Shane Steinert-Threlkeld


A Masked Segmental Language Model for Unsupervised Natural Language Segmentation
C.m. Downey | Fei Xia | Gina-Anne Levow | Shane Steinert-Threlkeld
Proceedings of the 19th SIGMORPHON Workshop on Computational Research in Phonetics, Phonology, and Morphology

We introduce a Masked Segmental Language Model (MSLM) for joint language modeling and unsupervised segmentation. While near-perfect supervised methods have been developed for segmenting human-like linguistic units in resource-rich languages such as Chinese, many of the world’s languages are both morphologically complex, and have no large dataset of “gold” segmentations for supervised training. Segmental Language Models offer a unique approach by conducting unsupervised segmentation as the byproduct of a neural language modeling objective. However, current SLMs are limited in their scalability due to their recurrent architecture. We propose a new type of SLM for use in both unsupervised and lightly supervised segmentation tasks. The MSLM is built on a span-masking transformer architecture, harnessing a masked bidirectional modeling context and attention, as well as adding the potential for model scalability. In a series of experiments, our model outperforms the segmentation quality of recurrent SLMs on Chinese, and performs similarly to the recurrent model on English.

A Database for Modal Semantic Typology
Qingxia Guo | Nathaniel Imel | Shane Steinert-Threlkeld
Proceedings of the 4th Workshop on Research in Computational Linguistic Typology and Multilingual NLP

This paper introduces a database for crosslinguistic modal semantics. The purpose of this database is to (1) enable ongoing consolidation of modal semantic typological knowledge into a repository according to uniform data standards and to (2) provide data for investigations in crosslinguistic modal semantic theory and experiments explaining such theories. We describe the kind of semantic variation that the database aims to record, the format of the data, and a current snapshot of the database, emphasizing access and contribution to the database in light of the goals above. We release the database at

Bilingual alignment transfers to multilingual alignment for unsupervised parallel text mining
Chih-chan Tien | Shane Steinert-Threlkeld
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

This work presents methods for learning cross-lingual sentence representations using paired or unpaired bilingual texts. We hypothesize that the cross-lingual alignment strategy is transferable, and therefore a model trained to align only two languages can encode multilingually more aligned representations. We thus introduce dual-pivot transfer: training on one language pair and evaluating on other pairs. To study this theory, we design unsupervised models trained on unpaired sentences and single-pair supervised models trained on bitexts, both based on the unsupervised language model XLM-R with its parameters frozen. The experiments evaluate the models as universal sentence encoders on the task of unsupervised bitext mining on two datasets, where the unsupervised model reaches the state of the art of unsupervised retrieval, and the alternative single-pair supervised model approaches the performance of multilingually supervised models. The results suggest that bilingual training techniques as proposed can be applied to get sentence representations with multilingual alignment.

Probing for Understanding of English Verb Classes and Alternations in Large Pre-trained Language Models
David Yi | James Bruno | Jiayu Han | Peter Zukerman | Shane Steinert-Threlkeld
Proceedings of the Fifth BlackboxNLP Workshop on Analyzing and Interpreting Neural Networks for NLP

We investigate the extent to which verb alternation classes, as described by Levin (1993), are encoded in the embeddings of Large Pre-trained Language Models (PLMs) such as BERT, RoBERTa, ELECTRA, and DeBERTa using selectively constructed diagnostic classifiers for word and sentence-level prediction tasks. We follow and expand upon the experiments of Kann et al. (2019), which aim to probe whether static embeddings encode frame-selectional properties of verbs. At both the word and sentence level, we find that contextual embeddings from PLMs not only outperform non-contextual embeddings, but achieve astonishingly high accuracies on tasks across most alternation classes. Additionally, we find evidence that the middle-to-upper layers of PLMs achieve better performance on average than the lower layers across all probing tasks.

Testing Pre-trained Language Models’ Understanding of Distributivity via Causal Mediation Analysis
Pangbo Ban | Yifan Jiang | Tianran Liu | Shane Steinert-Threlkeld
Proceedings of the Fifth BlackboxNLP Workshop on Analyzing and Interpreting Neural Networks for NLP

To what extent do pre-trained language models grasp semantic knowledge regarding the phenomenon of distributivity? In this paper, we introduce DistNLI, a new diagnostic dataset for natural language inference that targets the semantic difference arising from distributivity, and employ the causal mediation analysis framework to quantify the model behavior and explore the underlying mechanism in this semantically-related task. We find that the extent of models’ understanding is associated with model size and vocabulary size. We also provide insights into how models encode such high-level semantic knowledge.


