Stanislas Dehaene


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The emergence of number and syntax units in LSTM language models
Yair Lakretz | German Kruszewski | Theo Desbordes | Dieuwke Hupkes | Stanislas Dehaene | Marco Baroni
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies, Volume 1 (Long and Short Papers)

Recent work has shown that LSTMs trained on a generic language modeling objective capture syntax-sensitive generalizations such as long-distance number agreement. We have however no mechanistic understanding of how they accomplish this remarkable feat. Some have conjectured it depends on heuristics that do not truly take hierarchical structure into account. We present here a detailed study of the inner mechanics of number tracking in LSTMs at the single neuron level. We discover that long-distance number information is largely managed by two “number units”. Importantly, the behaviour of these units is partially controlled by other units independently shown to track syntactic structure. We conclude that LSTMs are, to some extent, implementing genuinely syntactic processing mechanisms, paving the way to a more general understanding of grammatical encoding in LSTMs.


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Entropy Reduction correlates with temporal lobe activity
Matthew Nelson | Stanislas Dehaene | Christophe Pallier | John Hale
Proceedings of the 7th Workshop on Cognitive Modeling and Computational Linguistics (CMCL 2017)

Using the Entropy Reduction incremental complexity metric, we relate high gamma power signals from the brains of epileptic patients to incremental stages of syntactic analysis in English and French. We find that signals recorded intracranially from the anterior Inferior Temporal Sulcus (aITS) and the posterior Inferior Temporal Gyrus (pITG) correlate with word-by-word Entropy Reduction values derived from phrase structure grammars for those languages. In the anterior region, this correlation persists even in combination with surprisal co-predictors from PCFG and ngram models. The result confirms the idea that the brain’s temporal lobe houses a parsing function, one whose incremental processing difficulty profile reflects changes in grammatical uncertainty.