Noah Constant


pdf bib
Sentence-T5: Scalable Sentence Encoders from Pre-trained Text-to-Text Models
Jianmo Ni | Gustavo Hernandez Abrego | Noah Constant | Ji Ma | Keith Hall | Daniel Cer | Yinfei Yang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2022

We provide the first exploration of sentence embeddings from text-to-text transformers (T5) including the effects of scaling up sentence encoders to 11B parameters. Sentence embeddings are broadly useful for language processing tasks. While T5 achieves impressive performance on language tasks, it is unclear how to produce sentence embeddings from encoder-decoder models. We investigate three methods to construct Sentence-T5 (ST5) models: two utilize only the T5 encoder and one using the full T5 encoder-decoder. We establish a new sentence representation transfer benchmark, SentGLUE, which extends the SentEval toolkit to nine tasks from the GLUE benchmark. Our encoder-only models outperform the previous best models on both SentEval and SentGLUE transfer tasks, including semantic textual similarity (STS). Scaling up ST5 from millions to billions of parameters shown to consistently improve performance. Finally, our encoder-decoder method achieves a new state-of-the-art on STS when using sentence embeddings.

pdf bib
ByT5: Towards a Token-Free Future with Pre-trained Byte-to-Byte Models
Linting Xue | Aditya Barua | Noah Constant | Rami Al-Rfou | Sharan Narang | Mihir Kale | Adam Roberts | Colin Raffel
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 10

Most widely used pre-trained language models operate on sequences of tokens corresponding to word or subword units. By comparison, token-free models that operate directly on raw text (bytes or characters) have many benefits: They can process text in any language out of the box, they are more robust to noise, and they minimize technical debt by removing complex and error-prone text preprocessing pipelines. Because byte or character sequences are longer than token sequences, past work on token-free models has often introduced new model architectures designed to amortize the cost of operating directly on raw text. In this paper, we show that a standard Transformer architecture can be used with minimal modifications to process byte sequences. We characterize the trade-offs in terms of parameter count, training FLOPs, and inference speed, and show that byte-level models are competitive with their token-level counterparts. We also demonstrate that byte-level models are significantly more robust to noise and perform better on tasks that are sensitive to spelling and pronunciation. As part of our contribution, we release a new set of pre-trained byte-level Transformer models based on the T5 architecture, as well as all code and data used in our experiments.1

pdf bib
SPoT: Better Frozen Model Adaptation through Soft Prompt Transfer
Tu Vu | Brian Lester | Noah Constant | Rami Al-Rfou’ | Daniel Cer
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

There has been growing interest in parameter-efficient methods to apply pre-trained language models to downstream tasks. Building on the Prompt Tuning approach of Lester et al. (2021), which learns task-specific soft prompts to condition a frozen pre-trained model to perform different tasks, we propose a novel prompt-based transfer learning approach called SPoT: Soft Prompt Transfer. SPoT first learns a prompt on one or more source tasks and then uses it to initialize the prompt for a target task. We show that SPoT significantly boosts the performance of Prompt Tuning across many tasks. More remarkably, across all model sizes, SPoT matches or outperforms standard Model Tuning (which fine-tunes all model parameters) on the SuperGLUE benchmark, while using up to 27,000× fewer task-specific parameters. To understand where SPoT is most effective, we conduct a large-scale study on task transferability with 26 NLP tasks in 160 combinations, and demonstrate that many tasks can benefit each other via prompt transfer. Finally, we propose an efficient retrieval approach that interprets task prompts as task embeddings to identify similar tasks and predict the most transferable source tasks for a novel target task.


pdf bib
The Power of Scale for Parameter-Efficient Prompt Tuning
Brian Lester | Rami Al-Rfou | Noah Constant
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

In this work, we explore “prompt tuning,” a simple yet effective mechanism for learning “soft prompts” to condition frozen language models to perform specific downstream tasks. Unlike the discrete text prompts used by GPT-3, soft prompts are learned through backpropagation and can be tuned to incorporate signals from any number of labeled examples. Our end-to-end learned approach outperforms GPT-3’s few-shot learning by a large margin. More remarkably, through ablations on model size using T5, we show that prompt tuning becomes more competitive with scale: as models exceed billions of parameters, our method “closes the gap” and matches the strong performance of model tuning (where all model weights are tuned). This finding is especially relevant because large models are costly to share and serve and the ability to reuse one frozen model for multiple downstream tasks can ease this burden. Our method can be seen as a simplification of the recently proposed “prefix tuning” of Li and Liang (2021) and we provide a comparison to this and other similar approaches. Finally, we show that conditioning a frozen model with soft prompts confers benefits in robustness to domain transfer and enables efficient “prompt ensembling.” We release code and model checkpoints to reproduce our experiments.

