Randall O’Reilly


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Systematicity Emerges in Transformers when Abstract Grammatical Roles Guide Attention
Ayush K Chakravarthy | Jacob Labe Russin | Randall O’Reilly
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies: Student Research Workshop

Systematicity is thought to be a key inductive bias possessed by humans that is lacking in standard natural language processing systems such as those utilizing transformers. In this work, we investigate the extent to which the failure of transformers on systematic generalization tests can be attributed to a lack of linguistic abstraction in its attention mechanism. We develop a novel modification to the transformer by implementing two separate input streams: a role stream controls the attention distributions (i.e., queries and keys) at each layer, and a filler stream determines the values. Our results show that when abstract role labels are assigned to input sequences and provided to the role stream, systematic generalization is improved.


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Compositional Generalization by Factorizing Alignment and Translation
Jacob Russin | Jason Jo | Randall O’Reilly | Yoshua Bengio
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Student Research Workshop

Standard methods in deep learning for natural language processing fail to capture the compositional structure of human language that allows for systematic generalization outside of the training distribution. However, human learners readily generalize in this way, e.g. by applying known grammatical rules to novel words. Inspired by work in cognitive science suggesting a functional distinction between systems for syntactic and semantic processing, we implement a modification to an existing approach in neural machine translation, imposing an analogous separation between alignment and translation. The resulting architecture substantially outperforms standard recurrent networks on the SCAN dataset, a compositional generalization task, without any additional supervision. Our work suggests that learning to align and to translate in separate modules may be a useful heuristic for capturing compositional structure.