Tiago Pimentel


2023

pdf bib
On the Efficacy of Sampling Adapters
Clara Meister | Tiago Pimentel | Luca Malagutti | Ethan Wilcox | Ryan Cotterell
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Sampling-based decoding strategies are widely employed for generating text from probabilistic models, yet standard ancestral sampling often results in text that is degenerate or incoherent. To alleviate this issue, various modifications to a model’s sampling distribution, such as top-p or top-k sampling, have been introduced and are now ubiquitously used in language generation systems. We propose a unified framework for understanding these techniques, which we term sampling adapters. Sampling adapters often lead to qualitatively better text, which raises the question: From a formal perspective, how are they changing the token-level distributions of language generation models? And why do these local changes lead to higher-quality text? We argue that the shift they enforce can be viewed as a trade-off between precision and recall: while the model loses its ability to produce certain strings, its precision rate on desirable text increases. While this trade-off is not reflected in standard metrics of distribution quality (such as perplexity), we find that several precision-emphasizing measures indeed indicate that sampling adapters can lead to probability distributions more aligned with the true distribution. Further, these measures correlate with higher sequence-level quality scores, specifically, Mauve.

pdf bib
A Measure-Theoretic Characterization of Tight Language Models
Li Du | Lucas Torroba Hennigen | Tiago Pimentel | Clara Meister | Jason Eisner | Ryan Cotterell
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Language modeling, a central task in natural language processing, involves estimating a probability distribution over strings. In most cases, the estimated distribution sums to 1 over all finite strings. However, in some pathological cases, probability mass can “leak” onto the set of infinite sequences. In order to characterize the notion of leakage more precisely, this paper offers a measure-theoretic treatment of language modeling. We prove that many popular language model families are in fact tight, meaning that they will not leak in this sense. We also generalize characterizations of tightness proposed in previous works.

pdf bib
A Natural Bias for Language Generation Models
Clara Meister | Wojciech Stokowiec | Tiago Pimentel | Lei Yu | Laura Rimell | Adhiguna Kuncoro
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

After just a few hundred training updates, a standard probabilistic model for language generation has likely not yet learnt many semantic or syntactic rules of natural language, making it difficult to estimate the probability distribution over next tokens. Yet around this point, these models have identified a simple, loss-minimising behaviour: to output the unigram distribution of the target training corpus. The use of such a heuristic raises the question: Can we initialise our models with this behaviour and save precious compute resources and model capacity? Here we show that we can effectively endow standard neural language generation models with a separate module that reflects unigram frequency statistics as prior knowledge, simply by initialising the bias term in a model’s final linear layer with the log-unigram distribution. We use neural machine translation as a test bed for this simple technique and observe that it: (i) improves learning efficiency; (ii) achieves better overall performance; and perhaps most importantly (iii) appears to disentangle strong frequency effects by encouraging the model to specialise in non-frequency-related aspects of language.

pdf bib
Generating Text from Language Models
Afra Amini | Ryan Cotterell | John Hewitt | Luca Malagutti | Clara Meister | Tiago Pimentel
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 6: Tutorial Abstracts)

An increasingly large percentage of natural language processing (NLP) tasks center around the generation of text from probabilistic language models. Despite this trend, techniques for improving or specifying preferences in these generated texts rely mostly on intuition-based heuristics. Further, there lacks a unified presentation of their motivations, practical implementation, successes and pitfalls. Practitioners must, therefore, choose somewhat blindly between generation algorithms—like top-p sampling or beam search—which can lead to wildly different results. At the same time, language generation research continues to criticize and improve the standard toolboxes, further adding entropy to the state of the field. In this tutorial, we will provide a centralized and cohesive discussion of critical considerations when choosing how to generate from a language model. We will cover a wide range of empirically-observed problems (like degradation, hallucination, repetition) and their corresponding proposed algorithmic solutions from recent research (like top-p sampling and its successors). We will then discuss a subset of these algorithms under a unified light; most stochastic generation strategies can be framed as locally adapting the probabilities of a model to avoid failure cases. Finally, we will then cover methods in controlled generation, that go beyond just ensuring coherence to ensure text exhibits specific desired properties. We aim for NLP practitioners and researchers to leave our tutorial with a unified framework which they can use to evaluate and contribute to the latest research in language generation.

pdf bib
Few-shot Fine-tuning vs. In-context Learning: A Fair Comparison and Evaluation
Marius Mosbach | Tiago Pimentel | Shauli Ravfogel | Dietrich Klakow | Yanai Elazar
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2023

Few-shot fine-tuning and in-context learning are two alternative strategies for task adaptation of pre-trained language models. Recently, in-context learning has gained popularity over fine-tuning due to its simplicity and improved out-of-domain generalization, and because extensive evidence shows that fine-tuned models pick up on spurious correlations. Unfortunately, previous comparisons of the two approaches were done using models of different sizes. This raises the question of whether the observed weaker out-of-domain generalization of fine-tuned models is an inherent property of fine-tuning or a limitation of the experimental setup. In this paper, we compare the generalization of few-shot fine-tuning and in-context learning to challenge datasets, while controlling for the models used, the number of examples, and the number of parameters, ranging from 125M to 30B. Our results show that fine-tuned language models can in fact generalize well out-of-domain. We find that both approaches generalize similarly; they exhibit large variation and depend on properties such as model size and the number of examples, highlighting that robust task adaptation remains a challenge.

