Representation learning for text via pretraining a language model on a large corpus has become a standard starting point for building NLP systems. This approach stands in contrast to autoencoders, also trained on raw text, but with the objective of learning to encode each input as a vector that allows full reconstruction. Autoencoders are attractive because of their latent space structure and generative properties. We therefore explore the construction of a sentence-level autoencoder from a pretrained, frozen transformer language model. We adapt the masked language modeling objective as a generative, denoising one, while only training a sentence bottleneck and a single-layer modified transformer decoder. We demonstrate that the sentence representations discovered by our model achieve better quality than previous methods that extract representations from pretrained transformers on text similarity tasks, style transfer (an example of controlled generation), and single-sentence classification tasks in the GLUE benchmark, while using fewer parameters than large pretrained models.
Plug and Play Autoencoders for Conditional Text Generation
Florian Mai | Nikolaos Pappas | Ivan Montero | Noah A. Smith | James Henderson
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)
Text autoencoders are commonly used for conditional generation tasks such as style transfer. We propose methods which are plug and play, where any pretrained autoencoder can be used, and only require learning a mapping within the autoencoder’s embedding space, training embedding-to-embedding (Emb2Emb). This reduces the need for labeled training data for the task and makes the training procedure more efficient. Crucial to the success of this method is a loss term for keeping the mapped embedding on the manifold of the autoencoder and a mapping which is trained to navigate the manifold by learning offset vectors. Evaluations on style transfer tasks both with and without sequence-to-sequence supervision show that our method performs better than or comparable to strong baselines while being up to four times faster.