Mikael Kågebäck, Computer Science and Engineering

Word Representations for Emergent Communication and Natural Language Processing

The task of listing all semantic properties of a single word might seem manageable at first but as you unravel all the context dependent subtle variations in meaning that a word can encompass, you soon realize that precise mathematical definition of a word’s semantics is extremely difficult. In analogy, humans have no problem identifying their favorite pet in an image but the task of precisely defining how, is still beyond our capabilities. A solution that has proved effective in the visual domain is to solve the problem by learning abstract representations using machine learning. Inspired by the success of learned representations in computer vision, the line of work presented in this thesis will explore learned word representations in three different contexts.

Starting in the domain of artificial languages, three computational frameworks for emergent communication between collaborating agents are developed in an attempt to study word representations that exhibit grounding of concepts. The first two are designed to emulate the natural development of discrete color words using deep reinforcement learning, and used to simulate the emergence of color terms that partition the continuous color spectra of visual light. The properties of the emerged color communication schema is compared to human languages to ensure its validity as a cognitive model, and subsequently the frameworks are utilized to explore central questions in cognitive science about universals in language within the semantic domain of color. Moving beyond the color domain, a third framework is developed for the less controlled environment of human faces and multi-step communication. Subsequently, as for the color domain we carefully analyze the semantic properties of the words emerged between the agents but in this case focusing on the grounding.

Turning the attention to the empirical usefulness, different types of learned word representations are evaluated in the context of automatic document summarisation, word sense disambiguation, and word sense induction with results that show great potential for learned word representations in natural language processing by reaching state-of-the-art performance in all applications and outperforming previous methods in two out of three applications.

Finally, although learned word representations seem to improve the performance of real world systems, they do also lack in interpretability when compared to classical hand-engineered representations. Acknowledging this, an effort is made towards construct- ing learned representations that regain some of that interpretability by designing and evaluating disentangled representations, which could be used to represent words in a more interpretable way in the future.
​Mikael Kågebäck belongs to the divisoin Data Science and AI at Computer Science and Engineering.

Prof. Anders Søgaard, Department of Computer Science, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Grading committee
Prof. Joakim Nivre, Uppsala University, Sweden.
Prof. Fredrik Kahl, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.
Prof. Staffan Larsson, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Category Thesis defence
Location: EB, lecture hall,
Starts: 14 December, 2018, 13:00
Ends: 14 December, 2018, 14:30

Published: Mon 19 Nov 2018. Modified: Tue 20 Nov 2018