Aaron Courville


2022

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Unsupervised Dependency Graph Network
Yikang Shen | Shawn Tan | Alessandro Sordoni | Peng Li | Jie Zhou | Aaron Courville
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Recent work has identified properties of pretrained self-attention models that mirror those of dependency parse structures. In particular, some self-attention heads correspond well to individual dependency types. Inspired by these developments, we propose a new competitive mechanism that encourages these attention heads to model different dependency relations. We introduce a new model, the Unsupervised Dependency Graph Network (UDGN), that can induce dependency structures from raw corpora and the masked language modeling task. Experiment results show that UDGN achieves very strong unsupervised dependency parsing performance without gold POS tags and any other external information. The competitive gated heads show a strong correlation with human-annotated dependency types. Furthermore, the UDGN can also achieve competitive performance on masked language modeling and sentence textual similarity tasks.

2021

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StructFormer: Joint Unsupervised Induction of Dependency and Constituency Structure from Masked Language Modeling
Yikang Shen | Yi Tay | Che Zheng | Dara Bahri | Donald Metzler | Aaron Courville
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)

There are two major classes of natural language grammars — the dependency grammar that models one-to-one correspondences between words and the constituency grammar that models the assembly of one or several corresponded words. While previous unsupervised parsing methods mostly focus on only inducing one class of grammars, we introduce a novel model, StructFormer, that can induce dependency and constituency structure at the same time. To achieve this, we propose a new parsing framework that can jointly generate a constituency tree and dependency graph. Then we integrate the induced dependency relations into the transformer, in a differentiable manner, through a novel dependency-constrained self-attention mechanism. Experimental results show that our model can achieve strong results on unsupervised constituency parsing, unsupervised dependency parsing, and masked language modeling at the same time.

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Understanding by Understanding Not: Modeling Negation in Language Models
Arian Hosseini | Siva Reddy | Dzmitry Bahdanau | R Devon Hjelm | Alessandro Sordoni | Aaron Courville
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Negation is a core construction in natural language. Despite being very successful on many tasks, state-of-the-art pre-trained language models often handle negation incorrectly. To improve language models in this regard, we propose to augment the language modeling objective with an unlikelihood objective that is based on negated generic sentences from a raw text corpus. By training BERT with the resulting combined objective we reduce the mean top 1 error rate to 4% on the negated LAMA dataset. We also see some improvements on the negated NLI benchmarks.

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Explicitly Modeling Syntax in Language Models with Incremental Parsing and a Dynamic Oracle
Yikang Shen | Shawn Tan | Alessandro Sordoni | Siva Reddy | Aaron Courville
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Syntax is fundamental to our thinking about language. Failing to capture the structure of input language could lead to generalization problems and over-parametrization. In the present work, we propose a new syntax-aware language model: Syntactic Ordered Memory (SOM). The model explicitly models the structure with an incremental parser and maintains the conditional probability setting of a standard language model (left-to-right). To train the incremental parser and avoid exposure bias, we also propose a novel dynamic oracle, so that SOM is more robust to wrong parsing decisions. Experiments show that SOM can achieve strong results in language modeling, incremental parsing, and syntactic generalization tests while using fewer parameters than other models.

2020

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Supervised Seeded Iterated Learning for Interactive Language Learning
Yuchen Lu | Soumye Singhal | Florian Strub | Olivier Pietquin | Aaron Courville
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

Language drift has been one of the major obstacles to train language models through interaction. When word-based conversational agents are trained towards completing a task, they tend to invent their language rather than leveraging natural language. In recent literature, two general methods partially counter this phenomenon: Supervised Selfplay (S2P) and Seeded Iterated Learning (SIL). While S2P jointly trains interactive and supervised losses to counter the drift, SIL changes the training dynamics to prevent language drift from occurring. In this paper, we first highlight their respective weaknesses, i.e., late-stage training collapses and higher negative likelihood when evaluated on human corpus. Given these observations, we introduce Supervised Seeded Iterated Learning (SSIL) to combine both methods to minimize their respective weaknesses. We then show the effectiveness of in the language-drift translation game.