pdf bib
XTREME-R: Towards More Challenging and Nuanced Multilingual Evaluation
Sebastian Ruder | Noah Constant | Jan Botha | Aditya Siddhant | Orhan Firat | Jinlan Fu | Pengfei Liu | Junjie Hu | Dan Garrette | Graham Neubig | Melvin Johnson
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Machine learning has brought striking advances in multilingual natural language processing capabilities over the past year. For example, the latest techniques have improved the state-of-the-art performance on the XTREME multilingual benchmark by more than 13 points. While a sizeable gap to human-level performance remains, improvements have been easier to achieve in some tasks than in others. This paper analyzes the current state of cross-lingual transfer learning and summarizes some lessons learned. In order to catalyze meaningful progress, we extend XTREME to XTREME-R, which consists of an improved set of ten natural language understanding tasks, including challenging language-agnostic retrieval tasks, and covers 50 typologically diverse languages. In addition, we provide a massively multilingual diagnostic suite and fine-grained multi-dataset evaluation capabilities through an interactive public leaderboard to gain a better understanding of such models.

pdf bib
Towards Zero-Shot Multilingual Synthetic Question and Answer Generation for Cross-Lingual Reading Comprehension
Siamak Shakeri | Noah Constant | Mihir Kale | Linting Xue
Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Natural Language Generation

We propose a simple method to generate multilingual question and answer pairs on a large scale through the use of a single generative model. These synthetic samples can be used to improve the zero-shot performance of multilingual QA models on target languages. Our proposed multi-task training of the generative model only requires labeled training samples in English, thus removing the need for such samples in the target languages, making it applicable to far more languages than those with labeled data. Human evaluations indicate the majority of such samples are grammatically correct and sensible. Experimental results show our proposed approach can achieve large gains on the XQuAD dataset, reducing the gap between zero-shot and supervised performance of smaller QA models on various languages.

pdf bib
TextSETTR: Few-Shot Text Style Extraction and Tunable Targeted Restyling
Parker Riley | Noah Constant | Mandy Guo | Girish Kumar | David Uthus | Zarana Parekh
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)

We present a novel approach to the problem of text style transfer. Unlike previous approaches requiring style-labeled training data, our method makes use of readily-available unlabeled text by relying on the implicit connection in style between adjacent sentences, and uses labeled data only at inference time. We adapt T5 (Raffel et al., 2020), a strong pretrained text-to-text model, to extract a style vector from text and use it to condition the decoder to perform style transfer. As our label-free training results in a style vector space encoding many facets of style, we recast transfers as “targeted restyling” vector operations that adjust specific attributes of the input while preserving others. We demonstrate that training on unlabeled Amazon reviews data results in a model that is competitive on sentiment transfer, even compared to models trained fully on labeled data. Furthermore, applying our novel method to a diverse corpus of unlabeled web text results in a single model capable of transferring along multiple dimensions of style (dialect, emotiveness, formality, politeness, sentiment) despite no additional training and using only a handful of exemplars at inference time.

pdf bib
nmT5 - Is parallel data still relevant for pre-training massively multilingual language models?
Mihir Kale | Aditya Siddhant | Rami Al-Rfou | Linting Xue | Noah Constant | Melvin Johnson
Proceedings of the 59th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 11th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Volume 2: Short Papers)

Recently, mT5 - a massively multilingual version of T5 - leveraged a unified text-to-text format to attain state-of-the-art results on a wide variety of multilingual NLP tasks. In this paper, we investigate the impact of incorporating parallel data into mT5 pre-training. We find that multi-tasking language modeling with objectives such as machine translation during pre-training is a straightforward way to improve performance on downstream multilingual and cross-lingual tasks. However, the gains start to diminish as the model capacity increases, suggesting that parallel data might not be as essential for larger models. At the same time, even at larger model sizes, we find that pre-training with parallel data still provides benefits in the limited labelled data regime

pdf bib
mT5: A Massively Multilingual Pre-trained Text-to-Text Transformer
Linting Xue | Noah Constant | Adam Roberts | Mihir Kale | Rami Al-Rfou | Aditya Siddhant | Aditya Barua | Colin Raffel
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

