Probing Cross-Lingual Lexical Knowledge from Multilingual Sentence Encoders

30 Apr 2022  ·  Ivan Vulić, Goran Glavaš, Fangyu Liu, Nigel Collier, Edoardo Maria Ponti, Anna Korhonen ·

Pretrained multilingual language models (LMs) can be successfully transformed into multilingual sentence encoders (SEs; e.g., LaBSE, xMPNet) via additional fine-tuning or model distillation with parallel data. However, it remains unclear how to best leverage them to represent sub-sentence lexical items (i.e., words and phrases) in cross-lingual lexical tasks. In this work, we probe SEs for the amount of cross-lingual lexical knowledge stored in their parameters, and compare them against the original multilingual LMs. We also devise a simple yet efficient method for exposing the cross-lingual lexical knowledge by means of additional fine-tuning through inexpensive contrastive learning that requires only a small amount of word translation pairs. Using bilingual lexical induction (BLI), cross-lingual lexical semantic similarity, and cross-lingual entity linking as lexical probing tasks, we report substantial gains on standard benchmarks (e.g., +10 Precision@1 points in BLI). The results indicate that the SEs such as LaBSE can be 'rewired' into effective cross-lingual lexical encoders via the contrastive learning procedure, and that they contain more cross-lingual lexical knowledge than what 'meets the eye' when they are used as off-the-shelf SEs. This way, we also provide an effective tool for harnessing 'covert' multilingual lexical knowledge hidden in multilingual sentence encoders.

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