We present novel methods for analyzing the activation patterns of RNNs from a linguistic point of view and explore the types of linguistic structure they learn. As a case study, we use a multi-task gated recurrent network architecture consisting of two parallel pathways with shared word embeddings trained on predicting the representations of the visual scene corresponding to an input sentence, and predicting the next word in the same sentence. Based on our proposed method to estimate the amount of contribution of individual tokens in the input to the final prediction of the networks we show that the image prediction pathway: a) is sensitive to the information structure of the sentence b) pays selective attention to lexical categories and grammatical functions that carry semantic information c) learns to treat the same input token differently depending on its grammatical functions in the sentence. In contrast the language model is comparatively more sensitive to words with a syntactic function. Furthermore, we propose methods to ex- plore the function of individual hidden units in RNNs and show that the two pathways of the architecture in our case study contain specialized units tuned to patterns informative for the task, some of which can carry activations to later time steps to encode long-term dependencies.
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