The recent “Text-to-Text Transfer Transformer” (T5) leveraged a unified text-to-text format and scale to attain state-of-the-art results on a wide variety of English-language NLP tasks. In this paper, we introduce mT5, a multilingual variant of T5 that was pre-trained on a new Common Crawl-based dataset covering 101 languages. We detail the design and modified training of mT5 and demonstrate its state-of-the-art performance on many multilingual benchmarks. We also describe a simple technique to prevent “accidental translation” in the zero-shot setting, where a generative model chooses to (partially) translate its prediction into the wrong language. All of the code and model checkpoints used in this work are publicly available.

pdf bib
Towards Continual Learning for Multilingual Machine Translation via Vocabulary Substitution
Xavier Garcia | Noah Constant | Ankur Parikh | Orhan Firat
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

We propose a straightforward vocabulary adaptation scheme to extend the language capacity of multilingual machine translation models, paving the way towards efficient continual learning for multilingual machine translation. Our approach is suitable for large-scale datasets, applies to distant languages with unseen scripts, incurs only minor degradation on the translation performance for the original language pairs and provides competitive performance even in the case where we only possess monolingual data for the new languages.

pdf bib
MultiReQA: A Cross-Domain Evaluation forRetrieval Question Answering Models
Mandy Guo | Yinfei Yang | Daniel Cer | Qinlan Shen | Noah Constant
Proceedings of the Second Workshop on Domain Adaptation for NLP

Retrieval question answering (ReQA) is the task of retrieving a sentence-level answer to a question from an open corpus (Ahmad et al.,2019).This dataset paper presents MultiReQA, a new multi-domain ReQA evaluation suite composed of eight retrieval QA tasks drawn from publicly available QA datasets. We explore systematic retrieval based evaluation and transfer learning across domains over these datasets using a number of strong base-lines including two supervised neural models, based on fine-tuning BERT and USE-QA models respectively, as well as a surprisingly effective information retrieval baseline, BM25. Five of these tasks contain both training and test data, while three contain test data only. Performing cross training on the five tasks with training data shows that while a general model covering all domains is achievable, the best performance is often obtained by training exclusively on in-domain data.


pdf bib
Multilingual Universal Sentence Encoder for Semantic Retrieval
Yinfei Yang | Daniel Cer | Amin Ahmad | Mandy Guo | Jax Law | Noah Constant | Gustavo Hernandez Abrego | Steve Yuan | Chris Tar | Yun-hsuan Sung | Brian Strope | Ray Kurzweil
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics: System Demonstrations

We present easy-to-use retrieval focused multilingual sentence embedding models, made available on TensorFlow Hub. The models embed text from 16 languages into a shared semantic space using a multi-task trained dual-encoder that learns tied cross-lingual representations via translation bridge tasks (Chidambaram et al., 2018). The models achieve a new state-of-the-art in performance on monolingual and cross-lingual semantic retrieval (SR). Competitive performance is obtained on the related tasks of translation pair bitext retrieval (BR) and retrieval question answering (ReQA). On transfer learning tasks, our multilingual embeddings approach, and in some cases exceed, the performance of English only sentence embeddings.

pdf bib
LAReQA: Language-Agnostic Answer Retrieval from a Multilingual Pool
Uma Roy | Noah Constant | Rami Al-Rfou | Aditya Barua | Aaron Phillips | Yinfei Yang
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

