Adam Roberts


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Crosslingual Generalization through Multitask Finetuning
Niklas Muennighoff | Thomas Wang | Lintang Sutawika | Adam Roberts | Stella Biderman | Teven Le Scao | M Saiful Bari | Sheng Shen | Zheng Xin Yong | Hailey Schoelkopf | Xiangru Tang | Dragomir Radev | Alham Fikri Aji | Khalid Almubarak | Samuel Albanie | Zaid Alyafeai | Albert Webson | Edward Raff | Colin Raffel
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Multitask prompted finetuning (MTF) has been shown to help large language models generalize to new tasks in a zero-shot setting, but so far explorations of MTF have focused on English data and models. We apply MTF to the pretrained multilingual BLOOM and mT5 model families to produce finetuned variants called BLOOMZ and mT0. We find finetuning large multilingual language models on English tasks with English prompts allows for task genrealization to non-English languages that appear only in the pretraining corpus. Finetuning on multilingual tasks with English prompts further improves performance on English and non-English tasks leading to various state-of-the-art zero-shot results. We also investigate finetuning on multilingual tasks with prompts that have been machine-translated from English to match the language of each dataset. We find training on these machine-translated prompts leads to better performance on human-written prompts in the respective languages. Surprisingly, we find models are capable of zero-shot generalization to tasks in languages they have never intentionally seen. We conjecture that the models are learning higher-level capabilities that are both task- and language-agnostic. In addition, we introduce xP3, a composite of supervised datasets in 46 languages with English and machine-translated prompts. Our code, datasets and models are freely available at

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Character-Aware Models Improve Visual Text Rendering
Rosanne Liu | Dan Garrette | Chitwan Saharia | William Chan | Adam Roberts | Sharan Narang | Irina Blok | Rj Mical | Mohammad Norouzi | Noah Constant
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Current image generation models struggle to reliably produce well-formed visual text. In this paper, we investigate a key contributing factor: popular text-to-image models lack character-level input features, making it much harder to predict a word’s visual makeup as a series of glyphs. To quantify this effect, we conduct a series of experiments comparing character-aware vs. character-blind text encoders. In the text-only domain, we find that character-aware models provide large gains on a novel spelling task (WikiSpell). Applying our learnings to the visual domain, we train a suite of image generation models, and show that character-aware variants outperform their character-blind counterparts across a range of novel text rendering tasks (our DrawText benchmark). Our models set a much higher state-of-the-art on visual spelling, with 30+ point accuracy gains over competitors on rare words, despite training on far fewer examples.


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ByT5: Towards a Token-Free Future with Pre-trained Byte-to-Byte Models
Linting Xue | Aditya Barua | Noah Constant | Rami Al-Rfou | Sharan Narang | Mihir Kale | Adam Roberts | Colin Raffel
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 10

Most widely used pre-trained language models operate on sequences of tokens corresponding to word or subword units. By comparison, token-free models that operate directly on raw text (bytes or characters) have many benefits: They can process text in any language out of the box, they are more robust to noise, and they minimize technical debt by removing complex and error-prone text preprocessing pipelines. Because byte or character sequences are longer than token sequences, past work on token-free models has often introduced new model architectures designed to amortize the cost of operating directly on raw text. In this paper, we show that a standard Transformer architecture can be used with minimal modifications to process byte sequences. We characterize the trade-offs in terms of parameter count, training FLOPs, and inference speed, and show that byte-level models are competitive with their token-level counterparts. We also demonstrate that byte-level models are significantly more robust to noise and perform better on tasks that are sensitive to spelling and pronunciation. As part of our contribution, we release a new set of pre-trained byte-level Transformer models based on the T5 architecture, as well as all code and data used in our experiments.1


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mT5: A Massively Multilingual Pre-trained Text-to-Text Transformer
Linting Xue | Noah Constant | Adam Roberts | Mihir Kale | Rami Al-Rfou | Aditya Siddhant | Aditya Barua | Colin Raffel
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

The recent “Text-to-Text Transfer Transformer” (T5) leveraged a unified text-to-text format and scale to attain state-of-the-art results on a wide variety of English-language NLP tasks. In this paper, we introduce mT5, a multilingual variant of T5 that was pre-trained on a new Common Crawl-based dataset covering 101 languages. We detail the design and modified training of mT5 and demonstrate its state-of-the-art performance on many multilingual benchmarks. We also describe a simple technique to prevent “accidental translation” in the zero-shot setting, where a generative model chooses to (partially) translate its prediction into the wrong language. All of the code and model checkpoints used in this work are publicly available.

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Do Transformer Modifications Transfer Across Implementations and Applications?
Sharan Narang | Hyung Won Chung | Yi Tay | Liam Fedus | Thibault Fevry | Michael Matena | Karishma Malkan | Noah Fiedel | Noam Shazeer | Zhenzhong Lan | Yanqi Zhou | Wei Li | Nan Ding | Jake Marcus | Adam Roberts | Colin Raffel
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

The research community has proposed copious modifications to the Transformer architecture since it was introduced over three years ago, relatively few of which have seen widespread adoption. In this paper, we comprehensively evaluate many of these modifications in a shared experimental setting that covers most of the common uses of the Transformer in natural language processing. Surprisingly, we find that most modifications do not meaningfully improve performance. Furthermore, most of the Transformer variants we found beneficial were either developed in the same codebase that we used or are relatively minor changes. We conjecture that performance improvements may strongly depend on implementation details and correspondingly make some recommendations for improving the generality of experimental results.


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How Much Knowledge Can You Pack Into the Parameters of a Language Model?
Adam Roberts | Colin Raffel | Noam Shazeer
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

It has recently been observed that neural language models trained on unstructured text can implicitly store and retrieve knowledge using natural language queries. In this short paper, we measure the practical utility of this approach by fine-tuning pre-trained models to answer questions without access to any external context or knowledge. We show that this approach scales with model size and performs competitively with open-domain systems that explicitly retrieve answers from an external knowledge source when answering questions. To facilitate reproducibility and future work, we release our code and trained models.