Language models are often used as the backbone of modern dialogue systems. These models are pre-trained on large amounts of written fluent language. Repetition is typically penalised when evaluating language model generations. However, it is a key component of dialogue. Humans use local and partner specific repetitions; these are preferred by human users and lead to more successful communication in dialogue. In this study, we evaluate (a) whether language models produce human-like levels of repetition in dialogue, and (b) what are the processing mechanisms related to lexical re-use they use during comprehension. We believe that such joint analysis of model production and comprehension behaviour can inform the development of cognitively inspired dialogue generation systems.
We present a setup for training, evaluating and interpreting neural language models, that uses artificial, language-like data. The data is generated using a massive probabilistic grammar (based on state-split PCFGs), that is itself derived from a large natural language corpus, but also provides us complete control over the generative process. We describe and release both grammar and corpus, and test for the naturalness of our generated data. This approach allows us to define closed-form expressions to efficiently compute exact lower bounds on obtainable perplexity using both causal and masked language modelling. Our results show striking differences between neural language modelling architectures and training objectives in how closely they allow approximating the lower bound on perplexity. Our approach also allows us to directly compare learned representations to symbolic rules in the underlying source. We experiment with various techniques for interpreting model behaviour and learning dynamics. With access to the underlying true source, our results show striking differences and outcomes in learning dynamics between different classes of words.
We present the submission of the ILLC at the University of Amsterdam to the BabyLM challenge (Warstadt et al., 2023), in the strict-small track. Our final model, ChapGTP, is a masked language model that was trained for 200 epochs, aided by a novel data augmentation technique called Automatic Task Formation. We discuss in detail the performance of this model on the three evaluation suites: BLiMP, (Super)GLUE, and MSGS. Furthermore, we present a wide range of methods that were ultimately not included in the model, but may serve as inspiration for training LMs in low-resource settings.
In recent years, many interpretability methods have been proposed to help interpret the internal states of Transformer-models, at different levels of precision and complexity. Here, to analyze encoder-decoder Transformers, we propose a simple, new method: DecoderLens. Inspired by the LogitLens (for decoder-only Transformers), this method involves allowing the decoder to cross-attend representations of intermediate encoder layers instead of using the final encoder output, as is normally done in encoder-decoder models. The method thus maps previously uninterpretable vector representations to human-interpretable sequences of words or symbols. We report results from the DecoderLens applied to models trained on question answering, logical reasoning, speech recognition and machine translation. The DecoderLens reveals several specific subtasks that are solved at low or intermediate layers, shedding new light on the information flow inside the encoder component of this important class of models.
Curriculum learning (CL) posits that machine learning models -- similar to humans -- may learn more efficiently from data that match their current learning progress. However, CL methods are still poorly understood and, in particular for natural language processing (NLP), have achieved only limited success. In this paper, we explore why. Starting from an attempt to replicate and extend a number of recent curriculum methods, we find that their results are surprisingly brittle when applied to NLP. A deep dive into the (in)effectiveness of the curricula in some scenarios shows us why: when curricula are employed in combination with the popular Adam optimisation algorithm, they oftentimes learn to adapt to suboptimally chosen optimisation parameters for this algorithm. We present a number of different case studies with different common hand-crafted and automated CL approaches to illustrate this phenomenon, and we find that none of them outperforms optimisation with only Adam with well-chosen hyperparameters. As such, our results contribute to understanding why CL methods work, but at the same time urge caution when claiming positive results.
We study feature interactions in the context of feature attribution methods for post-hoc interpretability. In interpretability research, getting to grips with feature interactions is increasingly recognised as an important challenge, because interacting features are key to the success of neural networks. Feature interactions allow a model to build up hierarchical representations for its input, and might provide an ideal starting point for the investigation into linguistic structure in language models. However, uncovering the exact role that these interactions play is also difficult, and a diverse range of interaction attribution methods has been proposed. In this paper, we focus on the question which of these methods most faithfully reflects the inner workings of the target models. We work out a grey box methodology, in which we train models to perfection on a formal language classification task, using PCFGs. We show that under specific configurations, some methods are indeed able to uncover the grammatical rules acquired by a model. Based on these findings we extend our evaluation to a case study on language models, providing novel insights into the linguistic structure that these models have acquired.
Detecting and mitigating harmful biases in modern language models are widely recognized as crucial, open problems. In this paper, we take a step back and investigate how language models come to be biased in the first place. We use a relatively small language model, using the LSTM architecture trained on an English Wikipedia corpus. With full access to the data and to the model parameters as they change during every step while training, we can map in detail how the representation of gender develops, what patterns in the dataset drive this, and how the model's internal state relates to the bias in a downstream task (semantic textual similarity). We find that the representation of gender is dynamic and identify different phases during training. Furthermore, we show that gender information is represented increasingly locally in the input embeddings of the model and that, as a consequence, debiasing these can be effective in reducing the downstream bias. Monitoring the training dynamics, allows us to detect an asymmetry in how the female and male gender are represented in the input embeddings. This is important, as it may cause naive mitigation strategies to introduce new undesirable biases. We discuss the relevance of the findings for mitigation strategies more generally and the prospects of generalizing our methods to larger language models, the Transformer architecture, other languages and other undesirable biases.
* Accepted at the 4th Workshop on Gender Bias in Natural Language
Processing (NAACL, 2022)
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.
We investigate the extent to which modern, neural language models are susceptible to syntactic priming, the phenomenon where the syntactic structure of a sentence makes the same structure more probable in a follow-up sentence. We explore how priming can be used to study the nature of the syntactic knowledge acquired by these models. We introduce a novel metric and release Prime-LM, a large corpus where we control for various linguistic factors which interact with priming strength. We find that recent large Transformer models indeed show evidence of syntactic priming, but also that the syntactic generalisations learned by these models are to some extent modulated by semantic information. We report surprisingly strong priming effects when priming with multiple sentences, each with different words and meaning but with identical syntactic structure. We conclude that the syntactic priming paradigm is a highly useful, additional tool for gaining insights into the capacities of language models.