Supervised Training on Synthetic Languages: A Novel Framework for Unsupervised Parsing

Dingquan Wang, Johns Hopkins University
Host: Jason Eisner

This talk focuses on unsupervised dependency parsing—parsing sentences of a language into dependency trees without accessing the training data of that language. Different from most prior work that uses unsupervised learning to estimate the parsing parameters, we estimate the parameters by supervised training on synthetic languages. Our parsing framework has three major components: Synthetic language generation gives a rich set of training languages by mix-and-match over the real languages; surface-form feature extraction maps an unparsed corpus of a language into a fixed-length vector as the syntactic signature of that language; and, finally, language-agnostic parsing incorporates the syntactic signature during parsing so that the decision on each word token is reliant upon the general syntax of the target language.

The fundamental question we are trying to answer is whether some useful information about the syntax of a language could be inferred from its surface-form evidence (unparsed corpus). This is the same question that has been implicitly asked by previous papers on unsupervised parsing, which only assumes an unparsed corpus to be available for the target language. We show that, indeed, useful features of the target language can be extracted automatically from an unparsed corpus, which consists only of gold part-of-speech (POS) sequences. Providing these features to our neural parser enables it to parse sequences like those in the corpus. Strikingly, our system has no supervision in the target language. Rather, it is a multilingual system that is trained end-to-end on a variety of other languages, so it learns a feature extractor that works well. We show experimentally across multiple languages: (1) Features computed from the unparsed corpus improve parsing accuracy. (2) Including thousands of synthetic languages in the training yields further improvement. (3) Despite being computed from unparsed corpora, our learned task-specific features beat previous works’ interpretable typological features that require parsed corpora or expert categorization of the language

Speaker Biography

Dingquan Wang is a Ph.D. student working with Jason Eisner since 2014. His research interest is natural language processing (NLP) for low-resource languages. He received M.S. in Computer Science from Columbia University advised by Michael Collins and Rebecca Passonneau, and B.Eng from ACM Honored Class in Computer Science from Shanghai Jiao Tong University.