but not least, we show that the models barely use the positional information to induce syntactic trees from their intermediate self-attention and contextualized representations.
The success of pre-trained transformer language models has brought a great deal of interest on how these models work, and what they learn about language. However, prior research in the field is mainly devoted to English, and little is known regarding other languages. To this end, we introduce RuSentEval, an enhanced set of 14 probing tasks for Russian, including ones that have not been explored yet. We apply a combination of complementary probing methods to explore the distribution of various linguistic properties in five multilingual transformers for two typologically contrasting languages – Russian and English. Our results provide intriguing findings that contradict the common understanding of how linguistic knowledge is represented, and demonstrate that some properties are learned in a similar manner despite the language differences.