Alan Ansell


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Composable Sparse Fine-Tuning for Cross-Lingual Transfer
Alan Ansell | Edoardo Ponti | Anna Korhonen | Ivan Vulić
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Fine-tuning the entire set of parameters of a large pretrained model has become the mainstream approach for transfer learning. To increase its efficiency and prevent catastrophic forgetting and interference, techniques like adapters and sparse fine-tuning have been developed. Adapters are modular, as they can be combined to adapt a model towards different facets of knowledge (e.g., dedicated language and/or task adapters). Sparse fine-tuning is expressive, as it controls the behavior of all model components. In this work, we introduce a new fine-tuning method with both these desirable properties. In particular, we learn sparse, real-valued masks based on a simple variant of the Lottery Ticket Hypothesis. Task-specific masks are obtained from annotated data in a source language, and language-specific masks from masked language modeling in a target language. Both these masks can then be composed with the pretrained model. Unlike adapter-based fine-tuning, this method neither increases the number of parameters at inference time nor alters the original model architecture. Most importantly, it outperforms adapters in zero-shot cross-lingual transfer by a large margin in a series of multilingual benchmarks, including Universal Dependencies, MasakhaNER, and AmericasNLI. Based on an in-depth analysis, we additionally find that sparsity is crucial to prevent both 1) interference between the fine-tunings to be composed and 2) overfitting. We release the code and models at


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MAD-G: Multilingual Adapter Generation for Efficient Cross-Lingual Transfer
Alan Ansell | Edoardo Maria Ponti | Jonas Pfeiffer | Sebastian Ruder | Goran Glavaš | Ivan Vulić | Anna Korhonen
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2021

Adapter modules have emerged as a general parameter-efficient means to specialize a pretrained encoder to new domains. Massively multilingual transformers (MMTs) have particularly benefited from additional training of language-specific adapters. However, this approach is not viable for the vast majority of languages, due to limitations in their corpus size or compute budgets. In this work, we propose MAD-G (Multilingual ADapter Generation), which contextually generates language adapters from language representations based on typological features. In contrast to prior work, our time- and space-efficient MAD-G approach enables (1) sharing of linguistic knowledge across languages and (2) zero-shot inference by generating language adapters for unseen languages. We thoroughly evaluate MAD-G in zero-shot cross-lingual transfer on part-of-speech tagging, dependency parsing, and named entity recognition. While offering (1) improved fine-tuning efficiency (by a factor of around 50 in our experiments), (2) a smaller parameter budget, and (3) increased language coverage, MAD-G remains competitive with more expensive methods for language-specific adapter training across the board. Moreover, it offers substantial benefits for low-resource languages, particularly on the NER task in low-resource African languages. Finally, we demonstrate that MAD-G’s transfer performance can be further improved via: (i) multi-source training, i.e., by generating and combining adapters of multiple languages with available task-specific training data; and (ii) by further fine-tuning generated MAD-G adapters for languages with monolingual data.

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PolyLM: Learning about Polysemy through Language Modeling
Alan Ansell | Felipe Bravo-Marquez | Bernhard Pfahringer
Proceedings of the 16th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Main Volume

To avoid the “meaning conflation deficiency” of word embeddings, a number of models have aimed to embed individual word senses. These methods at one time performed well on tasks such as word sense induction (WSI), but they have since been overtaken by task-specific techniques which exploit contextualized embeddings. However, sense embeddings and contextualization need not be mutually exclusive. We introduce PolyLM, a method which formulates the task of learning sense embeddings as a language modeling problem, allowing contextualization techniques to be applied. PolyLM is based on two underlying assumptions about word senses: firstly, that the probability of a word occurring in a given context is equal to the sum of the probabilities of its individual senses occurring; and secondly, that for a given occurrence of a word, one of its senses tends to be much more plausible in the context than the others. We evaluate PolyLM on WSI, showing that it performs considerably better than previous sense embedding techniques, and matches the current state-of-the-art specialized WSI method despite having six times fewer parameters. Code and pre-trained models are available at


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An ELMo-inspired approach to SemDeep-5’s Word-in-Context task
Alan Ansell | Felipe Bravo-Marquez | Bernhard Pfahringer
Proceedings of the 5th Workshop on Semantic Deep Learning (SemDeep-5)