Séminaire de Recherche en Linguistique

Ce séminaire reçoit des conférenciers invités spécialisés dans différents domaines de la linguistique. Les membres du Département, les étudiants et les personnes externes intéressées sont tous cordialement invités.

Prochain séminaire Print

Titre A mini-workshop on linguistic issues in computational modelling (programme attaché)
Conférencier J. Nivre, K. Gulordava, W. Tabor, L. Rimell, P. Merlo, R. Levy
Date mercredi 13 juin 2018  changement de jour
Heure 14h00  changement d'horaire
Salle Room 432 Battelle Centre Universitaire d’Informatique University of Geneva changement de salle

14:00-14:40     Joakim Nivre - Uppsala University

The Morphosyntactic Encoding of Core Arguments – A Cross-Linguistic Perspective

Languages use essentially three mechanisms to encode grammatical relations like
subject and object: word order, case marking and agreement marking (or indexing).
The relative importance of different mechanisms vary across languages and they
also interact in complex ways. For example, it appears that predominantly verb-final
languages favor case marking, while verb-initial languages favor agreement
marking and verb-medial languages disfavor both marking strategies (Siewierska
and Bakker, 2012). Most of these generalizations, however, are stated at the level
of complete languages, and much less is known about how the different encoding
strategies are distributed and interact in specific sentences in a given language. In
this talk, I will present very preliminary results from an exploration of word order and
case marking for core argument relations based on treebanks annotated in the
Universal Dependencies project. On the one hand, I will look at word order
distributions for verb, subject and object in transitive main clauses and discuss
different ways of measuring word order freedom in terms of entropy, including
variants of relation order entropy and arc direction entropy (Futrell et al., 2015). On
the other hand, I will look at the presence of different types of case marking in the
same transitive main clauses and see how these patterns correlate with word order

14:40-15:20      Colorless green recurrent networks dream hierarchically
Kristina Gulordava - University of Geneva

Recurrent neural networks (RNNs) have achieved impressive results in a variety of
linguistic processing tasks, suggesting that they can induce non-trivial properties of
language. We investigate here to what extent RNNs learn to track abstract
hierarchical syntactic structure. We test whether RNNs trained with a generic
language modeling objective in four languages (Italian, English, Hebrew, Russian)
can predict long-distance number agreement in various constructions. We include
in our evaluation nonsensical sentences where RNNs cannot rely on semantic or
lexical cues ("The colorless green ideas I ate with the chair sleep furiously"), and,
for Italian, we compare model performance to human intuitions. Our languagemodel-
trained RNNs make reliable predictions about long-distance agreement, and
do not lag much behind human performance. We thus bring support to the
hypothesis that RNNs are not just shallow-pattern extractors, but they also acquire
deeper grammatical competence.

15:20-16:00 Self-Organized Sentence Processing and Dependency Length Minimization
Whitney Tabor - University of Connecticut

Self-Organized Sentence Processing (SOSP) is a computational sentence
processing framework in which small elements (words, morphemes) interact via
continuous bonding-processes to form larger constituents. The framework has the
advantageous property that it generates both grammatical and ungrammatical
structures, thus making it suitable for modeling various known phenomena of
aberrant language behavior—e.g., agreement attraction, local coherence, centerembedding
difficulty. Here, we sketch an approach offered by this framework to
dependency length minimization. Whereas some accounts of such phenomena
have argued that languages minimize dependencies in order to minimize demands
on memory, such arguments have a teleological flavor; they leave one wondering
how languages managed to set themselves up to behave optimally in this regard.
In SOSP, dependency length minimization follows as an emergent feature of the
word-interactions. Basically, when a language affords multiple orders for a given
meaning, there is a competition between the different structures that can express
the meaning. Short-dependency structures can form more easily, so they tend to
beat out their competition. In a survey of many languages, Futrell, Mahowald, &
Gibson (2015) found that dependency length minimization is present in all of their
test languages, but it is weaker in head-final than head-initial languages. We offer
a possible insight into this asymmetry.
(Work with Julie Franck)

16:20-17:00 Laura Rimell - DeepMind

Linguistic Yardsticks: Evaluating Language Technology Using Insights from Linguistic Theory

Language technology has achieved remarkable success on practical tasks, such as
machine translation and sentiment analysis, while incorporating very little
theoretical linguistic knowledge. However, the appearance of success may be
deceiving, because standard evaluation metrics for language technology underrepresent
relatively rare but linguistically interesting phenomena. Poor performance
in these areas will be increasingly noticeable as technology advances and users
expect more human-like behaviour. I will describe work that evaluates language
technology using linguistic yardsticks: datasets designed to focus on specific
phenomena, such as the semantic understanding of relative clauses, and I will
consider how they may point the way toward improvements in natural language

17:00-17:40 Lack of evidence of meaning effects in locality
Paola Merlo - University of Geneva

Some of the oldest and most established generalisations in syntax are 'constraints
over variables', the observation that extractions from certain positions are
ungrammatical and that this ungrammaticality derives from formal constraints,
without semantic or processing influences. Recently, this point of view has been
weakened by results arguing for semantic effects in syntactic islands (Gibson) or
showing that ungrammaticality is graded and sensitive to notions such as
animacy (Villata and Franck). For modelling, many of the notions invoked in these
explanations could be made more precise. We study the locality theory of
Relativised Minimality, whose core is the notion of 'intervener'. For a semantic
version of this theory to be at play in explaining extraction violations or infelicities,
the notion of intervener must be defined in semantic terms. We formalise the notion
of 'semantic' as the popular notion of 'lexical word embeddings' and the notion of
'similarity' used to defined interveners as a distance between word embedding
vectors. We present preliminary results where, under these formal, precise
definitions, we fail to find semantic effects in extraction from weak islands and
agreement errors in object relative clauses. While negative results are always hard
to interpret, there is at least one theory and one encoding of this theory under
precise conditions that shows that extraction constraints are not subject to semantic
(Work with Francesco Ackermann)

17:40-18:20 Roger Levy - Massachusetts Institue of Technology

Communicative Efficiency, Uniform Information Density, and the Rational Speech Act theory

One major class of approaches to explaining the distribution of linguistic forms is
rooted in communicative efficiency. For theories in which an utterance's
communicative efficiency is itself dependent on the distribution of linguistic forms in
the language, however, it is less clear how to make distributional predictions that
escape circularity. I propose an approach for these cases that involves iterating
between speaker and listener in the Rational Speech Act theory. Characteristics of
the fixed points of this iterative process constitute the distributional predictions of
the theory. Through computer simulation I apply this approach to the well-studied
case of predictability-sensitive optional function word omission for the theory of
Uniform Information Density, and show that the approach strongly predicts the
empirically observed negative correlation between phrase onset probability and rate
of function word use.

Practical Information
Centre Universitaire d’informatique (CUI)
Battelle - bâtiment A
7, route de Drize
CH-1227 Carouge

Document(s) joint(s)