pdf bib
Revisiting the Optimality of Word Lengths
Tiago Pimentel | Clara Meister | Ethan Wilcox | Kyle Mahowald | Ryan Cotterell
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Zipf (1935) posited that wordforms are optimized to minimize utterances’ communicative costs. Under the assumption that cost is given by an utterance’s length, he supported this claim by showing that words’ lengths are inversely correlated with their frequencies. Communicative cost, however, can be operationalized in different ways. Piantadosi et al. (2011) claim that cost should be measured as the distance between an utterance’s information rate and channel capacity, which we dub the channel capacity hypothesis (CCH) here. Following this logic, they then proposed that a word’s length should be proportional to the expected value of its surprisal (negative log-probability in context). In this work, we show that Piantadosi et al.’s derivation does not minimize CCH’s cost, but rather a lower bound, which we term CCH-lower. We propose a novel derivation, suggesting an improved way to minimize CCH’s cost. Under this method, we find that a language’s word lengths should instead be proportional to the surprisal’s expectation plus its variance-to-mean ratio. Experimentally, we compare these three communicative cost functions: Zipf’s, CCH-lower , and CCH. Across 13 languages and several experimental settings, we find that length is better predicted by frequency than either of the other hypotheses. In fact, when surprisal’s expectation, or expectation plus variance-to-mean ratio, is estimated using better language models, it leads to worse word length predictions. We take these results as evidence that Zipf’s longstanding hypothesis holds.

pdf bib
Language Model Quality Correlates with Psychometric Predictive Power in Multiple Languages
Ethan Wilcox | Clara Meister | Ryan Cotterell | Tiago Pimentel
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Surprisal theory (Hale, 2001; Levy, 2008) posits that a word’s reading time is proportional to its surprisal (i.e., to its negative log probability given the proceeding context). Since we are unable to access a word’s ground-truth probability, surprisal theory has been empirically tested using surprisal estimates from language models (LMs). Under the premise that surprisal theory holds, we would expect that higher quality language models provide more powerful predictors of human reading behavior—a conjecture we dub the quality–power (QP) hypothesis. Unfortunately, empirical support for the QP hypothesis is mixed. Some studies in English have found correlations between LM quality and predictive power, but other studies using Japanese data, as well as using larger English LMs, find no such correlations. In this work, we conduct a systematic crosslinguistic assessment of the QP hypothesis. We train LMs from scratch on small- and medium-sized datasets from 13 languages (across five language families) and assess their ability to predict eye tracking data. We find correlations between LM quality and power in eleven of these thirteen languages, suggesting that, within the range of model classes and sizes tested, better language models are indeed better predictors of human language processing behaviors.

pdf bib
Quantifying the redundancy between prosody and text
Lukas Wolf | Tiago Pimentel | Evelina Fedorenko | Ryan Cotterell | Alex Warstadt | Ethan Wilcox | Tamar Regev
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Prosody—the suprasegmental component of speech, including pitch, loudness, and tempo—carries critical aspects of meaning. However, the relationship between the information conveyed by prosody vs. by the words themselves remains poorly understood. We use large language models (LLMs) to estimate how much information is redundant between prosody and the words themselves. Using a large spoken corpus of English audiobooks, we extract prosodic features aligned to individual words and test how well they can be predicted from LLM embeddings, compared to non-contextual word embeddings. We find a high degree of redundancy between the information carried by the words and prosodic information across several prosodic features, including intensity, duration, pauses, and pitch contours. Furthermore, a word’s prosodic information is redundant with both the word itself and the context preceding as well as following it. Still, we observe that prosodic features can not be fully predicted from text, suggesting that prosody carries information above and beyond the words. Along with this paper, we release a general-purpose data processing pipeline for quantifying the relationship between linguistic information and extra-linguistic features.

pdf bib
An Exploration of Left-Corner Transformations
Andreas Opedal | Eleftheria Tsipidi | Tiago Pimentel | Ryan Cotterell | Tim Vieira
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

The left-corner transformation (Rosenkrantz and Lewis, 1970) is used to remove left recursion from context-free grammars, which is an important step towards making the grammar parsable top-down with simple techniques. This paper generalizes prior left-corner transformations to support semiring-weighted production rules and to provide finer-grained control over which left corners may be moved. Our generalized left-corner transformation (GLCT) arose from unifying the left-corner transformation and speculation transformation (Eisner and Blatz, 2007), originally for logic programming. Our new transformation and speculation define equivalent weighted languages. Yet, their derivation trees are structurally different in an important way: GLCT replaces left recursion with right recursion, and speculation does not. We also provide several technical results regarding the formal relationships between the outputs of GLCT, speculation, and the original grammar. Lastly, we empirically investigate the efficiency of GLCT for left-recursion elimination from grammars of nine languages. Code: https://github.com/rycolab/left-corner

pdf bib
Locally Typical Sampling
Clara Meister | Tiago Pimentel | Gian Wiher | Ryan Cotterell
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 11

Today’s probabilistic language generators fall short when it comes to producing coherent and fluent text despite the fact that the underlying models perform well under standard metrics (e.g., perplexity). This discrepancy has puzzled the language generation community for the last few years. In this work, we posit that the abstraction of natural language generation as a discrete stochastic process—which allows for an information-theoretic analysis—can provide new insights into the behavior of probabilistic language generators, for example, why high-probability texts can be dull or repetitive. Humans use language as a means of communicating information, aiming to do so in a simultaneously efficient and error-minimizing manner; in fact, psycholinguistics research suggests humans choose each word in a string with this subconscious goal in mind. We formally define the set of strings that meet this criterion: Those for which each word has an information content close to the expected information content, namely, the conditional entropy of our model. We then propose a simple and efficient procedure for enforcing this criterion when generating from probabilistic models, which we call locally typical sampling. Automatic and human evaluations show that, in comparison to nucleus and top-k sampling, locally typical sampling offers competitive performance (in both abstractive summarization and story generation) in terms of quality while consistently reducing degenerate repetitions.

