Scalable and Interpretable Semantic Change Detection

Several cluster-based methods for semantic change detection with contextual embeddings emerged recently. They allow a fine-grained analysis of word use change by aggregating embeddings into clusters that reflect the different usages of the word. However, these methods are unscalable in terms of memory consumption and computation time. Therefore, they require a limited set of target words to be picked in advance. This drastically limits the usability of these methods in open exploratory tasks, where each word from the vocabulary can be considered as a potential target. We propose a novel scalable method for word usage-change detection that offers large gains in processing time and significant memory savings while offering the same interpretability and better performance than unscalable methods. We demonstrate the applicability of the proposed method by analysing a large corpus of news articles about COVID-19.

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