Computational Linguistics, Volume 47, Issue 3 - November 2021

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Cambridge, MA
MIT Press
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The Taxonomy of Writing Systems: How to Measure How Logographic a System Is
Richard Sproat | Alexander Gutkin

Taxonomies of writing systems since Gelb (1952) have classified systems based on what the written symbols represent: if they represent words or morphemes, they are logographic; if syllables, syllabic; if segments, alphabetic; and so forth. Sproat (2000) and Rogers (2005) broke with tradition by splitting the logographic and phonographic aspects into two dimensions, with logography being graded rather than a categorical distinction. A system could be syllabic, and highly logographic; or alphabetic, and mostly non-logographic. This accords better with how writing systems actually work, but neither author proposed a method for measuring logography. In this article we propose a novel measure of the degree of logography that uses an attention-based sequence-to-sequence model trained to predict the spelling of a token from its pronunciation in context. In an ideal phonographic system, the model should need to attend to only the current token in order to compute how to spell it, and this would show in the attention matrix activations. In contrast, with a logographic system, where a given pronunciation might correspond to several different spellings, the model would need to attend to a broader context. The ratio of the activation outside the token and the total activation forms the basis of our measure. We compare this with a simple lexical measure, and an entropic measure, as well as several other neural models, and argue that on balance our attention-based measure accords best with intuition about how logographic various systems are. Our work provides the first quantifiable measure of the notion of logography that accords with linguistic intuition and, we argue, provides better insight into what this notion means.

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Syntax Role for Neural Semantic Role Labeling
Zuchao Li | Hai Zhao | Shexia He | Jiaxun Cai

Semantic role labeling (SRL) is dedicated to recognizing the semantic predicate-argument structure of a sentence. Previous studies in terms of traditional models have shown syntactic information can make remarkable contributions to SRL performance; however, the necessity of syntactic information was challenged by a few recent neural SRL studies that demonstrate impressive performance without syntactic backbones and suggest that syntax information becomes much less important for neural semantic role labeling, especially when paired with recent deep neural network and large-scale pre-trained language models. Despite this notion, the neural SRL field still lacks a systematic and full investigation on the relevance of syntactic information in SRL, for both dependency and both monolingual and multilingual settings. This paper intends to quantify the importance of syntactic information for neural SRL in the deep learning framework. We introduce three typical SRL frameworks (baselines), sequence-based, tree-based, and graph-based, which are accompanied by two categories of exploiting syntactic information: syntax pruning-based and syntax feature-based. Experiments are conducted on the CoNLL-2005, -2009, and -2012 benchmarks for all languages available, and results show that neural SRL models can still benefit from syntactic information under certain conditions. Furthermore, we show the quantitative significance of syntax to neural SRL models together with a thorough empirical survey using existing models.

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Generalizing Cross-Document Event Coreference Resolution Across Multiple Corpora
Michael Bugert | Nils Reimers | Iryna Gurevych

Cross-document event coreference resolution (CDCR) is an NLP task in which mentions of events need to be identified and clustered throughout a collection of documents. CDCR aims to benefit downstream multidocument applications, but despite recent progress on corpora and system development, downstream improvements from applying CDCR have not been shown yet. We make the observation that every CDCR system to date was developed, trained, and tested only on a single respective corpus. This raises strong concerns on their generalizability—a must-have for downstream applications where the magnitude of domains or event mentions is likely to exceed those found in a curated corpus. To investigate this assumption, we define a uniform evaluation setup involving three CDCR corpora: ECB+, the Gun Violence Corpus, and the Football Coreference Corpus (which we reannotate on token level to make our analysis possible). We compare a corpus-independent, feature-based system against a recent neural system developed for ECB+. Although being inferior in absolute numbers, the feature-based system shows more consistent performance across all corpora whereas the neural system is hit-or-miss. Via model introspection, we find that the importance of event actions, event time, and so forth, for resolving coreference in practice varies greatly between the corpora. Additional analysis shows that several systems overfit on the structure of the ECB+ corpus. We conclude with recommendations on how to achieve generally applicable CDCR systems in the future—the most important being that evaluation on multiple CDCR corpora is strongly necessary. To facilitate future research, we release our dataset, annotation guidelines, and system implementation to the public.1

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Toward Gender-Inclusive Coreference Resolution: An Analysis of Gender and Bias Throughout the Machine Learning Lifecycle*
Yang Trista Cao | Hal Daumé III

Correctly resolving textual mentions of people fundamentally entails making inferences about those people. Such inferences raise the risk of systematic biases in coreference resolution systems, including biases that can harm binary and non-binary trans and cis stakeholders. To better understand such biases, we foreground nuanced conceptualizations of gender from sociology and sociolinguistics, and investigate where in the machine learning pipeline such biases can enter a coreference resolution system. We inspect many existing data sets for trans-exclusionary biases, and develop two new data sets for interrogating bias in both crowd annotations and in existing coreference resolution systems. Through these studies, conducted on English text, we confirm that without acknowledging and building systems that recognize the complexity of gender, we will build systems that fail for: quality of service, stereotyping, and over- or under-representation, especially for binary and non-binary trans users.

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Decoding Word Embeddings with Brain-Based Semantic Features
Emmanuele Chersoni | Enrico Santus | Chu-Ren Huang | Alessandro Lenci

Word embeddings are vectorial semantic representations built with either counting or predicting techniques aimed at capturing shades of meaning from word co-occurrences. Since their introduction, these representations have been criticized for lacking interpretable dimensions. This property of word embeddings limits our understanding of the semantic features they actually encode. Moreover, it contributes to the “black box” nature of the tasks in which they are used, since the reasons for word embedding performance often remain opaque to humans. In this contribution, we explore the semantic properties encoded in word embeddings by mapping them onto interpretable vectors, consisting of explicit and neurobiologically motivated semantic features (Binder et al. 2016). Our exploration takes into account different types of embeddings, including factorized count vectors and predict models (Skip-Gram, GloVe, etc.), as well as the most recent contextualized representations (i.e., ELMo and BERT). In our analysis, we first evaluate the quality of the mapping in a retrieval task, then we shed light on the semantic features that are better encoded in each embedding type. A large number of probing tasks is finally set to assess how the original and the mapped embeddings perform in discriminating semantic categories. For each probing task, we identify the most relevant semantic features and we show that there is a correlation between the embedding performance and how they encode those features. This study sets itself as a step forward in understanding which aspects of meaning are captured by vector spaces, by proposing a new and simple method to carve human-interpretable semantic representations from distributional vectors.

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Embeddings in Natural Language Processing: Theory and Advances in Vector Representations of Meaning
Marcos Garcia

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Understanding Dialogue: Language Use and Social Interaction
Rachel Bawden