pdf bib
Naturalistic Causal Probing for Morpho-Syntax
Afra Amini | Tiago Pimentel | Clara Meister | Ryan Cotterell
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 11

Probing has become a go-to methodology for interpreting and analyzing deep neural models in natural language processing. However, there is still a lack of understanding of the limitations and weaknesses of various types of probes. In this work, we suggest a strategy for input-level intervention on naturalistic sentences. Using our approach, we intervene on the morpho-syntactic features of a sentence, while keeping the rest of the sentence unchanged. Such an intervention allows us to causally probe pre-trained models. We apply our naturalistic causal probing framework to analyze the effects of grammatical gender and number on contextualized representations extracted from three pre-trained models in Spanish, the multilingual versions of BERT, RoBERTa, and GPT-2. Our experiments suggest that naturalistic interventions lead to stable estimates of the causal effects of various linguistic properties. Moreover, our experiments demonstrate the importance of naturalistic causal probing when analyzing pre-trained models. https://github.com/rycolab/naturalistic-causal-probing

pdf bib
A Cross-Linguistic Pressure for Uniform Information Density in Word Order
Thomas Hikaru Clark | Clara Meister | Tiago Pimentel | Michael Hahn | Ryan Cotterell | Richard Futrell | Roger Levy
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 11

While natural languages differ widely in both canonical word order and word order flexibility, their word orders still follow shared cross-linguistic statistical patterns, often attributed to functional pressures. In the effort to identify these pressures, prior work has compared real and counterfactual word orders. Yet one functional pressure has been overlooked in such investigations: The uniform information density (UID) hypothesis, which holds that information should be spread evenly throughout an utterance. Here, we ask whether a pressure for UID may have influenced word order patterns cross-linguistically. To this end, we use computational models to test whether real orders lead to greater information uniformity than counterfactual orders. In our empirical study of 10 typologically diverse languages, we find that: (i) among SVO languages, real word orders consistently have greater uniformity than reverse word orders, and (ii) only linguistically implausible counterfactual orders consistently exceed the uniformity of real orders. These findings are compatible with a pressure for information uniformity in the development and usage of natural languages.1

pdf bib
On the Intersection of Context-Free and Regular Languages
Clemente Pasti | Andreas Opedal | Tiago Pimentel | Tim Vieira | Jason Eisner | Ryan Cotterell
Proceedings of the 17th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics

The Bar-Hillel construction is a classic result in formal language theory. It shows, by a simple construction, that the intersection of a context-free language and a regular language is itself context-free. In the construction, the regular language is specified by a finite-state automaton. However, neither the original construction (Bar-Hillel et al., 1961) nor its weighted extension (Nederhof and Satta, 2003) can handle finite-state automata with ε-arcs. While it is possible to remove ε-arcs from a finite-state automaton efficiently without modifying the language, such an operation modifies the automaton’s set of paths. We give a construction that generalizes the Bar- Hillel in the case the desired automaton has ε-arcs, and further prove that our generalized construction leads to a grammar that encodes the structure of both the input automaton and grammar while retaining the asymptotic size of the original construction.

2022

pdf bib
Probing for the Usage of Grammatical Number
Karim Lasri | Tiago Pimentel | Alessandro Lenci | Thierry Poibeau | Ryan Cotterell
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

A central quest of probing is to uncover how pre-trained models encode a linguistic property within their representations. An encoding, however, might be spurious—i.e., the model might not rely on it when making predictions. In this paper, we try to find an encoding that the model actually uses, introducing a usage-based probing setup. We first choose a behavioral task which cannot be solved without using the linguistic property. Then, we attempt to remove the property by intervening on the model’s representations. We contend that, if an encoding is used by the model, its removal should harm the performance on the chosen behavioral task. As a case study, we focus on how BERT encodes grammatical number, and on how it uses this encoding to solve the number agreement task. Experimentally, we find that BERT relies on a linear encoding of grammatical number to produce the correct behavioral output. We also find that BERT uses a separate encoding of grammatical number for nouns and verbs. Finally, we identify in which layers information about grammatical number is transferred from a noun to its head verb.

pdf bib
Analyzing Wrap-Up Effects through an Information-Theoretic Lens
Clara Meister | Tiago Pimentel | Thomas Clark | Ryan Cotterell | Roger Levy
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

Numerous analyses of reading time (RT) data have been undertaken in the effort to learn more about the internal processes that occur during reading comprehension. However, data measured on words at the end of a sentence–or even clause–is often omitted due to the confounding factors introduced by so-called “wrap-up effects,” which manifests as a skewed distribution of RTs for these words. Consequently, the understanding of the cognitive processes that might be involved in these effects is limited. In this work, we attempt to learn more about these processes by looking for the existence–or absence–of a link between wrap-up effects and information theoretic quantities, such as word and context information content. We find that the information distribution of prior context is often predictive of sentence- and clause-final RTs (while not of sentence-medial RTs), which lends support to several prior hypotheses about the processes involved in wrap-up effects.

pdf bib
On the probability–quality paradox in language generation
Clara Meister | Gian Wiher | Tiago Pimentel | Ryan Cotterell
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

When generating natural language from neural probabilistic models, high probability does not always coincide with high quality: It has often been observed that mode-seeking decoding methods, i.e., those that produce high-probability text under the model, lead to unnatural language. On the other hand, the lower-probability text generated by stochastic methods is perceived as more human-like. In this note, we offer an explanation for this phenomenon by analyzing language generation through an information-theoretic lens. Specifically, we posit that human-like language should contain an amount of information (quantified as negative log-probability) that is close to the entropy of the distribution over natural strings. Further, we posit that language with substantially more (or less) information is undesirable. We provide preliminary empirical evidence in favor of this hypothesis; quality ratings of both human and machine-generated text—covering multiple tasks and common decoding strategies—suggest high-quality text has an information content significantly closer to the entropy than we would expect by chance.

