Improving BERT Pretraining with Syntactic Supervision

Bidirectional masked Transformers have become the core theme in the current NLP landscape. Despite their impressive benchmarks, a recurring theme in recent research has been to question such models' capacity for syntactic generalization. In this work, we seek to address this question by adding a supervised, token-level supertagging objective to standard unsupervised pretraining, enabling the explicit incorporation of syntactic biases into the network's training dynamics. Our approach is straightforward to implement, induces a marginal computational overhead and is general enough to adapt to a variety of settings. We apply our methodology on Lassy Large, an automatically annotated corpus of written Dutch. Our experiments suggest that our syntax-aware model performs on par with established baselines, despite Lassy Large being one order of magnitude smaller than commonly used corpora.

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