Language Models Use Monotonicity to Assess NPI Licensing
Jaap Jumelet | Milica Denic | Jakub Szymanik | Dieuwke Hupkes | Shane Steinert-Threlkeld
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL-IJCNLP 2021

A multilabel approach to morphosyntactic probing
Naomi Shapiro | Amandalynne Paullada | Shane Steinert-Threlkeld
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2021

We propose using a multilabel probing task to assess the morphosyntactic representations of multilingual word embeddings. This tweak on canonical probing makes it easy to explore morphosyntactic representations, both holistically and at the level of individual features (e.g., gender, number, case), and leads more naturally to the study of how language models handle co-occurring features (e.g., agreement phenomena). We demonstrate this task with multilingual BERT (Devlin et al., 2018), training probes for seven typologically diverse languages: Afrikaans, Croatian, Finnish, Hebrew, Korean, Spanish, and Turkish. Through this simple but robust paradigm, we verify that multilingual BERT renders many morphosyntactic features simultaneously extractable. We further evaluate the probes on six held-out languages: Arabic, Chinese, Marathi, Slovenian, Tagalog, and Yoruba. This zero-shot style of probing has the added benefit of revealing which cross-linguistic properties a language model recognizes as being shared by multiple languages.


Linguistically-Informed Transformations (LIT): A Method for Automatically Generating Contrast Sets
Chuanrong Li | Lin Shengshuo | Zeyu Liu | Xinyi Wu | Xuhui Zhou | Shane Steinert-Threlkeld
Proceedings of the Third BlackboxNLP Workshop on Analyzing and Interpreting Neural Networks for NLP

Although large-scale pretrained language models, such as BERT and RoBERTa, have achieved superhuman performance on in-distribution test sets, their performance suffers on out-of-distribution test sets (e.g., on contrast sets). Building contrast sets often requires human-expert annotation, which is expensive and hard to create on a large scale. In this work, we propose a Linguistically-Informed Transformation (LIT) method to automatically generate contrast sets, which enables practitioners to explore linguistic phenomena of interests as well as compose different phenomena. Experimenting with our method on SNLI and MNLI shows that current pretrained language models, although being claimed to contain sufficient linguistic knowledge, struggle on our automatically generated contrast sets. Furthermore, we improve models’ performance on the contrast sets by applying LIT to augment the training data, without affecting performance on the original data.

On the Spontaneous Emergence of Discrete and Compositional Signals
Nur Geffen Lan | Emmanuel Chemla | Shane Steinert-Threlkeld
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

We propose a general framework to study language emergence through signaling games with neural agents. Using a continuous latent space, we are able to (i) train using backpropagation, (ii) show that discrete messages nonetheless naturally emerge. We explore whether categorical perception effects follow and show that the messages are not compositional.


Neural Models of the Psychosemantics of ‘Most’
Lewis O’Sullivan | Shane Steinert-Threlkeld
Proceedings of the Workshop on Cognitive Modeling and Computational Linguistics

How are the meanings of linguistic expressions related to their use in concrete cognitive tasks? Visual identification tasks show human speakers can exhibit considerable variation in their understanding, representation and verification of certain quantifiers. This paper initiates an investigation into neural models of these psycho-semantic tasks. We trained two types of network – a convolutional neural network (CNN) model and a recurrent model of visual attention (RAM) – on the “most” verification task from Pietroski2009, manipulating the visual scene and novel notions of task duration. Our results qualitatively mirror certain features of human performance (such as sensitivity to the ratio of set sizes, indicating a reliance on approximate number) while differing in interesting ways (such as exhibiting a subtly different pattern for the effect of image type). We conclude by discussing the prospects for using neural models as cognitive models of this and other psychosemantic tasks.


Some of Them Can be Guessed! Exploring the Effect of Linguistic Context in Predicting Quantifiers
Sandro Pezzelle | Shane Steinert-Threlkeld | Raffaella Bernardi | Jakub Szymanik
Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

We study the role of linguistic context in predicting quantifiers (‘few’, ‘all’). We collect crowdsourced data from human participants and test various models in a local (single-sentence) and a global context (multi-sentence) condition. Models significantly out-perform humans in the former setting and are only slightly better in the latter. While human performance improves with more linguistic context (especially on proportional quantifiers), model performance suffers. Models are very effective in exploiting lexical and morpho-syntactic patterns; humans are better at genuinely understanding the meaning of the (global) context.