Meng Zhang


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Prior Knowledge and Memory Enriched Transformer for Sign Language Translation
Tao Jin | Zhou Zhao | Meng Zhang | Xingshan Zeng
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2022

This paper attacks the challenging problem of sign language translation (SLT), which involves not only visual and textual understanding but also additional prior knowledge learning (i.e. performing style, syntax). However, the majority of existing methods with vanilla encoder-decoder structures fail to sufficiently explore all of them. Based on this concern, we propose a novel method called Prior knowledge and memory Enriched Transformer (PET) for SLT, which incorporates the auxiliary information into vanilla transformer. Concretely, we develop gated interactive multi-head attention which associates the multimodal representation and global signing style with adaptive gated functions. One Part-of-Speech (POS) sequence generator relies on the associated information to predict the global syntactic structure, which is thereafter leveraged to guide the sentence generation. Besides, considering that the visual-textual context information, and additional auxiliary knowledge of a word may appear in more than one video, we design a multi-stream memory structure to obtain higher-quality translations, which stores the detailed correspondence between a word and its various relevant information, leading to a more comprehensive understanding for each word. We conduct extensive empirical studies on RWTH-PHOENIX-Weather-2014 dataset with both signer-dependent and signer-independent conditions. The quantitative and qualitative experimental results comprehensively reveal the effectiveness of PET.

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Universal Conditional Masked Language Pre-training for Neural Machine Translation
Pengfei Li | Liangyou Li | Meng Zhang | Minghao Wu | Qun Liu
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Pre-trained sequence-to-sequence models have significantly improved Neural Machine Translation (NMT). Different from prior works where pre-trained models usually adopt an unidirectional decoder, this paper demonstrates that pre-training a sequence-to-sequence model but with a bidirectional decoder can produce notable performance gains for both Autoregressive and Non-autoregressive NMT. Specifically, we propose CeMAT, a conditional masked language model pre-trained on large-scale bilingual and monolingual corpora in many languages. We also introduce two simple but effective methods to enhance the CeMAT, aligned code-switching & masking and dynamic dual-masking. We conduct extensive experiments and show that our CeMAT can achieve significant performance improvement for all scenarios from low- to extremely high-resource languages, i.e., up to +14.4 BLEU on low resource and +7.9 BLEU improvements on average for Autoregressive NMT. For Non-autoregressive NMT, we demonstrate it can also produce consistent performance gains, i.e., up to +5.3 BLEU. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work to pre-train a unified model for fine-tuning on both NMT tasks. Code, data, and pre-trained models are available at

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Triangular Transfer: Freezing the Pivot for Triangular Machine Translation
Meng Zhang | Liangyou Li | Qun Liu
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

Triangular machine translation is a special case of low-resource machine translation where the language pair of interest has limited parallel data, but both languages have abundant parallel data with a pivot language. Naturally, the key to triangular machine translation is the successful exploitation of such auxiliary data. In this work, we propose a transfer-learning-based approach that utilizes all types of auxiliary data. As we train auxiliary source-pivot and pivot-target translation models, we initialize some parameters of the pivot side with a pre-trained language model and freeze them to encourage both translation models to work in the same pivot language space, so that they can be smoothly transferred to the source-target translation model. Experiments show that our approach can outperform previous ones.


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Neural Machine Translation with Heterogeneous Topic Knowledge Embeddings
Weixuan Wang | Wei Peng | Meng Zhang | Qun Liu
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Neural Machine Translation (NMT) has shown a strong ability to utilize local context to disambiguate the meaning of words. However, it remains a challenge for NMT to leverage broader context information like topics. In this paper, we propose heterogeneous ways of embedding topic information at the sentence level into an NMT model to improve translation performance. Specifically, the topic information can be incorporated as pre-encoder topic embedding, post-encoder topic embedding, and decoder topic embedding to increase the likelihood of selecting target words from the same topic of the source sentence. Experimental results show that NMT models with the proposed topic knowledge embedding outperform the baselines on the English -> German and English -> French translation tasks.

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Self-Supervised Quality Estimation for Machine Translation
Yuanhang Zheng | Zhixing Tan | Meng Zhang | Mieradilijiang Maimaiti | Huanbo Luan | Maosong Sun | Qun Liu | Yang Liu
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Quality estimation (QE) of machine translation (MT) aims to evaluate the quality of machine-translated sentences without references and is important in practical applications of MT. Training QE models require massive parallel data with hand-crafted quality annotations, which are time-consuming and labor-intensive to obtain. To address the issue of the absence of annotated training data, previous studies attempt to develop unsupervised QE methods. However, very few of them can be applied to both sentence- and word-level QE tasks, and they may suffer from noises in the synthetic data. To reduce the negative impact of noises, we propose a self-supervised method for both sentence- and word-level QE, which performs quality estimation by recovering the masked target words. Experimental results show that our method outperforms previous unsupervised methods on several QE tasks in different language pairs and domains.

