Ruobing Xie


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Better Pre-Training by Reducing Representation Confusion
Haojie Zhang | Mingfei Liang | Ruobing Xie | Zhenlong Sun | Bo Zhang | Leyu Lin
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EACL 2023

In this work, we revisit the Transformer-based pre-trained language models and identify two different types of information confusion in position encoding and model representations, respectively. Firstly, we show that in the relative position encoding, the joint modeling about relative distances and directions brings confusion between two heterogeneous information. It may make the model unable to capture the associative semantics of the same distance and the opposite directions, which in turn affects the performance of downstream tasks. Secondly, we notice the BERT with Mask Language Modeling (MLM) pre-training objective outputs similar token representations (last hidden states of different tokens) and head representations (attention weightsof different heads), which may make the diversity of information expressed by different tokens and heads limited. Motivated by the above investigation, we propose two novel techniques to improve pre-trained language models: Decoupled Directional Relative Position (DDRP) encoding and MTH pre-training objective. DDRP decouples the relative distance features and the directional features in classical relative position encoding. MTH applies two novel auxiliary regularizers besides MLM to enlarge the dissimilarities between (a) last hidden states of different tokens, and (b) attention weights of different heads. These designs allow the model to capture different categories of information more clearly, as a way to alleviate information confusion in representation learning for better optimization. Extensive experiments and ablation studies on GLUE benchmark demonstrate the effectiveness of our proposed methods.

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Emergent Modularity in Pre-trained Transformers
Zhengyan Zhang | Zhiyuan Zeng | Yankai Lin | Chaojun Xiao | Xiaozhi Wang | Xu Han | Zhiyuan Liu | Ruobing Xie | Maosong Sun | Jie Zhou
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2023

This work examines the presence of modularity in pre-trained Transformers, a feature commonly found in human brains and thought to be vital for general intelligence. In analogy to human brains, we consider two main characteristics of modularity: (1) functional specialization of neurons: we evaluate whether each neuron is mainly specialized in a certain function, and find that the answer is yes. (2) function-based neuron grouping: we explore to find a structure that groups neurons into modules by function, and each module works for its corresponding function. Given the enormous amount of possible structures, we focus on Mixture-of-Experts as a promising candidate, which partitions neurons into experts and usually activates different experts for different inputs. Experimental results show that there are functional experts, where clustered are the neurons specialized in a certain function. Moreover, perturbing the activations of functional experts significantly affects the corresponding function. Finally, we study how modularity emerges during pre-training, and find that the modular structure is stabilized at the early stage, which is faster than neuron stabilization. It suggests that Transformer first constructs the modular structure and then learns fine-grained neuron functions. Our code and data are available at

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Recyclable Tuning for Continual Pre-training
Yujia Qin | Cheng Qian | Xu Han | Yankai Lin | Huadong Wang | Ruobing Xie | Zhiyuan Liu | Maosong Sun | Jie Zhou
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2023

Continual pre-training is the paradigm where pre-trained language models (PLMs) continually acquire fresh knowledge from growing data and gradually get upgraded. Before an upgraded PLM is released, we may have tuned the original PLM for various tasks and stored the adapted weights. However, when tuning the upgraded PLM, these outdated adapted weights will typically be ignored and discarded, causing a potential waste of resources. We bring this issue to the forefront and contend that proper algorithms for recycling outdated adapted weights should be developed. To this end, we formulate the task of recyclable tuning for continual pre-training. In pilot studies, we find that after continual pre-training, the upgraded PLM remains compatible with the outdated adapted weights to some extent. Motivated by this finding, we analyze the connection between continually pre-trained PLMs from two novel aspects, i.e., mode connectivity, and functional similarity. Based on the corresponding findings, we propose both an initialization-based method and a distillation-based method for our task. We demonstrate their feasibility in improving the convergence and performance for tuning the upgraded PLM. We also show that both methods can be combined to achieve better performance.

