How Contextual are Contextualized Word Representations? Comparing the Geometry of BERT, ELMo, and GPT-2 Embeddings

Kawin Ethayarajh


Abstract
Replacing static word embeddings with contextualized word representations has yielded significant improvements on many NLP tasks. However, just how contextual are the contextualized representations produced by models such as ELMo and BERT? Are there infinitely many context-specific representations for each word, or are words essentially assigned one of a finite number of word-sense representations? For one, we find that the contextualized representations of all words are not isotropic in any layer of the contextualizing model. While representations of the same word in different contexts still have a greater cosine similarity than those of two different words, this self-similarity is much lower in upper layers. This suggests that upper layers of contextualizing models produce more context-specific representations, much like how upper layers of LSTMs produce more task-specific representations. In all layers of ELMo, BERT, and GPT-2, on average, less than 5% of the variance in a word’s contextualized representations can be explained by a static embedding for that word, providing some justification for the success of contextualized representations.
Anthology ID:
D19-1006
Volume:
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)
Month:
November
Year:
2019
Address:
Hong Kong, China
Venues:
EMNLP | IJCNLP
SIG:
SIGDAT
Publisher:
Association for Computational Linguistics
Note:
Pages:
55–65
URL:
https://www.aclweb.org/anthology/D19-1006
DOI:
10.18653/v1/D19-1006
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PDF:
https://www.aclweb.org/anthology/D19-1006.pdf