Rami Al-Rfou’

Also published as: Rami Al-Rfou


2022

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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

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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.

2021

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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.

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Knowledge Graph Based Synthetic Corpus Generation for Knowledge-Enhanced Language Model Pre-training
Oshin Agarwal | Heming Ge | Siamak Shakeri | Rami Al-Rfou
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Prior work on Data-To-Text Generation, the task of converting knowledge graph (KG) triples into natural text, focused on domain-specific benchmark datasets. In this paper, however, we verbalize the entire English Wikidata KG, and discuss the unique challenges associated with a broad, open-domain, large-scale verbalization. We further show that verbalizing a comprehensive, encyclopedic KG like Wikidata can be used to integrate structured KGs and natural language corpora. In contrast to the many architectures that have been developed to integrate these two sources, our approach converts the KG into natural text, allowing it to be seamlessly integrated into existing language models. It carries the further advantages of improved factual accuracy and reduced toxicity in the resulting language model. We evaluate this approach by augmenting the retrieval corpus in a retrieval language model and showing significant improvements on the knowledge intensive tasks of open domain QA and the LAMA knowledge probe.

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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.

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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

2020

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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 https://github.com/google-research-datasets/lareqa.

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Wiki-40B: Multilingual Language Model Dataset
Mandy Guo | Zihang Dai | Denny Vrandečić | Rami Al-Rfou
Proceedings of the 12th Language Resources and Evaluation Conference

We propose a new multilingual language model benchmark that is composed of 40+ languages spanning several scripts and linguistic families. With around 40 billion characters, we hope this new resource will accelerate the research of multilingual modeling. We train monolingual causal language models using a state-of-the-art model (Transformer-XL) establishing baselines for many languages. We also introduce the task of multilingual causal language modeling where we train our model on the combined text of 40+ languages from Wikipedia with different vocabulary sizes and evaluate on the languages individually. We released the cleaned-up text of 40+ Wikipedia language editions, the corresponding trained monolingual language models, and several multilingual language models with different fixed vocabulary sizes.

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Machine Translation Aided Bilingual Data-to-Text Generation and Semantic Parsing
Oshin Agarwal | Mihir Kale | Heming Ge | Siamak Shakeri | Rami Al-Rfou
Proceedings of the 3rd International Workshop on Natural Language Generation from the Semantic Web (WebNLG+)

We present a system for bilingual Data-ToText Generation and Semantic Parsing. We use a text-to-text generator to learn a single model that works for both languages on each of the tasks. The model is aided by machine translation during both pre-training and fine-tuning. We evaluate the system on WebNLG 2020 data 1 , which consists of RDF triples in English and natural language sentences in English and Russian for both the tasks. We achieve considerable gains over monolingual models, especially on unseen relations and Russian.

2013

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Polyglot: Distributed Word Representations for Multilingual NLP
Rami Al-Rfou’ | Bryan Perozzi | Steven Skiena
Proceedings of the Seventeenth Conference on Computational Natural Language Learning

2012

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SpeedRead: A Fast Named Entity Recognition Pipeline
Rami Al-Rfou’ | Steven Skiena
Proceedings of COLING 2012