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Recursive Top-Down Production for Sentence Generation with Latent Trees
Shawn Tan | Yikang Shen | Alessandro Sordoni | Aaron Courville | Timothy J. O’Donnell
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

We model the recursive production property of context-free grammars for natural and synthetic languages. To this end, we present a dynamic programming algorithm that marginalises over latent binary tree structures with N leaves, allowing us to compute the likelihood of a sequence of N tokens under a latent tree model, which we maximise to train a recursive neural function. We demonstrate performance on two synthetic tasks: SCAN, where it outperforms previous models on the LENGTH split, and English question formation, where it performs comparably to decoders with the ground-truth tree structure. We also present experimental results on German-English translation on the Multi30k dataset, and qualitatively analyse the induced tree structures our model learns for the SCAN tasks and the German-English translation task.

2018

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Straight to the Tree: Constituency Parsing with Neural Syntactic Distance
Yikang Shen | Zhouhan Lin | Athul Paul Jacob | Alessandro Sordoni | Aaron Courville | Yoshua Bengio
Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

In this work, we propose a novel constituency parsing scheme. The model first predicts a real-valued scalar, named syntactic distance, for each split position in the sentence. The topology of grammar tree is then determined by the values of syntactic distances. Compared to traditional shift-reduce parsing schemes, our approach is free from the potentially disastrous compounding error. It is also easier to parallelize and much faster. Our model achieves the state-of-the-art single model F1 score of 92.1 on PTB and 86.4 on CTB dataset, which surpasses the previous single model results by a large margin.

2017

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Piecewise Latent Variables for Neural Variational Text Processing
Iulian Vlad Serban | Alexander G. Ororbia | Joelle Pineau | Aaron Courville
Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Advances in neural variational inference have facilitated the learning of powerful directed graphical models with continuous latent variables, such as variational autoencoders. The hope is that such models will learn to represent rich, multi-modal latent factors in real-world data, such as natural language text. However, current models often assume simplistic priors on the latent variables - such as the uni-modal Gaussian distribution - which are incapable of representing complex latent factors efficiently. To overcome this restriction, we propose the simple, but highly flexible, piecewise constant distribution. This distribution has the capacity to represent an exponential number of modes of a latent target distribution, while remaining mathematically tractable. Our results demonstrate that incorporating this new latent distribution into different models yields substantial improvements in natural language processing tasks such as document modeling and natural language generation for dialogue.

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Adversarial Generation of Natural Language
Sandeep Subramanian | Sai Rajeswar | Francis Dutil | Chris Pal | Aaron Courville
Proceedings of the 2nd Workshop on Representation Learning for NLP

Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) have gathered a lot of attention from the computer vision community, yielding impressive results for image generation. Advances in the adversarial generation of natural language from noise however are not commensurate with the progress made in generating images, and still lag far behind likelihood based methods. In this paper, we take a step towards generating natural language with a GAN objective alone. We introduce a simple baseline that addresses the discrete output space problem without relying on gradient estimators and show that it is able to achieve state-of-the-art results on a Chinese poem generation dataset. We present quantitative results on generating sentences from context-free and probabilistic context-free grammars, and qualitative language modeling results. A conditional version is also described that can generate sequences conditioned on sentence characteristics.

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Piecewise Latent Variables for Neural Variational Text Processing
Iulian Vlad Serban | Alexander Ororbia II | Joelle Pineau | Aaron Courville
Proceedings of the 2nd Workshop on Structured Prediction for Natural Language Processing

Advances in neural variational inference have facilitated the learning of powerful directed graphical models with continuous latent variables, such as variational autoencoders. The hope is that such models will learn to represent rich, multi-modal latent factors in real-world data, such as natural language text. However, current models often assume simplistic priors on the latent variables - such as the uni-modal Gaussian distribution - which are incapable of representing complex latent factors efficiently. To overcome this restriction, we propose the simple, but highly flexible, piecewise constant distribution. This distribution has the capacity to represent an exponential number of modes of a latent target distribution, while remaining mathematically tractable. Our results demonstrate that incorporating this new latent distribution into different models yields substantial improvements in natural language processing tasks such as document modeling and natural language generation for dialogue.

2016

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Generating Factoid Questions With Recurrent Neural Networks: The 30M Factoid Question-Answer Corpus
Iulian Vlad Serban | Alberto García-Durán | Caglar Gulcehre | Sungjin Ahn | Sarath Chandar | Aaron Courville | Yoshua Bengio
Proceedings of the 54th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)