A characteristic feature of human semantic cognition is its ability to not only store and retrieve the properties of concepts observed through experience, but to also facilitate the inheritance of properties (can breathe) from superordinate concepts (animal) to their subordinates (dog)—i.e. demonstrate property inheritance. In this paper, we present COMPS, a collection of minimal pair sentences that jointly tests pre-trained language models (PLMs) on their ability to attribute properties to concepts and their ability to demonstrate property inheritance behavior. Analyses of 22 different PLMs on COMPS reveal that they can easily distinguish between concepts on the basis of a property when they are trivially different, but find it relatively difficult when concepts are related on the basis of nuanced knowledge representations. Furthermore, we find that PLMs can show behaviors suggesting successful property inheritance in simple contexts, but fail in the presence of distracting information, which decreases the performance of many models sometimes even below chance. This lack of robustness in demonstrating simple reasoning raises important questions about PLMs’ capacity to make correct inferences even when they appear to possess the prerequisite knowledge.
Contextual word representation models have shown massive improvements on a multitude of NLP tasks, yet their word sense disambiguation capabilities remain poorly explained. To address this gap, we assess whether contextual word representations extracted from deep pretrained language models create distinguishable representations for different senses of a given word. We analyze the representation geometry and find that most layers of deep pretrained language models create highly anisotropic representations, pointing towards the existence of representation degeneration problem in contextual word representations. After accounting for anisotropy, our study further reveals that there is variability in sense learning capabilities across different language models. Finally, we propose LASeR, a ‘Low Anisotropy Sense Retrofitting’ approach that renders off-the-shelf representations isotropic and semantically more meaningful, resolving the representation degeneration problem as a post-processing step, and conducting sense-enrichment of contextualized representations extracted from deep neural language models.
Models trained to estimate word probabilities in context have become ubiquitous in natural language processing. How do these models use lexical cues in context to inform their word probabilities? To answer this question, we present a case study analyzing the pre-trained BERT model with tests informed by semantic priming. Using English lexical stimuli that show priming in humans, we find that BERT too shows “priming”, predicting a word with greater probability when the context includes a related word versus an unrelated one. This effect decreases as the amount of information provided by the context increases. Follow-up analysis shows BERT to be increasingly distracted by related prime words as context becomes more informative, assigning lower probabilities to related words. Our findings highlight the importance of considering contextual constraint effects when studying word prediction in these models, and highlight possible parallels with human processing.