pdf bib
The Architectural Bottleneck Principle
Tiago Pimentel | Josef Valvoda | Niklas Stoehr | Ryan Cotterell
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

In this paper, we seek to measure how much information a component in a neural network could extract from the representations fed into it. Our work stands in contrast to prior probing work, most of which investigates how much information a model's representations contain. This shift in perspective leads us to propose a new principle for probing, the architectural bottleneck principle: In order to estimate how much information a given component could extract, a probe should look exactly like the component. Relying on this principle, we estimate how much syntactic information is available to transformers through our attentional probe, a probe that exactly resembles a transformer's self-attention head. Experimentally, we find that, in three models (BERT, ALBERT, and RoBERTa), a sentence's syntax tree is mostly extractable by our probe, suggesting these models have access to syntactic information while composing their contextual representations. Whether this information is actually used by these models, however, remains an open question..

pdf bib
UniMorph 4.0: Universal Morphology
Khuyagbaatar Batsuren | Omer Goldman | Salam Khalifa | Nizar Habash | Witold Kieraś | Gábor Bella | Brian Leonard | Garrett Nicolai | Kyle Gorman | Yustinus Ghanggo Ate | Maria Ryskina | Sabrina Mielke | Elena Budianskaya | Charbel El-Khaissi | Tiago Pimentel | Michael Gasser | William Abbott Lane | Mohit Raj | Matt Coler | Jaime Rafael Montoya Samame | Delio Siticonatzi Camaiteri | Esaú Zumaeta Rojas | Didier López Francis | Arturo Oncevay | Juan López Bautista | Gema Celeste Silva Villegas | Lucas Torroba Hennigen | Adam Ek | David Guriel | Peter Dirix | Jean-Philippe Bernardy | Andrey Scherbakov | Aziyana Bayyr-ool | Antonios Anastasopoulos | Roberto Zariquiey | Karina Sheifer | Sofya Ganieva | Hilaria Cruz | Ritván Karahóǧa | Stella Markantonatou | George Pavlidis | Matvey Plugaryov | Elena Klyachko | Ali Salehi | Candy Angulo | Jatayu Baxi | Andrew Krizhanovsky | Natalia Krizhanovskaya | Elizabeth Salesky | Clara Vania | Sardana Ivanova | Jennifer White | Rowan Hall Maudslay | Josef Valvoda | Ran Zmigrod | Paula Czarnowska | Irene Nikkarinen | Aelita Salchak | Brijesh Bhatt | Christopher Straughn | Zoey Liu | Jonathan North Washington | Yuval Pinter | Duygu Ataman | Marcin Wolinski | Totok Suhardijanto | Anna Yablonskaya | Niklas Stoehr | Hossep Dolatian | Zahroh Nuriah | Shyam Ratan | Francis M. Tyers | Edoardo M. Ponti | Grant Aiton | Aryaman Arora | Richard J. Hatcher | Ritesh Kumar | Jeremiah Young | Daria Rodionova | Anastasia Yemelina | Taras Andrushko | Igor Marchenko | Polina Mashkovtseva | Alexandra Serova | Emily Prud’hommeaux | Maria Nepomniashchaya | Fausto Giunchiglia | Eleanor Chodroff | Mans Hulden | Miikka Silfverberg | Arya D. McCarthy | David Yarowsky | Ryan Cotterell | Reut Tsarfaty | Ekaterina Vylomova
Proceedings of the Thirteenth Language Resources and Evaluation Conference

The Universal Morphology (UniMorph) project is a collaborative effort providing broad-coverage instantiated normalized morphological inflection tables for hundreds of diverse world languages. The project comprises two major thrusts: a language-independent feature schema for rich morphological annotation, and a type-level resource of annotated data in diverse languages realizing that schema. This paper presents the expansions and improvements on several fronts that were made in the last couple of years (since McCarthy et al. (2020)). Collaborative efforts by numerous linguists have added 66 new languages, including 24 endangered languages. We have implemented several improvements to the extraction pipeline to tackle some issues, e.g., missing gender and macrons information. We have amended the schema to use a hierarchical structure that is needed for morphological phenomena like multiple-argument agreement and case stacking, while adding some missing morphological features to make the schema more inclusive. In light of the last UniMorph release, we also augmented the database with morpheme segmentation for 16 languages. Lastly, this new release makes a push towards inclusion of derivational morphology in UniMorph by enriching the data and annotation schema with instances representing derivational processes from MorphyNet.

2021

pdf bib
Disambiguatory Signals are Stronger in Word-initial Positions
Tiago Pimentel | Ryan Cotterell | Brian Roark
Proceedings of the 16th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Main Volume

Psycholinguistic studies of human word processing and lexical access provide ample evidence of the preferred nature of word-initial versus word-final segments, e.g., in terms of attention paid by listeners (greater) or the likelihood of reduction by speakers (lower). This has led to the conjecture—as in Wedel et al. (2019b), but common elsewhere—that languages have evolved to provide more information earlier in words than later. Information-theoretic methods to establish such tendencies in lexicons have suffered from several methodological shortcomings that leave open the question of whether this high word-initial informativeness is actually a property of the lexicon or simply an artefact of the incremental nature of recognition. In this paper, we point out the confounds in existing methods for comparing the informativeness of segments early in the word versus later in the word, and present several new measures that avoid these confounds. When controlling for these confounds, we still find evidence across hundreds of languages that indeed there is a cross-linguistic tendency to front-load information in words.

