Mengjiao Zhang


pdf bib
Byte-based Multilingual NMT for Endangered Languages
Mengjiao Zhang | Jia Xu
Proceedings of the 29th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

Multilingual neural machine translation (MNMT) jointly trains a shared model for translation with multiple language pairs. However, traditional subword-based MNMT approaches suffer from out-of-vocabulary (OOV) issues and representation bottleneck, which often degrades translation performance on certain language pairs. While byte tokenization is used to tackle the OOV problems in neural machine translation (NMT), until now its capability has not been validated in MNMT. Additionally, existing work has not studied how byte encoding can benefit endangered language translation to our knowledge. We propose a byte-based multilingual neural machine translation system (BMNMT) to alleviate the representation bottleneck and improve translation performance in endangered languages. Furthermore, we design a random byte mapping method with an ensemble prediction to enhance our model robustness. Experimental results show that our BMNMT consistently and significantly outperforms subword/word-based baselines on twelve language pairs up to +18.5 BLEU points, an 840% relative improvement.