Differently from the traditional statistical MT that decomposes the translation task into distinct separately learned components, neural machine translation uses a single neural network to model the entire translation process. Despite neural machine translation being de-facto standard, it is still not clear how NMT models acquire different competences over the course of training, and how this mirrors the different models in traditional SMT. In this work, we look at the competences related to three core SMT components and find that during training, NMT first focuses on learning target-side language modeling, then improves translation quality approaching word-by-word translation, and finally learns more complicated reordering patterns. We show that this behavior holds for several models and language pairs. Additionally, we explain how such an understanding of the training process can be useful in practice and, as an example, show how it can be used to improve vanilla non-autoregressive neural machine translation by guiding teacher model selection.
In Neural Machine Translation (and, more generally, conditional language modeling), the generation of a target token is influenced by two types of context: the source and the prefix of the target sequence. While many attempts to understand the internal workings of NMT models have been made, none of them explicitly evaluates relative source and target contributions to a generation decision. We argue that this relative contribution can be evaluated by adopting a variant of Layerwise Relevance Propagation (LRP). Its underlying ‘conservation principle’ makes relevance propagation unique: differently from other methods, it evaluates not an abstract quantity reflecting token importance, but the proportion of each token’s influence. We extend LRP to the Transformer and conduct an analysis of NMT models which explicitly evaluates the source and target relative contributions to the generation process. We analyze changes in these contributions when conditioning on different types of prefixes, when varying the training objective or the amount of training data, and during the training process. We find that models trained with more data tend to rely on source information more and to have more sharp token contributions; the training process is non-monotonic with several stages of different nature.
Subword segmentation is widely used to address the open vocabulary problem in machine translation. The dominant approach to subword segmentation is Byte Pair Encoding (BPE), which keeps the most frequent words intact while splitting the rare ones into multiple tokens. While multiple segmentations are possible even with the same vocabulary, BPE splits words into unique sequences; this may prevent a model from better learning the compositionality of words and being robust to segmentation errors. So far, the only way to overcome this BPE imperfection, its deterministic nature, was to create another subword segmentation algorithm (Kudo, 2018). In contrast, we show that BPE itself incorporates the ability to produce multiple segmentations of the same word. We introduce BPE-dropout - simple and effective subword regularization method based on and compatible with conventional BPE. It stochastically corrupts the segmentation procedure of BPE, which leads to producing multiple segmentations within the same fixed BPE framework. Using BPE-dropout during training and the standard BPE during inference improves translation quality up to 2.3 BLEU compared to BPE and up to 0.9 BLEU compared to the previous subword regularization.
To measure how well pretrained representations encode some linguistic property, it is common to use accuracy of a probe, i.e. a classifier trained to predict the property from the representations. Despite widespread adoption of probes, differences in their accuracy fail to adequately reflect differences in representations. For example, they do not substantially favour pretrained representations over randomly initialized ones. Analogously, their accuracy can be similar when probing for genuine linguistic labels and probing for random synthetic tasks. To see reasonable differences in accuracy with respect to these random baselines, previous work had to constrain either the amount of probe training data or its model size. Instead, we propose an alternative to the standard probes, information-theoretic probing with minimum description length (MDL). With MDL probing, training a probe to predict labels is recast as teaching it to effectively transmit the data. Therefore, the measure of interest changes from probe accuracy to the description length of labels given representations. In addition to probe quality, the description length evaluates “the amount of effort” needed to achieve the quality. This amount of effort characterizes either (i) size of a probing model, or (ii) the amount of data needed to achieve the high quality. We consider two methods for estimating MDL which can be easily implemented on top of the standard probing pipelines: variational coding and online coding. We show that these methods agree in results and are more informative and stable than the standard probes.
It has become a de-facto standard to represent words as elements of a vector space (word2vec, GloVe). While this approach is convenient, it is unnatural for language: words form a graph with a latent hierarchical structure, and this structure has to be revealed and encoded by word embeddings. We introduce GraphGlove: unsupervised graph word representations which are learned end-to-end. In our setting, each word is a node in a weighted graph and the distance between words is the shortest path distance between the corresponding nodes. We adopt a recent method learning a representation of data in the form of a differentiable weighted graph and use it to modify the GloVe training algorithm. We show that our graph-based representations substantially outperform vector-based methods on word similarity and analogy tasks. Our analysis reveals that the structure of the learned graphs is hierarchical and similar to that of WordNet, the geometry is highly non-trivial and contains subgraphs with different local topology.