pdf bib
A Non-Linear Structural Probe
Jennifer C. White | Tiago Pimentel | Naomi Saphra | Ryan Cotterell
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Probes are models devised to investigate the encoding of knowledge—e.g. syntactic structure—in contextual representations. Probes are often designed for simplicity, which has led to restrictions on probe design that may not allow for the full exploitation of the structure of encoded information; one such restriction is linearity. We examine the case of a structural probe (Hewitt and Manning, 2019), which aims to investigate the encoding of syntactic structure in contextual representations through learning only linear transformations. By observing that the structural probe learns a metric, we are able to kernelize it and develop a novel non-linear variant with an identical number of parameters. We test on 6 languages and find that the radial-basis function (RBF) kernel, in conjunction with regularization, achieves a statistically significant improvement over the baseline in all languages—implying that at least part of the syntactic knowledge is encoded non-linearly. We conclude by discussing how the RBF kernel resembles BERT’s self-attention layers and speculate that this resemblance leads to the RBF-based probe’s stronger performance.

pdf bib
What About the Precedent: An Information-Theoretic Analysis of Common Law
Josef Valvoda | Tiago Pimentel | Niklas Stoehr | Ryan Cotterell | Simone Teufel
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

In common law, the outcome of a new case is determined mostly by precedent cases, rather than by existing statutes. However, how exactly does the precedent influence the outcome of a new case? Answering this question is crucial for guaranteeing fair and consistent judicial decision-making. We are the first to approach this question computationally by comparing two longstanding jurisprudential views; Halsbury’s, who believes that the arguments of the precedent are the main determinant of the outcome, and Goodhart’s, who believes that what matters most is the precedent’s facts. We base our study on the corpus of legal cases from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which allows us to access not only the case itself, but also cases cited in the judges’ arguments (i.e. the precedent cases). Taking an information-theoretic view, and modelling the question as a case out-come classification task, we find that the precedent’s arguments share 0.38 nats of information with the case’s outcome, whereas precedent’s facts only share 0.18 nats of information (i.e.,58% less); suggesting Halsbury’s view may be more accurate in this specific court. We found however in a qualitative analysis that there are specific statues where Goodhart’s view dominates, and present some evidence these are the ones where the legal concept at hand is less straightforward.

pdf bib
Finding Concept-specific Biases in Form–Meaning Associations
Tiago Pimentel | Brian Roark | Søren Wichmann | Ryan Cotterell | Damián Blasi
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

This work presents an information-theoretic operationalisation of cross-linguistic non-arbitrariness. It is not a new idea that there are small, cross-linguistic associations between the forms and meanings of words. For instance, it has been claimed (Blasi et al., 2016) that the word for “tongue” is more likely than chance to contain the phone [l]. By controlling for the influence of language family and geographic proximity within a very large concept-aligned, cross-lingual lexicon, we extend methods previously used to detect within language non-arbitrariness (Pimentel et al., 2019) to measure cross-linguistic associations. We find that there is a significant effect of non-arbitrariness, but it is unsurprisingly small (less than 0.5% on average according to our information-theoretic estimate). We also provide a concept-level analysis which shows that a quarter of the concepts considered in our work exhibit a significant level of cross-linguistic non-arbitrariness. In sum, the paper provides new methods to detect cross-linguistic associations at scale, and confirms their effects are minor.

pdf bib
How (Non-)Optimal is the Lexicon?
Tiago Pimentel | Irene Nikkarinen | Kyle Mahowald | Ryan Cotterell | Damián Blasi
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

The mapping of lexical meanings to wordforms is a major feature of natural languages. While usage pressures might assign short words to frequent meanings (Zipf’s law of abbreviation), the need for a productive and open-ended vocabulary, local constraints on sequences of symbols, and various other factors all shape the lexicons of the world’s languages. Despite their importance in shaping lexical structure, the relative contributions of these factors have not been fully quantified. Taking a coding-theoretic view of the lexicon and making use of a novel generative statistical model, we define upper bounds for the compressibility of the lexicon under various constraints. Examining corpora from 7 typologically diverse languages, we use those upper bounds to quantify the lexicon’s optimality and to explore the relative costs of major constraints on natural codes. We find that (compositional) morphology and graphotactics can sufficiently account for most of the complexity of natural codes—as measured by code length.

pdf bib
A surprisal–duration trade-off across and within the world’s languages
Tiago Pimentel | Clara Meister | Elizabeth Salesky | Simone Teufel | Damián Blasi | Ryan Cotterell
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

While there exist scores of natural languages, each with its unique features and idiosyncrasies, they all share a unifying theme: enabling human communication. We may thus reasonably predict that human cognition shapes how these languages evolve and are used. Assuming that the capacity to process information is roughly constant across human populations, we expect a surprisal–duration trade-off to arise both across and within languages. We analyse this trade-off using a corpus of 600 languages and, after controlling for several potential confounds, we find strong supporting evidence in both settings. Specifically, we find that, on average, phones are produced faster in languages where they are less surprising, and vice versa. Further, we confirm that more surprising phones are longer, on average, in 319 languages out of the 600. We thus conclude that there is strong evidence of a surprisal–duration trade-off in operation, both across and within the world’s languages.

pdf bib
Revisiting the Uniform Information Density Hypothesis
Clara Meister | Tiago Pimentel | Patrick Haller | Lena Jäger | Ryan Cotterell | Roger Levy
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

