Are the predictions of humans and language models affected by similar things? Research suggests that while comprehending language, humans make predictions about upcoming words, with more predictable words being processed more easily. However, evidence also shows that humans display a similar processing advantage for highly anomalous words when these words are semantically related to the preceding context or to the most probable continuation. Using stimuli from 3 psycholinguistic experiments, we find that this is also almost always also the case for 8 contemporary transformer language models (BERT, ALBERT, RoBERTa, XLM-R, GPT-2, GPT-Neo, GPT-J, and XGLM). We then discuss the implications of this phenomenon for our understanding of both human language comprehension and the predictions made by language models.
We assess how multilingual language models maintain a shared multilingual representation space while still encoding language-sensitive information in each language. Using XLM-R as a case study, we show that languages occupy similar linear subspaces after mean-centering, evaluated based on causal effects on language modeling performance and direct comparisons between subspaces for 88 languages. The subspace means differ along language-sensitive axes that are relatively stable throughout middle layers, and these axes encode information such as token vocabularies. Shifting representations by language means is sufficient to induce token predictions in different languages. However, we also identify stable language-neutral axes that encode information such as token positions and part-of-speech. We visualize representations projected onto language-sensitive and language-neutral axes, identifying language family and part-of-speech clusters, along with spirals, toruses, and curves representing token position information. These results demonstrate that multilingual language models encode information along orthogonal language-sensitive and language-neutral axes, allowing the models to extract a variety of features for downstream tasks and cross-lingual transfer learning.
Most words are ambiguous—-i.e., they convey distinct meanings in different contexts—-and even the meanings of unambiguous words are context-dependent. Both phenomena present a challenge for NLP. Recently, the advent of contextualized word embeddings has led to success on tasks involving lexical ambiguity, such as Word Sense Disambiguation. However, there are few tasks that directly evaluate how well these contextualized embeddings accommodate the more continuous, dynamic nature of word meaning—-particularly in a way that matches human intuitions. We introduce RAW-C, a dataset of graded, human relatedness judgments for 112 ambiguous words in context (with 672 sentence pairs total), as well as human estimates of sense dominance. The average inter-annotator agreement (assessed using a leave-one-annotator-out method) was 0.79. We then show that a measure of cosine distance, computed using contextualized embeddings from BERT and ELMo, correlates with human judgments, but that cosine distance also systematically underestimates how similar humans find uses of the same sense of a word to be, and systematically overestimates how similar humans find uses of different-sense homonyms. Finally, we propose a synthesis between psycholinguistic theories of the mental lexicon and computational models of lexical semantics.
We investigate the extent to which word surprisal can be used to predict a neural measure of human language processing difficulty—the N400. To do this, we use recurrent neural networks to calculate the surprisal of stimuli from previously published neurolinguistic studies of the N400. We find that surprisal can predict N400 amplitude in a wide range of cases, and the cases where it cannot do so provide valuable insight into the neurocognitive processes underlying the response.