This paper investigates the ability of artificial neural networks to judge the grammatical acceptability of a sentence, with the goal of testing their linguistic competence. We introduce the Corpus of Linguistic Acceptability (CoLA), a set of 10,657 English sentences labeled as grammatical or ungrammatical from published linguistics literature. As baselines, we train several recurrent neural network models on acceptability classification, and find that our models outperform unsupervised models by Lau et al. (2016) on CoLA. Error-analysis on specific grammatical phenomena reveals that both Lau et al.’s models and ours learn systematic generalizations like subject-verb-object order. However, all models we test perform far below human level on a wide range of grammatical constructions.
Human ability to understand language is general, flexible, and robust. In contrast, most NLU models above the word level are designed for a specific task and struggle with out-of-domain data. If we aspire to develop models with understanding beyond the detection of superficial correspondences between inputs and outputs, then it is critical to develop a unified model that can execute a range of linguistic tasks across different domains. To facilitate research in this direction, we present the General Language Understanding Evaluation (GLUE, gluebenchmark.com): a benchmark of nine diverse NLU tasks, an auxiliary dataset for probing models for understanding of specific linguistic phenomena, and an online platform for evaluating and comparing models. For some benchmark tasks, training data is plentiful, but for others it is limited or does not match the genre of the test set. GLUE thus favors models that can represent linguistic knowledge in a way that facilitates sample-efficient learning and effective knowledge-transfer across tasks. While none of the datasets in GLUE were created from scratch for the benchmark, four of them feature privately-held test data, which is used to ensure that the benchmark is used fairly. We evaluate baselines that use ELMo (Peters et al., 2018), a powerful transfer learning technique, as well as state-of-the-art sentence representation models. The best models still achieve fairly low absolute scores. Analysis with our diagnostic dataset yields similarly weak performance over all phenomena tested, with some exceptions.