Eran Yahav


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On the Expressivity Role of LayerNorm in Transformers’ Attention
Shaked Brody | Uri Alon | Eran Yahav
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2023

Layer Normalization (LayerNorm) is an inherent component in all Transformer-based models. In this paper, we show that LayerNorm is crucial to the expressivity of the multi-head attention layer that follows it. This is in contrast to the common belief that LayerNorm’s only role is to normalize the activations during the forward pass, and their gradients during the backward pass. We consider a geometric interpretation of LayerNorm and show that it consists of two components: (a) projection of the input vectors to a d-1 space that is orthogonal to the [1,1,...,1] vector, and(b) scaling of all vectors to the same norm of d. We show that each of these components is important for the attention layer that follows it in Transformers:(a) projection allows the attention mechanism to create an attention query that attends to all keys equally, offloading the need to learn this operation in the attention; and(b) scaling allows each key to potentially receive the highest attention, and prevents keys from being “un-select-able”.We show empirically that Transformers do indeed benefit from these properties of LayeNorm in general language modeling and even in computing simple functions such as “majority”. Our code is available at .


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A Formal Hierarchy of RNN Architectures
William Merrill | Gail Weiss | Yoav Goldberg | Roy Schwartz | Noah A. Smith | Eran Yahav
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

We develop a formal hierarchy of the expressive capacity of RNN architectures. The hierarchy is based on two formal properties: space complexity, which measures the RNN’s memory, and rational recurrence, defined as whether the recurrent update can be described by a weighted finite-state machine. We place several RNN variants within this hierarchy. For example, we prove the LSTM is not rational, which formally separates it from the related QRNN (Bradbury et al., 2016). We also show how these models’ expressive capacity is expanded by stacking multiple layers or composing them with different pooling functions. Our results build on the theory of “saturated” RNNs (Merrill, 2019). While formally extending these findings to unsaturated RNNs is left to future work, we hypothesize that the practical learnable capacity of unsaturated RNNs obeys a similar hierarchy. We provide empirical results to support this conjecture. Experimental findings from training unsaturated networks on formal languages support this conjecture.


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On the Practical Computational Power of Finite Precision RNNs for Language Recognition
Gail Weiss | Yoav Goldberg | Eran Yahav
Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

While Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs) are famously known to be Turing complete, this relies on infinite precision in the states and unbounded computation time. We consider the case of RNNs with finite precision whose computation time is linear in the input length. Under these limitations, we show that different RNN variants have different computational power. In particular, we show that the LSTM and the Elman-RNN with ReLU activation are strictly stronger than the RNN with a squashing activation and the GRU. This is achieved because LSTMs and ReLU-RNNs can easily implement counting behavior. We show empirically that the LSTM does indeed learn to effectively use the counting mechanism.