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Pruning Pre-trained Language Models Without Fine-Tuning
Ting Jiang | Deqing Wang | Fuzhen Zhuang | Ruobing Xie | Feng Xia
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

To overcome the overparameterized problem in Pre-trained Language Models (PLMs), pruning is widely used as a simple and straightforward compression method by directly removing unimportant weights. Previous first-order methods successfully compress PLMs to extremely high sparsity with little performance drop. These methods, such as movement pruning, use first-order information to prune PLMs while fine-tuning the remaining weights. In this work, we argue fine-tuning is redundant for first-order pruning, since first-order pruning is sufficient to converge PLMs to downstream tasks without fine-tuning. Under this motivation, we propose Static Model Pruning (SMP), which only uses first-order pruning to adapt PLMs to downstream tasks while achieving the target sparsity level. In addition, we also design a new masking function and training objective to further improve SMP. Extensive experiments at various sparsity levels show SMP has significant improvements over first-order and zero-order methods. Unlike previous first-order methods, SMP is also applicable to low sparsity and outperforms zero-order methods. Meanwhile, SMP is more parameter efficient than other methods due to it does not require fine-tuning.

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WebCPM: Interactive Web Search for Chinese Long-form Question Answering
Yujia Qin | Zihan Cai | Dian Jin | Lan Yan | Shihao Liang | Kunlun Zhu | Yankai Lin | Xu Han | Ning Ding | Huadong Wang | Ruobing Xie | Fanchao Qi | Zhiyuan Liu | Maosong Sun | Jie Zhou
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Long-form question answering (LFQA) aims at answering complex, open-ended questions with detailed, paragraph-length responses. The de facto paradigm of LFQA necessitates two procedures: information retrieval, which searches for relevant supporting facts, and information synthesis, which integrates these facts into a coherent answer. In this paper, we introduce WebCPM, the first Chinese LFQA dataset. One unique feature of WebCPM is that its information retrieval is based on interactive web search, which engages with a search engine in real time. Following WebGPT, we develop a web search interface. We recruit annotators to search for relevant information using our interface and then answer questions. Meanwhile, the web search behaviors of our annotators would be recorded. In total, we collect 5,500 high-quality question-answer pairs, together with 15,372 supporting facts and 125,954 web search actions. We fine-tune pre-trained language models to imitate human behaviors for web search and to generate answers based on the collected facts. Our LFQA pipeline, built on these fine-tuned models, generates answers that are no worse than human-written ones in 32.5% and 47.5% of the cases on our dataset and DuReader, respectively. The interface, dataset, and codes are publicly available at


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Prompt Tuning for Discriminative Pre-trained Language Models
Yuan Yao | Bowen Dong | Ao Zhang | Zhengyan Zhang | Ruobing Xie | Zhiyuan Liu | Leyu Lin | Maosong Sun | Jianyong Wang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2022

Recent works have shown promising results of prompt tuning in stimulating pre-trained language models (PLMs) for natural language processing (NLP) tasks. However, to the best of our knowledge, existing works focus on prompt-tuning generative PLMs that are pre-trained to generate target tokens, such as BERT. It is still unknown whether and how discriminative PLMs, e.g., ELECTRA, can be effectively prompt-tuned. In this work, we present DPT, the first prompt tuning framework for discriminative PLMs, which reformulates NLP tasks into a discriminative language modeling problem. Comprehensive experiments on text classification and question answering show that, compared with vanilla fine-tuning, DPT achieves significantly higher performance, and also prevents the unstable problem in tuning large PLMs in both full-set and low-resource settings.


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Incorporating Global Information in Local Attention for Knowledge Representation Learning
Yu Zhao | Han Zhou | Ruobing Xie | Fuzhen Zhuang | Qing Li | Ji Liu
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL-IJCNLP 2021

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Open Hierarchical Relation Extraction
Kai Zhang | Yuan Yao | Ruobing Xie | Xu Han | Zhiyuan Liu | Fen Lin | Leyu Lin | Maosong Sun
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Open relation extraction (OpenRE) aims to extract novel relation types from open-domain corpora, which plays an important role in completing the relation schemes of knowledge bases (KBs). Most OpenRE methods cast different relation types in isolation without considering their hierarchical dependency. We argue that OpenRE is inherently in close connection with relation hierarchies. To establish the bidirectional connections between OpenRE and relation hierarchy, we propose the task of open hierarchical relation extraction and present a novel OHRE framework for the task. We propose a dynamic hierarchical triplet objective and hierarchical curriculum training paradigm, to effectively integrate hierarchy information into relation representations for better novel relation extraction. We also present a top-down hierarchy expansion algorithm to add the extracted relations into existing hierarchies with reasonable interpretability. Comprehensive experiments show that OHRE outperforms state-of-the-art models by a large margin on both relation clustering and hierarchy expansion.


