In this paper, we present MasakhaPOS, the largest part-of-speech (POS) dataset for 20 typologically diverse African languages. We discuss the challenges in annotating POS for these languages using the UD (universal dependencies) guidelines. We conducted extensive POS baseline experiments using conditional random field and several multilingual pre-trained language models. We applied various cross-lingual transfer models trained with data available in UD. Evaluating on the MasakhaPOS dataset, we show that choosing the best transfer language(s) in both single-source and multi-source setups greatly improves the POS tagging performance of the target languages, in particular when combined with cross-lingual parameter-efficient fine-tuning methods. Crucially, transferring knowledge from a language that matches the language family and morphosyntactic properties seems more effective for POS tagging in unseen languages.
African languages have far less in-language content available digitally, making it challenging for question answering systems to satisfy the information needs of users. Cross-lingual open-retrieval question answering (XOR QA) systems -- those that retrieve answer content from other languages while serving people in their native language -- offer a means of filling this gap. To this end, we create AfriQA, the first cross-lingual QA dataset with a focus on African languages. AfriQA includes 12,000+ XOR QA examples across 10 African languages. While previous datasets have focused primarily on languages where cross-lingual QA augments coverage from the target language, AfriQA focuses on languages where cross-lingual answer content is the only high-coverage source of answer content. Because of this, we argue that African languages are one of the most important and realistic use cases for XOR QA. Our experiments demonstrate the poor performance of automatic translation and multilingual retrieval methods. Overall, AfriQA proves challenging for state-of-the-art QA models. We hope that the dataset enables the development of more equitable QA technology.
Recent advances in the pre-training of language models leverage large-scale datasets to create multilingual models. However, low-resource languages are mostly left out in these datasets. This is primarily because many widely spoken languages are not well represented on the web and therefore excluded from the large-scale crawls used to create datasets. Furthermore, downstream users of these models are restricted to the selection of languages originally chosen for pre-training. This work investigates how to optimally leverage existing pre-trained models to create low-resource translation systems for 16 African languages. We focus on two questions: 1) How can pre-trained models be used for languages not included in the initial pre-training? and 2) How can the resulting translation models effectively transfer to new domains? To answer these questions, we create a new African news corpus covering 16 languages, of which eight languages are not part of any existing evaluation dataset. We demonstrate that the most effective strategy for transferring both to additional languages and to additional domains is to fine-tune large pre-trained models on small quantities of high-quality translation data.
We investigate the possibility of cross-lingual transfer from a state-of-the-art (SoTA) deep monolingual model (DialoGPT) to 6 African languages and compare with 2 baselines (BlenderBot 90M, another SoTA, and a simple Seq2Seq). The languages are Swahili, Wolof, Hausa, Nigerian Pidgin English, Kinyarwanda & Yor\`ub\'a. Generation of dialogues is known to be a challenging task for many reasons. It becomes more challenging for African languages which are low-resource in terms of data. Therefore, we translate a small portion of the English multi-domain MultiWOZ dataset for each target language. Besides intrinsic evaluation (i.e. perplexity), we conduct human evaluation of single-turn conversations by using majority votes and measure inter-annotator agreement (IAA). The results show that the hypothesis that deep monolingual models learn some abstractions that generalise across languages holds. We observe human-like conversations in 5 out of the 6 languages. It, however, applies to different degrees in different languages, which is expected. The language with the most transferable properties is the Nigerian Pidgin English, with a human-likeness score of 78.1%, of which 34.4% are unanimous. The main contributions of this paper include the representation (through the provision of high-quality dialogue data) of under-represented African languages and demonstrating the cross-lingual transferability hypothesis for dialogue systems. We also provide the datasets and host the model checkpoints/demos on the HuggingFace hub for public access.
We take a step towards addressing the under-representation of the African continent in NLP research by creating the first large publicly available high-quality dataset for named entity recognition (NER) in ten African languages, bringing together a variety of stakeholders. We detail characteristics of the languages to help researchers understand the challenges that these languages pose for NER. We analyze our datasets and conduct an extensive empirical evaluation of state-of-the-art methods across both supervised and transfer learning settings. We release the data, code, and models in order to inspire future research on African NLP.