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Uncertainty-Aware Balancing for Multilingual and Multi-Domain Neural Machine Translation Training
Minghao Wu | Yitong Li | Meng Zhang | Liangyou Li | Gholamreza Haffari | Qun Liu
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Learning multilingual and multi-domain translation model is challenging as the heterogeneous and imbalanced data make the model converge inconsistently over different corpora in real world. One common practice is to adjust the share of each corpus in the training, so that the learning process is balanced and low-resource cases can benefit from the high resource ones. However, automatic balancing methods usually depend on the intra- and inter-dataset characteristics, which is usually agnostic or requires human priors. In this work, we propose an approach, MultiUAT, that dynamically adjusts the training data usage based on the model’s uncertainty on a small set of trusted clean data for multi-corpus machine translation. We experiments with two classes of uncertainty measures on multilingual (16 languages with 4 settings) and multi-domain settings (4 for in-domain and 2 for out-of-domain on English-German translation) and demonstrate our approach MultiUAT substantially outperforms its baselines, including both static and dynamic strategies. We analyze the cross-domain transfer and show the deficiency of static and similarity based methods.

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NoahNMT at WMT 2021: Dual Transfer for Very Low Resource Supervised Machine Translation
Meng Zhang | Minghao Wu | Pengfei Li | Liangyou Li | Qun Liu
Proceedings of the Sixth Conference on Machine Translation

This paper describes the NoahNMT system submitted to the WMT 2021 shared task of Very Low Resource Supervised Machine Translation. The system is a standard Transformer model equipped with our recent technique of dual transfer. It also employs widely used techniques that are known to be helpful for neural machine translation, including iterative back-translation, selected finetuning, and ensemble. The final submission achieves the top BLEU for three translation directions.

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Two Parents, One Child: Dual Transfer for Low-Resource Neural Machine Translation
Meng Zhang | Liangyou Li | Qun Liu
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL-IJCNLP 2021

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Multi-Head Highly Parallelized LSTM Decoder for Neural Machine Translation
Hongfei Xu | Qiuhui Liu | Josef van Genabith | Deyi Xiong | Meng Zhang
Proceedings of the 59th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 11th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Volume 1: Long Papers)

One of the reasons Transformer translation models are popular is that self-attention networks for context modelling can be easily parallelized at sequence level. However, the computational complexity of a self-attention network is O(n2), increasing quadratically with sequence length. By contrast, the complexity of LSTM-based approaches is only O(n). In practice, however, LSTMs are much slower to train than self-attention networks as they cannot be parallelized at sequence level: to model context, the current LSTM state relies on the full LSTM computation of the preceding state. This has to be computed n times for a sequence of length n. The linear transformations involved in the LSTM gate and state computations are the major cost factors in this. To enable sequence-level parallelization of LSTMs, we approximate full LSTM context modelling by computing hidden states and gates with the current input and a simple bag-of-words representation of the preceding tokens context. This allows us to compute each input step efficiently in parallel, avoiding the formerly costly sequential linear transformations. We then connect the outputs of each parallel step with computationally cheap element-wise computations. We call this the Highly Parallelized LSTM. To further constrain the number of LSTM parameters, we compute several small HPLSTMs in parallel like multi-head attention in the Transformer. The experiments show that our MHPLSTM decoder achieves significant BLEU improvements, while being even slightly faster than the self-attention network in training, and much faster than the standard LSTM.


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Word-level Textual Adversarial Attacking as Combinatorial Optimization
Yuan Zang | Fanchao Qi | Chenghao Yang | Zhiyuan Liu | Meng Zhang | Qun Liu | Maosong Sun
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Adversarial attacks are carried out to reveal the vulnerability of deep neural networks. Textual adversarial attacking is challenging because text is discrete and a small perturbation can bring significant change to the original input. Word-level attacking, which can be regarded as a combinatorial optimization problem, is a well-studied class of textual attack methods. However, existing word-level attack models are far from perfect, largely because unsuitable search space reduction methods and inefficient optimization algorithms are employed. In this paper, we propose a novel attack model, which incorporates the sememe-based word substitution method and particle swarm optimization-based search algorithm to solve the two problems separately. We conduct exhaustive experiments to evaluate our attack model by attacking BiLSTM and BERT on three benchmark datasets. Experimental results demonstrate that our model consistently achieves much higher attack success rates and crafts more high-quality adversarial examples as compared to baseline methods. Also, further experiments show our model has higher transferability and can bring more robustness enhancement to victim models by adversarial training. All the code and data of this paper can be obtained on


