We present a study focusing on variation of coreferential devices in English original TED talks and news texts and their German translations. Using exploratory techniques we contemplate a diverse set of coreference devices as features which we assume indicate language-specific and register-based variation as well as potential translation strategies. Our findings reflect differences on both dimensions with stronger variation along the lines of register than between languages. By exposing interactions between text type and cross-linguistic variation, they can also inform multilingual NLP applications, especially machine translation.
Transformer-based language models achieve high performance on various tasks, but we still lack understanding of the kind of linguistic knowledge they learn and rely on. We evaluate three models (BERT, RoBERTa, and ALBERT), testing their grammatical and semantic knowledge by sentence-level probing, diagnostic cases, and masked prediction tasks. We focus on relative clauses (in American English) as a complex phenomenon needing contextual information and antecedent identification to be resolved. Based on a naturalistic dataset, probing shows that all three models indeed capture linguistic knowledge about grammaticality, achieving high performance.Evaluation on diagnostic cases and masked prediction tasks considering fine-grained linguistic knowledge, however, shows pronounced model-specific weaknesses especially on semantic knowledge, strongly impacting models’ performance. Our results highlight the importance of (a)model comparison in evaluation task and (b) building up claims of model performance and the linguistic knowledge they capture beyond purely probing-based evaluations.
We report on an application of universal dependencies for the study of diachronic shifts in syntactic usage patterns. Our focus is on the evolution of Scientific English in the Late Modern English period (ca. 1700-1900). Our data set is the Royal Society Corpus (RSC), comprising the full set of publications of the Royal Society of London between 1665 and 1996. Our starting assumption is that over time, Scientific English develops specific syntactic choice preferences that increase efficiency in (expert-to-expert) communication. The specific hypothesis we pursue in this paper is that changing syntactic choice preferences lead to greater dependency locality/dependency length minimization, which is associated with positive effects for the efficiency of human as well as computational linguistic processing. As a basis for our measurements, we parsed the RSC using Stanford CoreNLP. Overall, we observe a decrease in dependency length, with long dependency structures becoming less frequent and short dependency structures becoming more frequent over time, notably pertaining to the nominal phrase, thus marking an overall push towards greater communicative efficiency.