Though machine translation errors caused by the lack of context beyond one sentence have long been acknowledged, the development of context-aware NMT systems is hampered by several problems. Firstly, standard metrics are not sensitive to improvements in consistency in document-level translations. Secondly, previous work on context-aware NMT assumed that the sentence-aligned parallel data consisted of complete documents while in most practical scenarios such document-level data constitutes only a fraction of the available parallel data. To address the first issue, we perform a human study on an English-Russian subtitles dataset and identify deixis, ellipsis and lexical cohesion as three main sources of inconsistency. We then create test sets targeting these phenomena. To address the second shortcoming, we consider a set-up in which a much larger amount of sentence-level data is available compared to that aligned at the document level. We introduce a model that is suitable for this scenario and demonstrate major gains over a context-agnostic baseline on our new benchmarks without sacrificing performance as measured with BLEU.
Multi-head self-attention is a key component of the Transformer, a state-of-the-art architecture for neural machine translation. In this work we evaluate the contribution made by individual attention heads to the overall performance of the model and analyze the roles played by them in the encoder. We find that the most important and confident heads play consistent and often linguistically-interpretable roles. When pruning heads using a method based on stochastic gates and a differentiable relaxation of the L0 penalty, we observe that specialized heads are last to be pruned. Our novel pruning method removes the vast majority of heads without seriously affecting performance. For example, on the English-Russian WMT dataset, pruning 38 out of 48 encoder heads results in a drop of only 0.15 BLEU.
Modern sentence-level NMT systems often produce plausible translations of isolated sentences. However, when put in context, these translations may end up being inconsistent with each other. We propose a monolingual DocRepair model to correct inconsistencies between sentence-level translations. DocRepair performs automatic post-editing on a sequence of sentence-level translations, refining translations of sentences in context of each other. For training, the DocRepair model requires only monolingual document-level data in the target language. It is trained as a monolingual sequence-to-sequence model that maps inconsistent groups of sentences into consistent ones. The consistent groups come from the original training data; the inconsistent groups are obtained by sampling round-trip translations for each isolated sentence. We show that this approach successfully imitates inconsistencies we aim to fix: using contrastive evaluation, we show large improvements in the translation of several contextual phenomena in an English-Russian translation task, as well as improvements in the BLEU score. We also conduct a human evaluation and show a strong preference of the annotators to corrected translations over the baseline ones. Moreover, we analyze which discourse phenomena are hard to capture using monolingual data only.
We seek to understand how the representations of individual tokens and the structure of the learned feature space evolve between layers in deep neural networks under different learning objectives. We chose the Transformers for our analysis as they have been shown effective with various tasks, including machine translation (MT), standard left-to-right language models (LM) and masked language modeling (MLM). Previous work used black-box probing tasks to show that the representations learned by the Transformer differ significantly depending on the objective. In this work, we use canonical correlation analysis and mutual information estimators to study how information flows across Transformer layers and observe that the choice of the objective determines this process. For example, as you go from bottom to top layers, information about the past in left-to-right language models gets vanished and predictions about the future get formed. In contrast, for MLM, representations initially acquire information about the context around the token, partially forgetting the token identity and producing a more generalized token representation. The token identity then gets recreated at the top MLM layers.
The translation of pronouns presents a special challenge to machine translation to this day, since it often requires context outside the current sentence. Recent work on models that have access to information across sentence boundaries has seen only moderate improvements in terms of automatic evaluation metrics such as BLEU. However, metrics that quantify the overall translation quality are ill-equipped to measure gains from additional context. We argue that a different kind of evaluation is needed to assess how well models translate inter-sentential phenomena such as pronouns. This paper therefore presents a test suite of contrastive translations focused specifically on the translation of pronouns. Furthermore, we perform experiments with several context-aware models. We show that, while gains in BLEU are moderate for those systems, they outperform baselines by a large margin in terms of accuracy on our contrastive test set. Our experiments also show the effectiveness of parameter tying for multi-encoder architectures.
Standard machine translation systems process sentences in isolation and hence ignore extra-sentential information, even though extended context can both prevent mistakes in ambiguous cases and improve translation coherence. We introduce a context-aware neural machine translation model designed in such way that the flow of information from the extended context to the translation model can be controlled and analyzed. We experiment with an English-Russian subtitles dataset, and observe that much of what is captured by our model deals with improving pronoun translation. We measure correspondences between induced attention distributions and coreference relations and observe that the model implicitly captures anaphora. It is consistent with gains for sentences where pronouns need to be gendered in translation. Beside improvements in anaphoric cases, the model also improves in overall BLEU, both over its context-agnostic version (+0.7) and over simple concatenation of the context and source sentences (+0.6).