COGS: A Compositional Generalization Challenge Based on Semantic Interpretation

Natural language is characterized by compositionality: the meaning of a complex expression is constructed from the meanings of its constituent parts. To facilitate the evaluation of the compositional abilities of language processing architectures, we introduce COGS, a semantic parsing dataset based on a fragment of English. The evaluation portion of COGS contains multiple systematic gaps that can only be addressed by compositional generalization; these include new combinations of familiar syntactic structures, or new combinations of familiar words and familiar structures. In experiments with Transformers and LSTMs, we found that in-distribution accuracy on the COGS test set was near-perfect (96--99%), but generalization accuracy was substantially lower (16--35%) and showed high sensitivity to random seed ($\pm$6--8%). These findings indicate that contemporary standard NLP models are limited in their compositional generalization capacity, and position COGS as a good way to measure progress.

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