Lexical Features Are More Vulnerable, Syntactic Features Have More Predictive Power

Jekaterina Novikova1, Aparna Balagopalan2, Ksenia Shkaruta3, Frank Rudzicz2
1Heriot Watt University, 2University of Toronto, 3Georgia Tech


Understanding the vulnerability of linguistic features extracted from noisy text is important for both developing better health text classification models and for interpreting vulnerabilities of natural language models. In this paper, we investigate how generic language characteristics, such as syntax or the lexicon, are impacted by artificial text alterations. The vulnerability of features is analysed from two perspectives: (1) the level of feature value change, and (2) the level of change of feature predictive power as a result of text modifications. We show that lexical features are more sensitive to text modifications than syntactic ones. However, we also demonstrate that these smaller changes of syntactic features have a stronger influence on classification performance downstream, compared to the impact of changes to lexical features. Results are validated across three datasets representing different text-classification tasks, with different levels of lexical and syntactic complexity of both conversational and written language.