Team, Visitors, External Collaborators
Overall Objectives
Research Program
Application Domains
Highlights of the Year
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Bilateral Contracts and Grants with Industry
Partnerships and Cooperations
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Section: New Results

Processing non-standard language: user-generated content and code-mixed language

Participants : Djamé Seddah, Benoît Sagot, Éric Villemonte de La Clergerie, Benjamin Muller, Ganesh Jawahar, Abhishek Srivastava, Jose Rosales Nuñez, Hafida Le Cloirec, Farah Essaidi, Matthieu Futeral.

In 2019, we have resumed our long-lasting efforts towards increasing the robustness of our language analysis tools to the variation found in user-generated content (UGC). We have done this in two directions, in the context of the SoSweet and Parsiti projects.

Firstly, we have investigated how our state-of-the-art hybrid (symbolic and statistical) parsing architecture for French, based on SxPipe, FRMG and the Lefff, behaves on French UGC data, namely on 20 millions tweets from the SoSweet corpus. A first observation was that the current level of pre-parsing normalization was not sufficient to ensure a good parsing coverage with FRMG (around 67%, to be compared with around 93% on journalistic texts such as the French TreeBank), also leading to high parsing times because of correction strategies. However, we applied our error mining strategy [6] to identify a first set of easy errors. Clustering and word embedding were also tried for lemmas relying on the dependency parse trees, again leading to semi-successful results due to the poor quality of the pre-parsing phases.

Secondly, we have investigated the normalisation task, whose goal is to transform possibly noisy UGC into less noisy inputs that are more adapted to our standard neural analysis models (e.g. taggers and parsers). More precisely, we have investigated how useful a language model such as BERT [75], trained on standard data, can be in handling non-canonical text. We study the ability of BERT to perform lexical normalisation in a realistic, and therefore low-resource, English UGC scenario [28]. By framing lexical normalisation as a token prediction task, by enhancing its architecture and by carefully fine-tuning it, we have shown that BERT can be a competitive lexical normalisation model without the need of any UGC resources aside from 3,000 training sentences. To the best of our knowledge, it is the first work done in adapting and analysing the ability of this model to handle noisy UGC data.

Thirdly, we have compared the performances achieved by Phrase-Based Statistical Machine Translation systems (PBSMT) and attention-based Neural Machine Translation systems (NMT) when translating UGC from French to English [44]. We have shown that, contrary to what could have been expected, PBSMT outperforms NMT when translating non-canonical inputs. Our error analysis uncovers the specificities of UGC that are problematic for sequential NMT architectures and suggests new avenue for improving NMT models.

Finally, building natural language processing systems for highly variable and low resource languages is a hard challenge. The recent success of large-scale multilingual pretrained neural language models (including our CamemBERT language model for French) provides us with new modeling tools to tackle it. We have studied the ability of the multilingual version of BERT to model an unseen dialect, namely the Latin-script user-generated North African Arabic dialect called Arabizi. We have shown in different scenarios that multilingual language models are able to transfer to such an unseen dialect, specifically in two extreme cases: across script (Arabic to Latin) and from Maltese, a related language written in the Arabic script, unseen during pretraining. Preliminary results have already been published [66].