Filling the Gaps in Ancient Akkadian Texts: A Masked Language Modelling Approach

Koren Lazar, Benny Saret, Asaf Yehudai, Wayne Horowitz, Nathan Wasserman, Gabriel Stanovsky

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

We present models which complete missing text given transliterations of ancient Mesopotamian documents, originally written on cuneiform clay tablets (2500 BCE - 100 CE). Due to the tablets' deterioration, scholars often rely on contextual cues to manually fill in missing parts in the text in a subjective and time-consuming process. We identify that this challenge can be formulated as a masked language modelling task, used mostly as a pretraining objective for contextualized language models. Following, we develop several architectures focusing on the Akkadian language, the lingua franca of the time. We find that despite data scarcity (1M tokens) we can achieve state of the art performance on missing tokens prediction (89% hit@5) using a greedy decoding scheme and pretraining on data from other languages and different time periods. Finally, we conduct human evaluations showing the applicability of our models in assisting experts to transcribe texts in extinct languages.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEMNLP 2021 - 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, Proceedings
PublisherAssociation for Computational Linguistics (ACL)
Pages4682-4691
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781955917094
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes
Event2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, EMNLP 2021 - Virtual, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Duration: 7 Nov 202111 Nov 2021

Publication series

NameEMNLP 2021 - 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, Proceedings

Conference

Conference2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, EMNLP 2021
Country/TerritoryDominican Republic
CityVirtual, Punta Cana
Period7/11/2111/11/21

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Association for Computational Linguistics

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