Surprisal Predicts Code-Switching in Chinese-English Bilingual Text
Jesús Calvillo | Le Fang | Jeremy Cole | David Reitter
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)
Why do bilinguals switch languages within a sentence? The present observational study asks whether word surprisal and word entropy predict code-switching in bilingual written conversation. We describe and model a new dataset of Chinese-English text with 1476 clean code-switched sentences, translated back into Chinese. The model includes known control variables together with word surprisal and word entropy. We found that word surprisal, but not entropy, is a significant predictor that explains code-switching above and beyond other well-known predictors. We also found sentence length to be a significant predictor, which has been related to sentence complexity. We propose high cognitive effort as a reason for code-switching, as it leaves fewer resources for inhibition of the alternative language. We also corroborate previous findings, but this time using a computational model of surprisal, a new language pair, and doing so for written language.
We present an analysis of the internal mechanism of the recurrent neural model of sentence production presented by Calvillo et al. (2016). The results show clear patterns of computation related to each layer in the network allowing to infer an algorithmic account, where the semantics activates the semantically related words, then each word generated at each time step activates syntactic and semantic constraints on possible continuations, while the recurrence preserves information through time. We propose that such insights could generalize to other models with similar architecture, including some used in computational linguistics for language modeling, machine translation and image caption generation.