Hagen Blix


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On the Machine Learning of Ethical Judgments from Natural Language
Zeerak Talat | Hagen Blix | Josef Valvoda | Maya Indira Ganesh | Ryan Cotterell | Adina Williams
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Ethics is one of the longest standing intellectual endeavors of humanity. In recent years, the fields of AI and NLP have attempted to address issues of harmful outcomes in machine learning systems that are made to interface with humans. One recent approach in this vein is the construction of NLP morality models that can take in arbitrary text and output a moral judgment about the situation described. In this work, we offer a critique of such NLP methods for automating ethical decision-making. Through an audit of recent work on computational approaches for predicting morality, we examine the broader issues that arise from such efforts. We conclude with a discussion of how machine ethics could usefully proceed in NLP, by focusing on current and near-future uses of technology, in a way that centers around transparency, democratic values, and allows for straightforward accountability.


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Predicting Declension Class from Form and Meaning
Adina Williams | Tiago Pimentel | Hagen Blix | Arya D. McCarthy | Eleanor Chodroff | Ryan Cotterell
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

The noun lexica of many natural languages are divided into several declension classes with characteristic morphological properties. Class membership is far from deterministic, but the phonological form of a noun and/or its meaning can often provide imperfect clues. Here, we investigate the strength of those clues. More specifically, we operationalize this by measuring how much information, in bits, we can glean about declension class from knowing the form and/or meaning of nouns. We know that form and meaning are often also indicative of grammatical gender—which, as we quantitatively verify, can itself share information with declension class—so we also control for gender. We find for two Indo-European languages (Czech and German) that form and meaning respectively share significant amounts of information with class (and contribute additional information above and beyond gender). The three-way interaction between class, form, and meaning (given gender) is also significant. Our study is important for two reasons: First, we introduce a new method that provides additional quantitative support for a classic linguistic finding that form and meaning are relevant for the classification of nouns into declensions. Secondly, we show not only that individual declensions classes vary in the strength of their clues within a language, but also that these variations themselves vary across languages.


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Investigating BERT’s Knowledge of Language: Five Analysis Methods with NPIs
Alex Warstadt | Yu Cao | Ioana Grosu | Wei Peng | Hagen Blix | Yining Nie | Anna Alsop | Shikha Bordia | Haokun Liu | Alicia Parrish | Sheng-Fu Wang | Jason Phang | Anhad Mohananey | Phu Mon Htut | Paloma Jeretic | Samuel R. Bowman
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

Though state-of-the-art sentence representation models can perform tasks requiring significant knowledge of grammar, it is an open question how best to evaluate their grammatical knowledge. We explore five experimental methods inspired by prior work evaluating pretrained sentence representation models. We use a single linguistic phenomenon, negative polarity item (NPI) licensing, as a case study for our experiments. NPIs like any are grammatical only if they appear in a licensing environment like negation (Sue doesn’t have any cats vs. *Sue has any cats). This phenomenon is challenging because of the variety of NPI licensing environments that exist. We introduce an artificially generated dataset that manipulates key features of NPI licensing for the experiments. We find that BERT has significant knowledge of these features, but its success varies widely across different experimental methods. We conclude that a variety of methods is necessary to reveal all relevant aspects of a model’s grammatical knowledge in a given domain.