Contributions of Transformer Attention Heads in Multi- and Cross-lingual Tasks

Weicheng Ma, Kai Zhang, Renze Lou, Lili Wang, Soroush Vosoughi


Abstract
This paper studies the relative importance of attention heads in Transformer-based models to aid their interpretability in cross-lingual and multi-lingual tasks. Prior research has found that only a few attention heads are important in each mono-lingual Natural Language Processing (NLP) task and pruning the remaining heads leads to comparable or improved performance of the model. However, the impact of pruning attention heads is not yet clear in cross-lingual and multi-lingual tasks. Through extensive experiments, we show that (1) pruning a number of attention heads in a multi-lingual Transformer-based model has, in general, positive effects on its performance in cross-lingual and multi-lingual tasks and (2) the attention heads to be pruned can be ranked using gradients and identified with a few trial experiments. Our experiments focus on sequence labeling tasks, with potential applicability on other cross-lingual and multi-lingual tasks. For comprehensiveness, we examine two pre-trained multi-lingual models, namely multi-lingual BERT (mBERT) and XLM-R, on three tasks across 9 languages each. We also discuss the validity of our findings and their extensibility to truly resource-scarce languages and other task settings.
Anthology ID:
2021.acl-long.152
Volume:
Proceedings of the 59th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 11th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Volume 1: Long Papers)
Month:
August
Year:
2021
Address:
Online
Venues:
ACL | IJCNLP
SIG:
Publisher:
Association for Computational Linguistics
Note:
Pages:
1956–1966
Language:
URL:
https://aclanthology.org/2021.acl-long.152
DOI:
10.18653/v1/2021.acl-long.152
Bibkey:
Copy Citation:
PDF:
https://aclanthology.org/2021.acl-long.152.pdf