It has been exactly a decade since the first establishment of SPMRL, a research initiative unifying multiple research efforts to address the peculiar challenges of Statistical Parsing for Morphologically-Rich Languages (MRLs). Here we reflect on parsing MRLs in that decade, highlight the solutions and lessons learned for the architectural, modeling and lexical challenges in the pre-neural era, and argue that similar challenges re-emerge in neural architectures for MRLs. We then aim to offer a climax, suggesting that incorporating symbolic ideas proposed in SPMRL terms into nowadays neural architectures has the potential to push NLP for MRLs to a new level. We sketch a strategies for designing Neural Models for MRLs (NMRL), and showcase preliminary support for these strategies via investigating the task of multi-tagging in Hebrew, a morphologically-rich, high-fusion, language.
This work investigates the most basic units that underlie contextualized word embeddings, such as BERT — the so-called word pieces. In Morphologically-Rich Languages (MRLs) which exhibit morphological fusion and non-concatenative morphology, the different units of meaning within a word may be fused, intertwined, and cannot be separated linearly. Therefore, when using word-pieces in MRLs, we must consider that: (1) a linear segmentation into sub-word units might not capture the full morphological complexity of words; and (2) representations that leave morphological knowledge on sub-word units inaccessible might negatively affect performance. Here we empirically examine the capacity of word-pieces to capture morphology by investigating the task of multi-tagging in Modern Hebrew, as a proxy to evaluate the underlying segmentation. Our results show that, while models trained to predict multi-tags for complete words outperform models tuned to predict the distinct tags of WPs, we can improve the WPs tag prediction by purposefully constraining the word-pieces to reflect their internal functions. We suggest that linguistically-informed word-pieces schemes, that make the morphological structure explicit, might boost performance for MRLs.
For languages with simple morphology such as English, automatic annotation pipelines such as spaCy or Stanford’s CoreNLP successfully serve projects in academia and the industry. For many morphologically-rich languages (MRLs), similar pipelines show sub-optimal performance that limits their applicability for text analysis in research and the industry. The sub-optimal performance is mainly due to errors in early morphological disambiguation decisions, that cannot be recovered later on in the pipeline, yielding incoherent annotations on the whole. This paper describes the design and use of the ONLP suite, a joint morpho-syntactic infrastructure for processing Modern Hebrew texts. The joint inference over morphology and syntax substantially limits error propagation, and leads to high accuracy. ONLP provides rich and expressive annotations which already serve diverse academic and commercial needs. Its accompanying demo further serves educational activities, introducing Hebrew NLP intricacies to researchers and non-researchers alike.