The uniform information density (UID) hypothesis posits a preference among language users for utterances structured such that information is distributed uniformly across a signal. While its implications on language production have been well explored, the hypothesis potentially makes predictions about language comprehension and linguistic acceptability as well. Further, it is unclear how uniformity in a linguistic signal—or lack thereof—should be measured, and over which linguistic unit, e.g., the sentence or language level, this uniformity should hold. Here we investigate these facets of the UID hypothesis using reading time and acceptability data. While our reading time results are generally consistent with previous work, they are also consistent with a weakly super-linear effect of surprisal, which would be compatible with UID’s predictions. For acceptability judgments, we find clearer evidence that non-uniformity in information density is predictive of lower acceptability. We then explore multiple operationalizations of UID, motivated by different interpretations of the original hypothesis, and analyze the scope over which the pressure towards uniformity is exerted. The explanatory power of a subset of the proposed operationalizations suggests that the strongest trend may be a regression towards a mean surprisal across the language, rather than the phrase, sentence, or document—a finding that supports a typical interpretation of UID, namely that it is the byproduct of language users maximizing the use of a (hypothetical) communication channel.

pdf bib
A Bayesian Framework for Information-Theoretic Probing
Tiago Pimentel | Ryan Cotterell
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Pimentel et al. (2020) recently analysed probing from an information-theoretic perspective. They argue that probing should be seen as approximating a mutual information. This led to the rather unintuitive conclusion that representations encode exactly the same information about a target task as the original sentences. The mutual information, however, assumes the true probability distribution of a pair of random variables is known, leading to unintuitive results in settings where it is not. This paper proposes a new framework to measure what we term Bayesian mutual information, which analyses information from the perspective of Bayesian agents—allowing for more intuitive findings in scenarios with finite data. For instance, under Bayesian MI we have that data can add information, processing can help, and information can hurt, which makes it more intuitive for machine learning applications. Finally, we apply our framework to probing where we believe Bayesian mutual information naturally operationalises ease of extraction by explicitly limiting the available background knowledge to solve a task.

pdf bib
On Homophony and Rényi Entropy
Tiago Pimentel | Clara Meister | Simone Teufel | Ryan Cotterell
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Homophony’s widespread presence in natural languages is a controversial topic. Recent theories of language optimality have tried to justify its prevalence, despite its negative effects on cognitive processing time, e.g., Piantadosi et al. (2012) argued homophony enables the reuse of efficient wordforms and is thus beneficial for languages. This hypothesis has recently been challenged by Trott and Bergen (2020), who posit that good wordforms are more often homophonous simply because they are more phonotactically probable. In this paper, we join in on the debate. We first propose a new information-theoretic quantification of a language’s homophony: the sample Rényi entropy. Then, we use this quantification to revisit Trott and Bergen’s claims. While their point is theoretically sound, a specific methodological issue in their experiments raises doubts about their results. After addressing this issue, we find no clear pressure either towards or against homophony—a much more nuanced result than either Piantadosi et al.’s or Trott and Bergen’s findings.

pdf bib
Modeling the Unigram Distribution
Irene Nikkarinen | Tiago Pimentel | Damián Blasi | Ryan Cotterell
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL-IJCNLP 2021

pdf bib
SIGMORPHON 2021 Shared Task on Morphological Reinflection: Generalization Across Languages
Tiago Pimentel | Maria Ryskina | Sabrina J. Mielke | Shijie Wu | Eleanor Chodroff | Brian Leonard | Garrett Nicolai | Yustinus Ghanggo Ate | Salam Khalifa | Nizar Habash | Charbel El-Khaissi | Omer Goldman | Michael Gasser | William Lane | Matt Coler | Arturo Oncevay | Jaime Rafael Montoya Samame | Gema Celeste Silva Villegas | Adam Ek | Jean-Philippe Bernardy | Andrey Shcherbakov | Aziyana Bayyr-ool | Karina Sheifer | Sofya Ganieva | Matvey Plugaryov | Elena Klyachko | Ali Salehi | Andrew Krizhanovsky | Natalia Krizhanovsky | Clara Vania | Sardana Ivanova | Aelita Salchak | Christopher Straughn | Zoey Liu | Jonathan North Washington | Duygu Ataman | Witold Kieraś | Marcin Woliński | Totok Suhardijanto | Niklas Stoehr | Zahroh Nuriah | Shyam Ratan | Francis M. Tyers | Edoardo M. Ponti | Grant Aiton | Richard J. Hatcher | Emily Prud’hommeaux | Ritesh Kumar | Mans Hulden | Botond Barta | Dorina Lakatos | Gábor Szolnok | Judit Ács | Mohit Raj | David Yarowsky | Ryan Cotterell | Ben Ambridge | Ekaterina Vylomova
Proceedings of the 18th SIGMORPHON Workshop on Computational Research in Phonetics, Phonology, and Morphology

This year’s iteration of the SIGMORPHON Shared Task on morphological reinflection focuses on typological diversity and cross-lingual variation of morphosyntactic features. In terms of the task, we enrich UniMorph with new data for 32 languages from 13 language families, with most of them being under-resourced: Kunwinjku, Classical Syriac, Arabic (Modern Standard, Egyptian, Gulf), Hebrew, Amharic, Aymara, Magahi, Braj, Kurdish (Central, Northern, Southern), Polish, Karelian, Livvi, Ludic, Veps, Võro, Evenki, Xibe, Tuvan, Sakha, Turkish, Indonesian, Kodi, Seneca, Asháninka, Yanesha, Chukchi, Itelmen, Eibela. We evaluate six systems on the new data and conduct an extensive error analysis of the systems’ predictions. Transformer-based models generally demonstrate superior performance on the majority of languages, achieving >90% accuracy on 65% of them. The languages on which systems yielded low accuracy are mainly under-resourced, with a limited amount of data. Most errors made by the systems are due to allomorphy, honorificity, and form variation. In addition, we observe that systems especially struggle to inflect multiword lemmas. The systems also produce misspelled forms or end up in repetitive loops (e.g., RNN-based models). Finally, we report a large drop in systems’ performance on previously unseen lemmas.