We present LAReQA, a challenging new benchmark for language-agnostic answer retrieval from a multilingual candidate pool. Unlike previous cross-lingual tasks, LAReQA tests for “strong” cross-lingual alignment, requiring semantically related cross-language pairs to be closer in representation space than unrelated same-language pairs. This level of alignment is important for the practical task of cross-lingual information retrieval. Building on multilingual BERT (mBERT), we study different strategies for achieving strong alignment. We find that augmenting training data via machine translation is effective, and improves significantly over using mBERT out-of-the-box. Interestingly, model performance on zero-shot variants of our task that only target “weak” alignment is not predictive of performance on LAReQA. This finding underscores our claim that language-agnostic retrieval is a substantively new kind of cross-lingual evaluation, and suggests that measuring both weak and strong alignment will be important for improving cross-lingual systems going forward. We release our dataset and evaluation code at


pdf bib
ReQA: An Evaluation for End-to-End Answer Retrieval Models
Amin Ahmad | Noah Constant | Yinfei Yang | Daniel Cer
Proceedings of the 2nd Workshop on Machine Reading for Question Answering

Popular QA benchmarks like SQuAD have driven progress on the task of identifying answer spans within a specific passage, with models now surpassing human performance. However, retrieving relevant answers from a huge corpus of documents is still a challenging problem, and places different requirements on the model architecture. There is growing interest in developing scalable answer retrieval models trained end-to-end, bypassing the typical document retrieval step. In this paper, we introduce Retrieval Question-Answering (ReQA), a benchmark for evaluating large-scale sentence-level answer retrieval models. We establish baselines using both neural encoding models as well as classical information retrieval techniques. We release our evaluation code to encourage further work on this challenging task.


pdf bib
Learning Semantic Textual Similarity from Conversations
Yinfei Yang | Steve Yuan | Daniel Cer | Sheng-yi Kong | Noah Constant | Petr Pilar | Heming Ge | Yun-Hsuan Sung | Brian Strope | Ray Kurzweil
Proceedings of the Third Workshop on Representation Learning for NLP

We present a novel approach to learn representations for sentence-level semantic similarity using conversational data. Our method trains an unsupervised model to predict conversational responses. The resulting sentence embeddings perform well on the Semantic Textual Similarity (STS) Benchmark and SemEval 2017’s Community Question Answering (CQA) question similarity subtask. Performance is further improved by introducing multitask training, combining conversational response prediction and natural language inference. Extensive experiments show the proposed model achieves the best performance among all neural models on the STS Benchmark and is competitive with the state-of-the-art feature engineered and mixed systems for both tasks.

pdf bib
Effective Parallel Corpus Mining using Bilingual Sentence Embeddings
Mandy Guo | Qinlan Shen | Yinfei Yang | Heming Ge | Daniel Cer | Gustavo Hernandez Abrego | Keith Stevens | Noah Constant | Yun-Hsuan Sung | Brian Strope | Ray Kurzweil
Proceedings of the Third Conference on Machine Translation: Research Papers

This paper presents an effective approach for parallel corpus mining using bilingual sentence embeddings. Our embedding models are trained to produce similar representations exclusively for bilingual sentence pairs that are translations of each other. This is achieved using a novel training method that introduces hard negatives consisting of sentences that are not translations but have some degree of semantic similarity. The quality of the resulting embeddings are evaluated on parallel corpus reconstruction and by assessing machine translation systems trained on gold vs. mined sentence pairs. We find that the sentence embeddings can be used to reconstruct the United Nations Parallel Corpus (Ziemski et al., 2016) at the sentence-level with a precision of 48.9% for en-fr and 54.9% for en-es. When adapted to document-level matching, we achieve a parallel document matching accuracy that is comparable to the significantly more computationally intensive approach of Uszkoreit et al. (2010). Using reconstructed parallel data, we are able to train NMT models that perform nearly as well as models trained on the original data (within 1-2 BLEU).

pdf bib
Universal Sentence Encoder for English
Daniel Cer | Yinfei Yang | Sheng-yi Kong | Nan Hua | Nicole Limtiaco | Rhomni St. John | Noah Constant | Mario Guajardo-Cespedes | Steve Yuan | Chris Tar | Brian Strope | Ray Kurzweil
Proceedings of the 2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing: System Demonstrations

We present easy-to-use TensorFlow Hub sentence embedding models having good task transfer performance. Model variants allow for trade-offs between accuracy and compute resources. We report the relationship between model complexity, resources, and transfer performance. Comparisons are made with baselines without transfer learning and to baselines that incorporate word-level transfer. Transfer learning using sentence-level embeddings is shown to outperform models without transfer learning and often those that use only word-level transfer. We show good transfer task performance with minimal training data and obtain encouraging results on word embedding association tests (WEAT) of model bias.