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.
We present the call for papers for the BabyLM Challenge: Sample-efficient pretraining on a developmentally plausible corpus. This shared task is intended for participants with an interest in small scale language modeling, human language acquisition, low-resource NLP, and cognitive modeling. In partnership with CoNLL and CMCL, we provide a platform for approaches to pretraining with a limited-size corpus sourced from data inspired by the input to children. The task has three tracks, two of which restrict the training data to pre-released datasets of 10M and 100M words and are dedicated to explorations of approaches such as architectural variations, self-supervised objectives, or curriculum learning. The final track only restricts the amount of text used, allowing innovation in the choice of the data, its domain, and even its modality (i.e., data from sources other than text is welcome). We will release a shared evaluation pipeline which scores models on a variety of benchmarks and tasks, including targeted syntactic evaluations and natural language understanding.
We propose reconstruction probing, a new analysis method for contextualized representations based on reconstruction probabilities in masked language models (MLMs). This method relies on comparing the reconstruction probabilities of tokens in a given sequence when conditioned on the representation of a single token that has been fully contextualized and when conditioned on only the decontextualized lexical prior of the model. This comparison can be understood as quantifying the contribution of contextualization towards reconstruction -- the difference in the reconstruction probabilities can only be attributed to the representational change of the single token induced by contextualization. We apply this analysis to three MLMs and find that contextualization boosts reconstructability of tokens that are close to the token being reconstructed in terms of linear and syntactic distance. Furthermore, we extend our analysis to finer-grained decomposition of contextualized representations, and we find that these boosts are largely attributable to static and positional embeddings at the input layer.
Language models are often trained on text alone, without additional grounding. There is debate as to how much of natural language semantics can be inferred from such a procedure. We prove that entailment judgments between sentences can be extracted from an ideal language model that has perfectly learned its target distribution, assuming the training sentences are generated by Gricean agents, i.e., agents who follow fundamental principles of communication from the linguistic theory of pragmatics. We also show entailment judgments can be decoded from the predictions of a language model trained on such Gricean data. Our results reveal a pathway for understanding the semantic information encoded in unlabeled linguistic data and a potential framework for extracting semantics from language models.
Rapid progress in machine learning for natural language processing has the potential to transform debates about how humans learn language. However, the learning environments and biases of current artificial learners and humans diverge in ways that weaken the impact of the evidence obtained from learning simulations. For example, today's most effective neural language models are trained on roughly one thousand times the amount of linguistic data available to a typical child. To increase the relevance of learnability results from computational models, we need to train model learners without significant advantages over humans. If an appropriate model successfully acquires some target linguistic knowledge, it can provide a proof of concept that the target is learnable in a hypothesized human learning scenario. Plausible model learners will enable us to carry out experimental manipulations to make causal inferences about variables in the learning environment, and to rigorously test poverty-of-the-stimulus-style claims arguing for innate linguistic knowledge in humans on the basis of speculations about learnability. Comparable experiments will never be possible with human subjects due to practical and ethical considerations, making model learners an indispensable resource. So far, attempts to deprive current models of unfair advantages obtain sub-human results for key grammatical behaviors such as acceptability judgments. But before we can justifiably conclude that language learning requires more prior domain-specific knowledge than current models possess, we must first explore non-linguistic inputs in the form of multimodal stimuli and multi-agent interaction as ways to make our learners more efficient at learning from limited linguistic input.
Language models demonstrate both quantitative improvement and new qualitative capabilities with increasing scale. Despite their potentially transformative impact, these new capabilities are as yet poorly characterized. In order to inform future research, prepare for disruptive new model capabilities, and ameliorate socially harmful effects, it is vital that we understand the present and near-future capabilities and limitations of language models. To address this challenge, we introduce the Beyond the Imitation Game benchmark (BIG-bench). BIG-bench currently consists of 204 tasks, contributed by 442 authors across 132 institutions. Task topics are diverse, drawing problems from linguistics, childhood development, math, common-sense reasoning, biology, physics, social bias, software development, and beyond. BIG-bench focuses on tasks that are believed to be beyond the capabilities of current language models. We evaluate the behavior of OpenAI's GPT models, Google-internal dense transformer architectures, and Switch-style sparse transformers on BIG-bench, across model sizes spanning millions to hundreds of billions of parameters. In addition, a team of human expert raters performed all tasks in order to provide a strong baseline. Findings include: model performance and calibration both improve with scale, but are poor in absolute terms (and when compared with rater performance); performance is remarkably similar across model classes, though with benefits from sparsity; tasks that improve gradually and predictably commonly involve a large knowledge or memorization component, whereas tasks that exhibit "breakthrough" behavior at a critical scale often involve multiple steps or components, or brittle metrics; social bias typically increases with scale in settings with ambiguous context, but this can be improved with prompting.
For a natural language understanding benchmark to be useful in research, it has to consist of examples that are diverse and difficult enough to discriminate among current and near-future state-of-the-art systems. However, we do not yet know how best to select text sources to collect a variety of challenging examples. In this study, we crowdsource multiple-choice reading comprehension questions for passages taken from seven qualitatively distinct sources, analyzing what attributes of passages contribute to the difficulty and question types of the collected examples. To our surprise, we find that passage source, length, and readability measures do not significantly affect question difficulty. Through our manual annotation of seven reasoning types, we observe several trends between passage sources and reasoning types, e.g., logical reasoning is more often required in questions written for technical passages. These results suggest that when creating a new benchmark dataset, selecting a diverse set of passages can help ensure a diverse range of question types, but that passage difficulty need not be a priority.
Understanding language requires grasping not only the overtly stated content, but also making inferences about things that were left unsaid. These inferences include presuppositions, a phenomenon by which a listener learns about new information through reasoning about what a speaker takes as given. Presuppositions require complex understanding of the lexical and syntactic properties that trigger them as well as the broader conversational context. In this work, we introduce the Naturally-Occurring Presuppositions in English (NOPE) Corpus to investigate the context-sensitivity of 10 different types of presupposition triggers and to evaluate machine learning models' ability to predict human inferences. We find that most of the triggers we investigate exhibit moderate variability. We further find that transformer-based models draw correct inferences in simple cases involving presuppositions, but they fail to capture the minority of exceptional cases in which human judgments reveal complex interactions between context and triggers.
Crowdsourcing is widely used to create data for common natural language understanding tasks. Despite the importance of these datasets for measuring and refining model understanding of language, there has been little focus on the crowdsourcing methods used for collecting the datasets. In this paper, we compare the efficacy of interventions that have been proposed in prior work as ways of improving data quality. We use multiple-choice question answering as a testbed and run a randomized trial by assigning crowdworkers to write questions under one of four different data collection protocols. We find that asking workers to write explanations for their examples is an ineffective stand-alone strategy for boosting NLU example difficulty. However, we find that training crowdworkers, and then using an iterative process of collecting data, sending feedback, and qualifying workers based on expert judgments is an effective means of collecting challenging data. But using crowdsourced, instead of expert judgments, to qualify workers and send feedback does not prove to be effective. We observe that the data from the iterative protocol with expert assessments is more challenging by several measures. Notably, the human--model gap on the unanimous agreement portion of this data is, on average, twice as large as the gap for the baseline protocol data.