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Connecting Embeddings for Knowledge Graph Entity Typing
Yu Zhao | Anxiang Zhang | Ruobing Xie | Kang Liu | Xiaojie Wang
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Knowledge graph (KG) entity typing aims at inferring possible missing entity type instances in KG, which is a very significant but still under-explored subtask of knowledge graph completion. In this paper, we propose a novel approach for KG entity typing which is trained by jointly utilizing local typing knowledge from existing entity type assertions and global triple knowledge in KGs. Specifically, we present two distinct knowledge-driven effective mechanisms of entity type inference. Accordingly, we build two novel embedding models to realize the mechanisms. Afterward, a joint model via connecting them is used to infer missing entity type instances, which favors inferences that agree with both entity type instances and triple knowledge in KGs. Experimental results on two real-world datasets (Freebase and YAGO) demonstrate the effectiveness of our proposed mechanisms and models for improving KG entity typing. The source code and data of this paper can be obtained from: .

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Denoising Relation Extraction from Document-level Distant Supervision
Chaojun Xiao | Yuan Yao | Ruobing Xie | Xu Han | Zhiyuan Liu | Maosong Sun | Fen Lin | Leyu Lin
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

Distant supervision (DS) has been widely adopted to generate auto-labeled data for sentence-level relation extraction (RE) and achieved great results. However, the existing success of DS cannot be directly transferred to more challenging document-level relation extraction (DocRE), as the inevitable noise caused by DS may be even multiplied in documents and significantly harm the performance of RE. To alleviate this issue, we propose a novel pre-trained model for DocRE, which de-emphasize noisy DS data via multiple pre-training tasks. The experimental results on the large-scale DocRE benchmark show that our model can capture useful information from noisy data and achieve promising results.

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Meta-Information Guided Meta-Learning for Few-Shot Relation Classification
Bowen Dong | Yuan Yao | Ruobing Xie | Tianyu Gao | Xu Han | Zhiyuan Liu | Fen Lin | Leyu Lin | Maosong Sun
Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

Few-shot classification requires classifiers to adapt to new classes with only a few training instances. State-of-the-art meta-learning approaches such as MAML learn how to initialize and fast adapt parameters from limited instances, which have shown promising results in few-shot classification. However, existing meta-learning models solely rely on implicit instance-based statistics, and thus suffer from instance unreliability and weak interpretability. To solve this problem, we propose a novel meta-information guided meta-learning (MIML) framework, where semantic concepts of classes provide strong guidance for meta-learning in both initialization and adaptation. In effect, our model can establish connections between instance-based information and semantic-based information, which enables more effective initialization and faster adaptation. Comprehensive experimental results on few-shot relation classification demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed framework. Notably, MIML achieves comparable or superior performance to humans with only one shot on FewRel evaluation.


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Open Relation Extraction: Relational Knowledge Transfer from Supervised Data to Unsupervised Data
Ruidong Wu | Yuan Yao | Xu Han | Ruobing Xie | Zhiyuan Liu | Fen Lin | Leyu Lin | Maosong Sun
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

Open relation extraction (OpenRE) aims to extract relational facts from the open-domain corpus. To this end, it discovers relation patterns between named entities and then clusters those semantically equivalent patterns into a united relation cluster. Most OpenRE methods typically confine themselves to unsupervised paradigms, without taking advantage of existing relational facts in knowledge bases (KBs) and their high-quality labeled instances. To address this issue, we propose Relational Siamese Networks (RSNs) to learn similarity metrics of relations from labeled data of pre-defined relations, and then transfer the relational knowledge to identify novel relations in unlabeled data. Experiment results on two real-world datasets show that our framework can achieve significant improvements as compared with other state-of-the-art methods. Our code is available at


