In this paper, we present a unified model that works for both multilingual and crosslingual prediction of reading times of words in various languages. The secret behind the success of this model is in the preprocessing step where all words are transformed to their universal language representation via the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to favorably exploit this phonological property of language for the two tasks. Various feature types were extracted covering basic frequencies, n-grams, information theoretic, and psycholinguistically-motivated predictors for model training. A finetuned Random Forest model obtained best performance for both tasks with 3.8031 and 3.9065 MAE scores for mean first fixation duration (FFDAvg) and mean total reading time (TRTAvg) respectively.
In this study, we developed the first baseline readability model for the Cebuano language. Cebuano is the second most-used native language in the Philippines with about 27.5 million speakers. As the baseline, we extracted traditional or surface-based features, syllable patterns based from Cebuano’s documented orthography, and neural embeddings from the multilingual BERT model. Results show that the use of the first two handcrafted linguistic features obtained the best performance trained on an optimized Random Forest model with approximately 87% across all metrics. The feature sets and algorithm used also is similar to previous results in readability assessment for the Filipino language—showing potential of crosslingual application. To encourage more work for readability assessment in Philippine languages such as Cebuano, we open-sourced both code and data.
Automatic readability assessment (ARA) is the task of evaluating the level of ease or difficulty of text documents for a target audience. For researchers, one of the many open problems in the field is to make such models trained for the task show efficacy even for low-resource languages. In this study, we propose an alternative way of utilizing the information-rich embeddings of BERT models with handcrafted linguistic features through a combined method for readability assessment. Results show that the proposed method outperforms classical approaches in readability assessment using English and Filipino datasets, obtaining as high as 12.4% increase in F1 performance. We also show that the general information encoded in BERT embeddings can be used as a substitute feature set for low-resource languages like Filipino with limited semantic and syntactic NLP tools to explicitly extract feature values for the task.