A Non-Linear Structural Probe

by   Jennifer C. White, et al.

Probes are models devised to investigate the encoding of knowledge – e.g. syntactic structure – in contextual representations. Probes are often designed for simplicity, which has led to restrictions on probe design that may not allow for the full exploitation of the structure of encoded information; one such restriction is linearity. We examine the case of a structural probe (Hewitt and Manning, 2019), which aims to investigate the encoding of syntactic structure in contextual representations through learning only linear transformations. By observing that the structural probe learns a metric, we are able to kernelize it and develop a novel non-linear variant with an identical number of parameters. We test on 6 languages and find that the radial-basis function (RBF) kernel, in conjunction with regularization, achieves a statistically significant improvement over the baseline in all languages – implying that at least part of the syntactic knowledge is encoded non-linearly. We conclude by discussing how the RBF kernel resembles BERT's self-attention layers and speculate that this resemblance leads to the RBF-based probe's stronger performance.


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