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Cross-lingual Lexical Sememe Prediction
Fanchao Qi | Yankai Lin | Maosong Sun | Hao Zhu | Ruobing Xie | Zhiyuan Liu
Proceedings of the 2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Sememes are defined as the minimum semantic units of human languages. As important knowledge sources, sememe-based linguistic knowledge bases have been widely used in many NLP tasks. However, most languages still do not have sememe-based linguistic knowledge bases. Thus we present a task of cross-lingual lexical sememe prediction, aiming to automatically predict sememes for words in other languages. We propose a novel framework to model correlations between sememes and multi-lingual words in low-dimensional semantic space for sememe prediction. Experimental results on real-world datasets show that our proposed model achieves consistent and significant improvements as compared to baseline methods in cross-lingual sememe prediction. The codes and data of this paper are available at

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Language Modeling with Sparse Product of Sememe Experts
Yihong Gu | Jun Yan | Hao Zhu | Zhiyuan Liu | Ruobing Xie | Maosong Sun | Fen Lin | Leyu Lin
Proceedings of the 2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Most language modeling methods rely on large-scale data to statistically learn the sequential patterns of words. In this paper, we argue that words are atomic language units but not necessarily atomic semantic units. Inspired by HowNet, we use sememes, the minimum semantic units in human languages, to represent the implicit semantics behind words for language modeling, named Sememe-Driven Language Model (SDLM). More specifically, to predict the next word, SDLM first estimates the sememe distribution given textual context. Afterwards, it regards each sememe as a distinct semantic expert, and these experts jointly identify the most probable senses and the corresponding word. In this way, SDLM enables language models to work beyond word-level manipulation to fine-grained sememe-level semantics, and offers us more powerful tools to fine-tune language models and improve the interpretability as well as the robustness of language models. Experiments on language modeling and the downstream application of headline generation demonstrate the significant effectiveness of SDLM.

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Incorporating Chinese Characters of Words for Lexical Sememe Prediction
Huiming Jin | Hao Zhu | Zhiyuan Liu | Ruobing Xie | Maosong Sun | Fen Lin | Leyu Lin
Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Sememes are minimum semantic units of concepts in human languages, such that each word sense is composed of one or multiple sememes. Words are usually manually annotated with their sememes by linguists, and form linguistic common-sense knowledge bases widely used in various NLP tasks. Recently, the lexical sememe prediction task has been introduced. It consists of automatically recommending sememes for words, which is expected to improve annotation efficiency and consistency. However, existing methods of lexical sememe prediction typically rely on the external context of words to represent the meaning, which usually fails to deal with low-frequency and out-of-vocabulary words. To address this issue for Chinese, we propose a novel framework to take advantage of both internal character information and external context information of words. We experiment on HowNet, a Chinese sememe knowledge base, and demonstrate that our framework outperforms state-of-the-art baselines by a large margin, and maintains a robust performance even for low-frequency words.


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Improved Word Representation Learning with Sememes
Yilin Niu | Ruobing Xie | Zhiyuan Liu | Maosong Sun
Proceedings of the 55th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Sememes are minimum semantic units of word meanings, and the meaning of each word sense is typically composed by several sememes. Since sememes are not explicit for each word, people manually annotate word sememes and form linguistic common-sense knowledge bases. In this paper, we present that, word sememe information can improve word representation learning (WRL), which maps words into a low-dimensional semantic space and serves as a fundamental step for many NLP tasks. The key idea is to utilize word sememes to capture exact meanings of a word within specific contexts accurately. More specifically, we follow the framework of Skip-gram and present three sememe-encoded models to learn representations of sememes, senses and words, where we apply the attention scheme to detect word senses in various contexts. We conduct experiments on two tasks including word similarity and word analogy, and our models significantly outperform baselines. The results indicate that WRL can benefit from sememes via the attention scheme, and also confirm our models being capable of correctly modeling sememe information.