2020

pdf bib
Pareto Probing: Trading Off Accuracy for Complexity
Tiago Pimentel | Naomi Saphra | Adina Williams | Ryan Cotterell
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

The question of how to probe contextual word representations in a way that is principled and useful has seen significant recent attention. In our contribution to this discussion, we argue, first, for a probe metric that reflects the trade-off between probe complexity and performance: the Pareto hypervolume. To measure complexity, we present a number of parametric and non-parametric metrics. Our experiments with such metrics show that probe’s performance curves often fail to align with widely accepted rankings between language representations (with, e.g., non-contextual representations outperforming contextual ones). These results lead us to argue, second, that common simplistic probe tasks such as POS labeling and dependency arc labeling, are inadequate to evaluate the properties encoded in contextual word representations. We propose full dependency parsing as an example probe task, and demonstrate it with the Pareto hypervolume. In support of our arguments, the results of this illustrative experiment conform closer to accepted rankings among contextual word representations.

pdf bib
Speakers Fill Lexical Semantic Gaps with Context
Tiago Pimentel | Rowan Hall Maudslay | Damian Blasi | Ryan Cotterell
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

Lexical ambiguity is widespread in language, allowing for the reuse of economical word forms and therefore making language more efficient. If ambiguous words cannot be disambiguated from context, however, this gain in efficiency might make language less clear—resulting in frequent miscommunication. For a language to be clear and efficiently encoded, we posit that the lexical ambiguity of a word type should correlate with how much information context provides about it, on average. To investigate whether this is the case, we operationalise the lexical ambiguity of a word as the entropy of meanings it can take, and provide two ways to estimate this—one which requires human annotation (using WordNet), and one which does not (using BERT), making it readily applicable to a large number of languages. We validate these measures by showing that, on six high-resource languages, there are significant Pearson correlations between our BERT-based estimate of ambiguity and the number of synonyms a word has in WordNet (e.g. 𝜌 = 0.40 in English). We then test our main hypothesis—that a word’s lexical ambiguity should negatively correlate with its contextual uncertainty—and find significant correlations on all 18 typologically diverse languages we analyse. This suggests that, in the presence of ambiguity, speakers compensate by making contexts more informative.

pdf bib
A Corpus for Large-Scale Phonetic Typology
Elizabeth Salesky | Eleanor Chodroff | Tiago Pimentel | Matthew Wiesner | Ryan Cotterell | Alan W Black | Jason Eisner
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

A major hurdle in data-driven research on typology is having sufficient data in many languages to draw meaningful conclusions. We present VoxClamantis v1.0, the first large-scale corpus for phonetic typology, with aligned segments and estimated phoneme-level labels in 690 readings spanning 635 languages, along with acoustic-phonetic measures of vowels and sibilants. Access to such data can greatly facilitate investigation of phonetic typology at a large scale and across many languages. However, it is non-trivial and computationally intensive to obtain such alignments for hundreds of languages, many of which have few to no resources presently available. We describe the methodology to create our corpus, discuss caveats with current methods and their impact on the utility of this data, and illustrate possible research directions through a series of case studies on the 48 highest-quality readings. Our corpus and scripts are publicly available for non-commercial use at https://voxclamantisproject.github.io.

pdf bib
Information-Theoretic Probing for Linguistic Structure
Tiago Pimentel | Josef Valvoda | Rowan Hall Maudslay | Ran Zmigrod | Adina Williams | Ryan Cotterell
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

The success of neural networks on a diverse set of NLP tasks has led researchers to question how much these networks actually “know” about natural language. Probes are a natural way of assessing this. When probing, a researcher chooses a linguistic task and trains a supervised model to predict annotations in that linguistic task from the network’s learned representations. If the probe does well, the researcher may conclude that the representations encode knowledge related to the task. A commonly held belief is that using simpler models as probes is better; the logic is that simpler models will identify linguistic structure, but not learn the task itself. We propose an information-theoretic operationalization of probing as estimating mutual information that contradicts this received wisdom: one should always select the highest performing probe one can, even if it is more complex, since it will result in a tighter estimate, and thus reveal more of the linguistic information inherent in the representation. The experimental portion of our paper focuses on empirically estimating the mutual information between a linguistic property and BERT, comparing these estimates to several baselines. We evaluate on a set of ten typologically diverse languages often underrepresented in NLP research—plus English—totalling eleven languages. Our implementation is available in https://github.com/rycolab/info-theoretic-probing.

pdf bib
Predicting Declension Class from Form and Meaning
Adina Williams | Tiago Pimentel | Hagen Blix | Arya D. McCarthy | Eleanor Chodroff | Ryan Cotterell
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

The noun lexica of many natural languages are divided into several declension classes with characteristic morphological properties. Class membership is far from deterministic, but the phonological form of a noun and/or its meaning can often provide imperfect clues. Here, we investigate the strength of those clues. More specifically, we operationalize this by measuring how much information, in bits, we can glean about declension class from knowing the form and/or meaning of nouns. We know that form and meaning are often also indicative of grammatical gender—which, as we quantitatively verify, can itself share information with declension class—so we also control for gender. We find for two Indo-European languages (Czech and German) that form and meaning respectively share significant amounts of information with class (and contribute additional information above and beyond gender). The three-way interaction between class, form, and meaning (given gender) is also significant. Our study is important for two reasons: First, we introduce a new method that provides additional quantitative support for a classic linguistic finding that form and meaning are relevant for the classification of nouns into declensions. Secondly, we show not only that individual declensions classes vary in the strength of their clues within a language, but also that these variations themselves vary across languages.

