From characters to words: the turning point of BPE merges

Ximena Gutierrez-Vasques, Christian Bentz, Olga Sozinova, Tanja Samardzic


Abstract
The distributions of orthographic word types are very different across languages due to typological characteristics, different writing traditions and potentially other factors. The wide range of cross-linguistic diversity is still a major challenge for NLP and the study of language. We use BPE and information-theoretic measures to investigate if distributions become similar under specific levels of subword tokenization. We perform a cross-linguistic comparison, following incremental merges of BPE (we go from characters to words) for 47 diverse languages. We show that text entropy values (a feature of probability distributions) tend to converge at specific subword levels: relatively few BPE merges (around 350) lead to the most similar distributions across languages. Additionally, we analyze the interaction between subword and word-level distributions and show that our findings can be interpreted in light of the ongoing discussion regarding different types of morphological complexity.
Anthology ID:
2021.eacl-main.302
Volume:
Proceedings of the 16th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Main Volume
Month:
April
Year:
2021
Address:
Online
Venue:
EACL
SIG:
Publisher:
Association for Computational Linguistics
Note:
Pages:
3454–3468
Language:
URL:
https://aclanthology.org/2021.eacl-main.302
DOI:
10.18653/v1/2021.eacl-main.302
Bibkey:
Cite (ACL):
Ximena Gutierrez-Vasques, Christian Bentz, Olga Sozinova, and Tanja Samardzic. 2021. From characters to words: the turning point of BPE merges. In Proceedings of the 16th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Main Volume, pages 3454–3468, Online. Association for Computational Linguistics.
Cite (Informal):
From characters to words: the turning point of BPE merges (Gutierrez-Vasques et al., EACL 2021)
Copy Citation:
PDF:
https://preview.aclanthology.org/ingestion-script-update/2021.eacl-main.302.pdf
Code
 ximenina/theturningpoint