How Language-Neutral is Multilingual BERT?

8 Nov 2019  ·  Jindřich Libovický, Rudolf Rosa, Alexander Fraser ·

Multilingual BERT (mBERT) provides sentence representations for 104 languages, which are useful for many multi-lingual tasks. Previous work probed the cross-linguality of mBERT using zero-shot transfer learning on morphological and syntactic tasks. We instead focus on the semantic properties of mBERT. We show that mBERT representations can be split into a language-specific component and a language-neutral component, and that the language-neutral component is sufficiently general in terms of modeling semantics to allow high-accuracy word-alignment and sentence retrieval but is not yet good enough for the more difficult task of MT quality estimation. Our work presents interesting challenges which must be solved to build better language-neutral representations, particularly for tasks requiring linguistic transfer of semantics.

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