Abstract We use large-scale corpora in six different gendered languages, along with tools from NLP and information theory, to test whether there is a relationship between the grammatical genders of inanimate nouns and the adjectives used to describe those nouns. For all six languages, we find that there is a statistically significant relationship. We also find that there are statistically significant relationships between the grammatical genders of inanimate nouns and the verbs that take those nouns as direct objects, as indirect objects, and as subjects. We defer deeper investigation of these relationships for future work.
Auditing NLP systems for computational harms like surfacing stereotypes is an elusive goal. Several recent efforts have focused on benchmark datasets consisting of pairs of contrastive sentences, which are often accompanied by metrics that aggregate an NLP system’s behavior on these pairs into measurements of harms. We examine four such benchmarks constructed for two NLP tasks: language modeling and coreference resolution. We apply a measurement modeling lens—originating from the social sciences—to inventory a range of pitfalls that threaten these benchmarks’ validity as measurement models for stereotyping. We find that these benchmarks frequently lack clear articulations of what is being measured, and we highlight a range of ambiguities and unstated assumptions that affect how these benchmarks conceptualize and operationalize stereotyping.
We survey 146 papers analyzing “bias” in NLP systems, finding that their motivations are often vague, inconsistent, and lacking in normative reasoning, despite the fact that analyzing “bias” is an inherently normative process. We further find that these papers’ proposed quantitative techniques for measuring or mitigating “bias” are poorly matched to their motivations and do not engage with the relevant literature outside of NLP. Based on these findings, we describe the beginnings of a path forward by proposing three recommendations that should guide work analyzing “bias” in NLP systems. These recommendations rest on a greater recognition of the relationships between language and social hierarchies, encouraging researchers and practitioners to articulate their conceptualizations of “bias”---i.e., what kinds of system behaviors are harmful, in what ways, to whom, and why, as well as the normative reasoning underlying these statements—and to center work around the lived experiences of members of communities affected by NLP systems, while interrogating and reimagining the power relations between technologists and such communities.
When assigning quantitative labels to a dataset, different methodologies may rely on different scales. In particular, when assigning polarities to words in a sentiment lexicon, annotators may use binary, categorical, or continuous labels. Naturally, it is of interest to unify these labels from disparate scales to both achieve maximal coverage over words and to create a single, more robust sentiment lexicon while retaining scale coherence. We introduce a generative model of sentiment lexica to combine disparate scales into a common latent representation. We realize this model with a novel multi-view variational autoencoder (VAE), called SentiVAE. We evaluate our approach via a downstream text classification task involving nine English-Language sentiment analysis datasets; our representation outperforms six individual sentiment lexica, as well as a straightforward combination thereof.
There is a growing body of work that proposes methods for mitigating bias in machine learning systems. These methods typically rely on access to protected attributes such as race, gender, or age. However, this raises two significant challenges: (1) protected attributes may not be available or it may not be legal to use them, and (2) it is often desirable to simultaneously consider multiple protected attributes, as well as their intersections. In the context of mitigating bias in occupation classification, we propose a method for discouraging correlation between the predicted probability of an individual’s true occupation and a word embedding of their name. This method leverages the societal biases that are encoded in word embeddings, eliminating the need for access to protected attributes. Crucially, it only requires access to individuals’ names at training time and not at deployment time. We evaluate two variations of our proposed method using a large-scale dataset of online biographies. We find that both variations simultaneously reduce race and gender biases, with almost no reduction in the classifier’s overall true positive rate.
Gender stereotypes are manifest in most of the world’s languages and are consequently propagated or amplified by NLP systems. Although research has focused on mitigating gender stereotypes in English, the approaches that are commonly employed produce ungrammatical sentences in morphologically rich languages. We present a novel approach for converting between masculine-inflected and feminine-inflected sentences in such languages. For Spanish and Hebrew, our approach achieves F1 scores of 82% and 73% at the level of tags and accuracies of 90% and 87% at the level of forms. By evaluating our approach using four different languages, we show that, on average, it reduces gender stereotyping by a factor of 2.5 without any sacrifice to grammaticality.
Studying the ways in which language is gendered has long been an area of interest in sociolinguistics. Studies have explored, for example, the speech of male and female characters in film and the language used to describe male and female politicians. In this paper, we aim not to merely study this phenomenon qualitatively, but instead to quantify the degree to which the language used to describe men and women is different and, moreover, different in a positive or negative way. To that end, we introduce a generative latent-variable model that jointly represents adjective (or verb) choice, with its sentiment, given the natural gender of a head (or dependent) noun. We find that there are significant differences between descriptions of male and female nouns and that these differences align with common gender stereotypes: Positive adjectives used to describe women are more often related to their bodies than adjectives used to describe men.
Many of the world’s languages employ grammatical gender on the lexeme. For instance, in Spanish, house “casa” is feminine, whereas the word for paper “papel” is masculine. To a speaker of a genderless language, this categorization seems to exist with neither rhyme nor reason. But, is the association of nouns to gender classes truly arbitrary? In this work, we present the first large-scale investigation of the arbitrariness of gender assignment that uses canonical correlation analysis as a method for correlating the gender of inanimate nouns with their lexical semantic meaning. We find that the gender systems of 18 languages exhibit a significant correlation with an externally grounded definition of lexical semantics.