Rahma Chaabouni


2021

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Can Transformers Jump Around Right in Natural Language? Assessing Performance Transfer from SCAN
Rahma Chaabouni | Roberto Dessì | Eugene Kharitonov
Proceedings of the Fourth BlackboxNLP Workshop on Analyzing and Interpreting Neural Networks for NLP

Despite their failure to solve the compositional SCAN dataset, seq2seq architectures still achieve astonishing success on more practical tasks. This observation pushes us to question the usefulness of SCAN-style compositional generalization in realistic NLP tasks. In this work, we study the benefit that such compositionality brings about to several machine translation tasks. We present several focused modifications of Transformer that greatly improve generalization capabilities on SCAN and select one that remains on par with a vanilla Transformer on a standard machine translation (MT) task. Next, we study its performance in low-resource settings and on a newly introduced distribution-shifted English-French translation task. Overall, we find that improvements of a SCAN-capable model do not directly transfer to the resource-rich MT setup. In contrast, in the low-resource setup, general modifications lead to an improvement of up to 13.1% BLEU score w.r.t. a vanilla Transformer. Similarly, an improvement of 14% in an accuracy-based metric is achieved in the introduced compositional English-French translation task. This provides experimental evidence that the compositional generalization assessed in SCAN is particularly useful in resource-starved and domain-shifted scenarios.

2020

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Compositionality and Generalization In Emergent Languages
Rahma Chaabouni | Eugene Kharitonov | Diane Bouchacourt | Emmanuel Dupoux | Marco Baroni
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Natural language allows us to refer to novel composite concepts by combining expressions denoting their parts according to systematic rules, a property known as compositionality. In this paper, we study whether the language emerging in deep multi-agent simulations possesses a similar ability to refer to novel primitive combinations, and whether it accomplishes this feat by strategies akin to human-language compositionality. Equipped with new ways to measure compositionality in emergent languages inspired by disentanglement in representation learning, we establish three main results: First, given sufficiently large input spaces, the emergent language will naturally develop the ability to refer to novel composite concepts. Second, there is no correlation between the degree of compositionality of an emergent language and its ability to generalize. Third, while compositionality is not necessary for generalization, it provides an advantage in terms of language transmission: The more compositional a language is, the more easily it will be picked up by new learners, even when the latter differ in architecture from the original agents. We conclude that compositionality does not arise from simple generalization pressure, but if an emergent language does chance upon it, it will be more likely to survive and thrive.

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LazImpa”: Lazy and Impatient neural agents learn to communicate efficiently
Mathieu Rita | Rahma Chaabouni | Emmanuel Dupoux
Proceedings of the 24th Conference on Computational Natural Language Learning

Previous work has shown that artificial neural agents naturally develop surprisingly non-efficient codes. This is illustrated by the fact that in a referential game involving a speaker and a listener neural networks optimizing accurate transmission over a discrete channel, the emergent messages fail to achieve an optimal length. Furthermore, frequent messages tend to be longer than infrequent ones, a pattern contrary to the Zipf Law of Abbreviation (ZLA) observed in all natural languages. Here, we show that near-optimal and ZLA-compatible messages can emerge, but only if both the speaker and the listener are modified. We hence introduce a new communication system, “LazImpa”, where the speaker is made increasingly lazy, i.e., avoids long messages, and the listener impatient, i.e., seeks to guess the intended content as soon as possible.

2019

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EGG: a toolkit for research on Emergence of lanGuage in Games
Eugene Kharitonov | Rahma Chaabouni | Diane Bouchacourt | Marco Baroni
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP): System Demonstrations

There is renewed interest in simulating language emergence among deep neural agents that communicate to jointly solve a task, spurred by the practical aim to develop language-enabled interactive AIs, as well as by theoretical questions about the evolution of human language. However, optimizing deep architectures connected by a discrete communication channel (such as that in which language emerges) is technically challenging. We introduce EGG, a toolkit that greatly simplifies the implementation of emergent-language communication games. EGG’s modular design provides a set of building blocks that the user can combine to create new games, easily navigating the optimization and architecture space. We hope that the tool will lower the technical barrier, and encourage researchers from various backgrounds to do original work in this exciting area.

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Word-order Biases in Deep-agent Emergent Communication
Rahma Chaabouni | Eugene Kharitonov | Alessandro Lazaric | Emmanuel Dupoux | Marco Baroni
Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Sequence-processing neural networks led to remarkable progress on many NLP tasks. As a consequence, there has been increasing interest in understanding to what extent they process language as humans do. We aim here to uncover which biases such models display with respect to “natural” word-order constraints. We train models to communicate about paths in a simple gridworld, using miniature languages that reflect or violate various natural language trends, such as the tendency to avoid redundancy or to minimize long-distance dependencies. We study how the controlled characteristics of our miniature languages affect individual learning and their stability across multiple network generations. The results draw a mixed picture. On the one hand, neural networks show a strong tendency to avoid long-distance dependencies. On the other hand, there is no clear preference for the efficient, non-redundant encoding of information that is widely attested in natural language. We thus suggest inoculating a notion of “effort” into neural networks, as a possible way to make their linguistic behavior more human-like.