pdf bib
A Tale of a Probe and a Parser
Rowan Hall Maudslay | Josef Valvoda | Tiago Pimentel | Adina Williams | Ryan Cotterell
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Measuring what linguistic information is encoded in neural models of language has become popular in NLP. Researchers approach this enterprise by training “probes”—supervised models designed to extract linguistic structure from another model’s output. One such probe is the structural probe (Hewitt and Manning, 2019), designed to quantify the extent to which syntactic information is encoded in contextualised word representations. The structural probe has a novel design, unattested in the parsing literature, the precise benefit of which is not immediately obvious. To explore whether syntactic probes would do better to make use of existing techniques, we compare the structural probe to a more traditional parser with an identical lightweight parameterisation. The parser outperforms structural probe on UUAS in seven of nine analysed languages, often by a substantial amount (e.g. by 11.1 points in English). Under a second less common metric, however, there is the opposite trend—the structural probe outperforms the parser. This begs the question: which metric should we prefer?

pdf bib
SIGMORPHON 2020 Shared Task 0: Typologically Diverse Morphological Inflection
Ekaterina Vylomova | Jennifer White | Elizabeth Salesky | Sabrina J. Mielke | Shijie Wu | Edoardo Maria Ponti | Rowan Hall Maudslay | Ran Zmigrod | Josef Valvoda | Svetlana Toldova | Francis Tyers | Elena Klyachko | Ilya Yegorov | Natalia Krizhanovsky | Paula Czarnowska | Irene Nikkarinen | Andrew Krizhanovsky | Tiago Pimentel | Lucas Torroba Hennigen | Christo Kirov | Garrett Nicolai | Adina Williams | Antonios Anastasopoulos | Hilaria Cruz | Eleanor Chodroff | Ryan Cotterell | Miikka Silfverberg | Mans Hulden
Proceedings of the 17th SIGMORPHON Workshop on Computational Research in Phonetics, Phonology, and Morphology

A broad goal in natural language processing (NLP) is to develop a system that has the capacity to process any natural language. Most systems, however, are developed using data from just one language such as English. The SIGMORPHON 2020 shared task on morphological reinflection aims to investigate systems’ ability to generalize across typologically distinct languages, many of which are low resource. Systems were developed using data from 45 languages and just 5 language families, fine-tuned with data from an additional 45 languages and 10 language families (13 in total), and evaluated on all 90 languages. A total of 22 systems (19 neural) from 10 teams were submitted to the task. All four winning systems were neural (two monolingual transformers and two massively multilingual RNN-based models with gated attention). Most teams demonstrate utility of data hallucination and augmentation, ensembles, and multilingual training for low-resource languages. Non-neural learners and manually designed grammars showed competitive and even superior performance on some languages (such as Ingrian, Tajik, Tagalog, Zarma, Lingala), especially with very limited data. Some language families (Afro-Asiatic, Niger-Congo, Turkic) were relatively easy for most systems and achieved over 90% mean accuracy while others were more challenging.

pdf bib
Metaphor Detection using Context and Concreteness
Rowan Hall Maudslay | Tiago Pimentel | Ryan Cotterell | Simone Teufel
Proceedings of the Second Workshop on Figurative Language Processing

We report the results of our system on the Metaphor Detection Shared Task at the Second Workshop on Figurative Language Processing 2020. Our model is an ensemble, utilising contextualised and static distributional semantic representations, along with word-type concreteness ratings. Using these features, it predicts word metaphoricity with a deep multi-layer perceptron. We are able to best the state-of-the-art from the 2018 Shared Task by an average of 8.0% F1, and finish fourth in both sub-tasks in which we participate.

pdf bib
Phonotactic Complexity and Its Trade-offs
Tiago Pimentel | Brian Roark | Ryan Cotterell
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 8

We present methods for calculating a measure of phonotactic complexity—bits per phoneme— that permits a straightforward cross-linguistic comparison. When given a word, represented as a sequence of phonemic segments such as symbols in the international phonetic alphabet, and a statistical model trained on a sample of word types from the language, we can approximately measure bits per phoneme using the negative log-probability of that word under the model. This simple measure allows us to compare the entropy across languages, giving insight into how complex a language’s phonotactics is. Using a collection of 1016 basic concept words across 106 languages, we demonstrate a very strong negative correlation of − 0.74 between bits per phoneme and the average length of words.

2019

pdf bib
Meaning to Form: Measuring Systematicity as Information
Tiago Pimentel | Arya D. McCarthy | Damian Blasi | Brian Roark | Ryan Cotterell
Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

A longstanding debate in semiotics centers on the relationship between linguistic signs and their corresponding semantics: is there an arbitrary relationship between a word form and its meaning, or does some systematic phenomenon pervade? For instance, does the character bigram ‘gl’ have any systematic relationship to the meaning of words like ‘glisten’, ‘gleam’ and ‘glow’? In this work, we offer a holistic quantification of the systematicity of the sign using mutual information and recurrent neural networks. We employ these in a data-driven and massively multilingual approach to the question, examining 106 languages. We find a statistically significant reduction in entropy when modeling a word form conditioned on its semantic representation. Encouragingly, we also recover well-attested English examples of systematic affixes. We conclude with the meta-point: Our approximate effect size (measured in bits) is quite small—despite some amount of systematicity between form and meaning, an arbitrary relationship and its resulting benefits dominate human language.

bib
Rethinking Phonotactic Complexity
Tiago Pimentel | Brian Roark | Ryan Cotterell
Proceedings of the 2019 Workshop on Widening NLP

In this work, we propose the use of phone-level language models to estimate phonotactic complexity—measured in bits per phoneme—which makes cross-linguistic comparison straightforward. We compare the entropy across languages using this simple measure, gaining insight on how complex different language’s phonotactics are. Finally, we show a very strong negative correlation between phonotactic complexity and the average length of words—Spearman rho=-0.744—when analysing a collection of 106 languages with 1016 basic concepts each.
Search
Co-authors