Linguistic Typology Features from Text: Inferring the Sparse Features of World Atlas of Language Structures

Tatiana Merkulova
Martin Jansche
arXiv preprint arXiv:2005.00100(2018)


The use of linguistic typological resources in natural language processing has been steadily gaining more popularity. It has been observed that the use of typological information, often combined with distributed language representations, leads to significantly more powerful models. While linguistic typology representations from various resources have mostly been used for conditioning the models, there has been relatively little attention on predicting features from these resources from the input data. In this paper we investigate whether the various linguistic features from World Atlas of Language Structures (WALS) can be reliably inferred from multi-lingual text. Such a predictor can be used to infer structural features for a language never observed in training data. We frame this task as a multi-label classification involving predicting the set of non-mutually exclusive and extremely sparse multi-valued labels (WALS features). We construct a recurrent neural network predictor based on byte embeddings and convolutional layers and test its performance on 556 languages, providing analysis for various linguistic types, macro-areas, language families and individual features. We show that some features from various linguistic types can be predicted reliably.