Joyce Zheng


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Dynamic Position Encoding for Transformers
Joyce Zheng | Mehdi Rezagholizadeh | Peyman Passban
Proceedings of the 29th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

Recurrent models have been dominating the field of neural machine translation (NMT) for the past few years. Transformers have radically changed it by proposing a novel architecture that relies on a feed-forward backbone and self-attention mechanism. Although Transformers are powerful, they could fail to properly encode sequential/positional information due to their non-recurrent nature. To solve this problem, position embeddings are defined exclusively for each time step to enrich word information. However, such embeddings are fixed after training regardless of the task and word ordering system of the source and target languages. In this paper, we address this shortcoming by proposing a novel architecture with new position embeddings that take the order of the target words into consideration. Instead of using predefined position embeddings, our solution generates new embeddings to refine each word’s position information. Since we do not dictate the position of the source tokens and we learn them in an end-to-end fashion, we refer to our method as dynamic position encoding (DPE). We evaluated the impact of our model on multiple datasets to translate from English to German, French, and Italian and observed meaningful improvements in comparison to the original Transformer.