Sort by Structure: Language Model Ranking as Dependency Probing

Research output: Conference Article in Proceeding or Book/Report chapterArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


Making an informed choice of pre-trained language model (LM) is critical for performance, yet environmentally costly, and as such widely underexplored. The field of Computer Vision has begun to tackle encoder ranking, with promising forays into Natural Language Processing, however they lack coverage of linguistic tasks such as structured prediction. We propose probing to rank LMs, specifically for parsing dependencies in a given language, by measuring the degree to which labeled trees are recoverable from an LM’s contextualized embeddings. Across 46 typologically and architecturally diverse LM-language pairs, our probing approach predicts the best LM choice 79% of the time using orders of magnitude less compute than training a full parser. Within this study, we identify and analyze one recently proposed decoupled LM—RemBERT—and find it strikingly contains less inherent dependency information, but often yields the best parser after full fine-tuning. Without this outlier our approach identifies the best LM in 89% of cases.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication Proceedings of the 2022 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies
PublisherAssociation for Computational Linguistics
Publication date2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Pre-trained language models
  • Environmental cost
  • Encoder ranking
  • Structured prediction
  • Dependency parsing


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