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Interpretable Relevant Emotion Ranking with Event-Driven Attention
Yang Yang | Deyu Zhou | Yulan He | Meng Zhang
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

Multiple emotions with different intensities are often evoked by events described in documents. Oftentimes, such event information is hidden and needs to be discovered from texts. Unveiling the hidden event information can help to understand how the emotions are evoked and provide explainable results. However, existing studies often ignore the latent event information. In this paper, we proposed a novel interpretable relevant emotion ranking model with the event information incorporated into a deep learning architecture using the event-driven attentions. Moreover, corpus-level event embeddings and document-level event distributions are introduced respectively to consider the global events in corpus and the document-specific events simultaneously. Experimental results on three real-world corpora show that the proposed approach performs remarkably better than the state-of-the-art emotion detection approaches and multi-label approaches. Moreover, interpretable results can be obtained to shed light on the events which trigger certain emotions.


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The Effect of Adding Authorship Knowledge in Automated Text Scoring
Meng Zhang | Xie Chen | Ronan Cummins | Øistein E. Andersen | Ted Briscoe
Proceedings of the Thirteenth Workshop on Innovative Use of NLP for Building Educational Applications

Some language exams have multiple writing tasks. When a learner writes multiple texts in a language exam, it is not surprising that the quality of these texts tends to be similar, and the existing automated text scoring (ATS) systems do not explicitly model this similarity. In this paper, we suggest that it could be useful to include the other texts written by this learner in the same exam as extra references in an ATS system. We propose various approaches of fusing information from multiple tasks and pass this authorship knowledge into our ATS model on six different datasets. We show that this can positively affect the model performance at a global level.

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Neural Network Methods for Natural Language Processing by Yoav Goldberg
Yang Liu | Meng Zhang
Computational Linguistics, Volume 44, Issue 1 - April 2018


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Adversarial Training for Unsupervised Bilingual Lexicon Induction
Meng Zhang | Yang Liu | Huanbo Luan | Maosong Sun
Proceedings of the 55th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Word embeddings are well known to capture linguistic regularities of the language on which they are trained. Researchers also observe that these regularities can transfer across languages. However, previous endeavors to connect separate monolingual word embeddings typically require cross-lingual signals as supervision, either in the form of parallel corpus or seed lexicon. In this work, we show that such cross-lingual connection can actually be established without any form of supervision. We achieve this end by formulating the problem as a natural adversarial game, and investigating techniques that are crucial to successful training. We carry out evaluation on the unsupervised bilingual lexicon induction task. Even though this task appears intrinsically cross-lingual, we are able to demonstrate encouraging performance without any cross-lingual clues.

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Earth Mover’s Distance Minimization for Unsupervised Bilingual Lexicon Induction
Meng Zhang | Yang Liu | Huanbo Luan | Maosong Sun
Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Cross-lingual natural language processing hinges on the premise that there exists invariance across languages. At the word level, researchers have identified such invariance in the word embedding semantic spaces of different languages. However, in order to connect the separate spaces, cross-lingual supervision encoded in parallel data is typically required. In this paper, we attempt to establish the cross-lingual connection without relying on any cross-lingual supervision. By viewing word embedding spaces as distributions, we propose to minimize their earth mover’s distance, a measure of divergence between distributions. We demonstrate the success on the unsupervised bilingual lexicon induction task. In addition, we reveal an interesting finding that the earth mover’s distance shows potential as a measure of language difference.


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Constrained Multi-Task Learning for Automated Essay Scoring
Ronan Cummins | Meng Zhang | Ted Briscoe
Proceedings of the 54th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

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Inducing Bilingual Lexica From Non-Parallel Data With Earth Mover’s Distance Regularization
Meng Zhang | Yang Liu | Huanbo Luan | Yiqun Liu | Maosong Sun
Proceedings of COLING 2016, the 26th International Conference on Computational Linguistics: Technical Papers

Being able to induce word translations from non-parallel data is often a prerequisite for cross-lingual processing in resource-scarce languages and domains. Previous endeavors typically simplify this task by imposing the one-to-one translation assumption, which is too strong to hold for natural languages. We remove this constraint by introducing the Earth Mover’s Distance into the training of bilingual word embeddings. In this way, we take advantage of its capability to handle multiple alternative word translations in a natural form of regularization. Our approach shows significant and consistent improvements across four language pairs. We also demonstrate that our approach is particularly preferable in resource-scarce settings as it only requires a minimal seed lexicon.


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Refining Grammars for Parsing with Hierarchical Semantic Knowledge
Xiaojun Lin | Yang Fan | Meng Zhang | Xihong Wu | Huisheng Chi
Proceedings of the 2009 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing