Ruotian Ma


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Template-free Prompt Tuning for Few-shot NER
Ruotian Ma | Xin Zhou | Tao Gui | Yiding Tan | Linyang Li | Qi Zhang | Xuanjing Huang
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Prompt-based methods have been successfully applied in sentence-level few-shot learning tasks, mostly owing to the sophisticated design of templates and label words. However, when applied to token-level labeling tasks such as NER, it would be time-consuming to enumerate the template queries over all potential entity spans. In this work, we propose a more elegant method to reformulate NER tasks as LM problems without any templates. Specifically, we discard the template construction process while maintaining the word prediction paradigm of pre-training models to predict a class-related pivot word (or label word) at the entity position. Meanwhile, we also explore principled ways to automatically search for appropriate label words that the pre-trained models can easily adapt to. While avoiding the complicated template-based process, the proposed LM objective also reduces the gap between different objectives used in pre-training and fine-tuning, thus it can better benefit the few-shot performance. Experimental results demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed method over bert-tagger and template-based method under few-shot settings. Moreover, the decoding speed of the proposed method is up to 1930.12 times faster than the template-based method.

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Cross-Linguistic Syntactic Difference in Multilingual BERT: How Good is It and How Does It Affect Transfer?
Ningyu Xu | Tao Gui | Ruotian Ma | Qi Zhang | Jingting Ye | Menghan Zhang | Xuanjing Huang
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Multilingual BERT (mBERT) has demonstrated considerable cross-lingual syntactic ability, whereby it enables effective zero-shot cross-lingual transfer of syntactic knowledge. The transfer is more successful between some languages, but it is not well understood what leads to this variation and whether it fairly reflects difference between languages. In this work, we investigate the distributions of grammatical relations induced from mBERT in the context of 24 typologically different languages. We demonstrate that the distance between the distributions of different languages is highly consistent with the syntactic difference in terms of linguistic formalisms. Such difference learnt via self-supervision plays a crucial role in the zero-shot transfer performance and can be predicted by variation in morphosyntactic properties between languages. These results suggest that mBERT properly encodes languages in a way consistent with linguistic diversity and provide insights into the mechanism of cross-lingual transfer.

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TextFusion: Privacy-Preserving Pre-trained Model Inference via Token Fusion
Xin Zhou | Jinzhu Lu | Tao Gui | Ruotian Ma | Zichu Fei | Yuran Wang | Yong Ding | Yibo Cheung | Qi Zhang | Xuanjing Huang
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Recently, more and more pre-trained language models are released as a cloud service. It allows users who lack computing resources to perform inference with a powerful model by uploading data to the cloud. The plain text may contain private information, as the result, users prefer to do partial computations locally and upload intermediate representations to the cloud for subsequent inference.However, recent studies have shown that intermediate representations can also be recovered to plain text with reasonable accuracy, thus the risk of privacy leakage still exists. To address this issue, we propose TextFusion, a novel method for preserving inference privacy.Specifically, we train a Fusion Predictor to dynamically fuse token representations, which hides multiple private token representations behind an unrecognizable one.Furthermore, an adversarial training regime is employed to privatize these representations. In this way, the cloud only receives incomplete and perturbed representations, making it difficult to accurately recover the complete plain text.The experimental results on diverse classification tasks show that our approach can effectively preserve inference privacy without significantly sacrificing performance in different scenarios.

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Making Parameter-efficient Tuning More Efficient: A Unified Framework for Classification Tasks
Xin Zhou | Ruotian Ma | Yicheng Zou | Xuanting Chen | Tao Gui | Qi Zhang | Xuanjing Huang | Rui Xie | Wei Wu
Proceedings of the 29th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

Large pre-trained language models (PLMs) have demonstrated superior performance in industrial applications. Recent studies have explored parameter-efficient PLM tuning, which only updates a small amount of task-specific parameters while achieving both high efficiency and comparable performance against standard fine-tuning. However, all these methods ignore the inefficiency problem caused by the task-specific output layers, which is inflexible for us to re-use PLMs and introduces non-negligible parameters. In this work, we focus on the text classification task and propose plugin-tuning, a framework that further improves the efficiency of existing parameter-efficient methods with a unified classifier. Specifically, we re-formulate both token and sentence classification tasks into a unified language modeling task, and map label spaces of different tasks into the same vocabulary space. In this way, we can directly re-use the language modeling heads of PLMs, avoiding introducing extra parameters for different tasks. We conduct experiments on six classification benchmarks. The experimental results show that plugin-tuning can achieve comparable performance against fine-tuned PLMs, while further saving around 50% parameters on top of other parameter-efficient methods.


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Backdoor Attacks on Pre-trained Models by Layerwise Weight Poisoning
Linyang Li | Demin Song | Xiaonan Li | Jiehang Zeng | Ruotian Ma | Xipeng Qiu
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Pre-Trained Models have been widely applied and recently proved vulnerable under backdoor attacks: the released pre-trained weights can be maliciously poisoned with certain triggers. When the triggers are activated, even the fine-tuned model will predict pre-defined labels, causing a security threat. These backdoors generated by the poisoning methods can be erased by changing hyper-parameters during fine-tuning or detected by finding the triggers. In this paper, we propose a stronger weight-poisoning attack method that introduces a layerwise weight poisoning strategy to plant deeper backdoors; we also introduce a combinatorial trigger that cannot be easily detected. The experiments on text classification tasks show that previous defense methods cannot resist our weight-poisoning method, which indicates that our method can be widely applied and may provide hints for future model robustness studies.

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SENT: Sentence-level Distant Relation Extraction via Negative Training
Ruotian Ma | Tao Gui | Linyang Li | Qi Zhang | Xuanjing Huang | Yaqian Zhou
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)

Distant supervision for relation extraction provides uniform bag labels for each sentence inside the bag, while accurate sentence labels are important for downstream applications that need the exact relation type. Directly using bag labels for sentence-level training will introduce much noise, thus severely degrading performance. In this work, we propose the use of negative training (NT), in which a model is trained using complementary labels regarding that “the instance does not belong to these complementary labels”. Since the probability of selecting a true label as a complementary label is low, NT provides less noisy information. Furthermore, the model trained with NT is able to separate the noisy data from the training data. Based on NT, we propose a sentence-level framework, SENT, for distant relation extraction. SENT not only filters the noisy data to construct a cleaner dataset, but also performs a re-labeling process to transform the noisy data into useful training data, thus further benefiting the model’s performance. Experimental results show the significant improvement of the proposed method over previous methods on sentence-level evaluation and de-noise effect.

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TextFlint: Unified Multilingual Robustness Evaluation Toolkit for Natural Language Processing
Xiao Wang | Qin Liu | Tao Gui | Qi Zhang | Yicheng Zou | Xin Zhou | Jiacheng Ye | Yongxin Zhang | Rui Zheng | Zexiong Pang | Qinzhuo Wu | Zhengyan Li | Chong Zhang | Ruotian Ma | Zichu Fei | Ruijian Cai | Jun Zhao | Xingwu Hu | Zhiheng Yan | Yiding Tan | Yuan Hu | Qiyuan Bian | Zhihua Liu | Shan Qin | Bolin Zhu | Xiaoyu Xing | Jinlan Fu | Yue Zhang | Minlong Peng | Xiaoqing Zheng | Yaqian Zhou | Zhongyu Wei | Xipeng Qiu | Xuanjing Huang
Proceedings of the 59th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 11th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing: System Demonstrations

TextFlint is a multilingual robustness evaluation toolkit for NLP tasks that incorporates universal text transformation, task-specific transformation, adversarial attack, subpopulation, and their combinations to provide comprehensive robustness analyses. This enables practitioners to automatically evaluate their models from various aspects or to customize their evaluations as desired with just a few lines of code. TextFlint also generates complete analytical reports as well as targeted augmented data to address the shortcomings of the model in terms of its robustness. To guarantee acceptability, all the text transformations are linguistically based and all the transformed data selected (up to 100,000 texts) scored highly under human evaluation. To validate the utility, we performed large-scale empirical evaluations (over 67,000) on state-of-the-art deep learning models, classic supervised methods, and real-world systems. The toolkit is already available at with all the evaluation results demonstrated at


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Toward Recognizing More Entity Types in NER: An Efficient Implementation using Only Entity Lexicons
Minlong Peng | Ruotian Ma | Qi Zhang | Lujun Zhao | Mengxi Wei | Changlong Sun | Xuanjing Huang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

In this work, we explore the way to quickly adjust an existing named entity recognition (NER) system to make it capable of recognizing entity types not defined in the system. As an illustrative example, consider the case that a NER system has been built to recognize person and organization names, and now it requires to additionally recognize job titles. Such a situation is common in the industrial areas, where the entity types required to recognize vary a lot in different products and keep changing. To avoid laborious data labeling and achieve fast adaptation, we propose to adjust the existing NER system using the previously labeled data and entity lexicons of the newly introduced entity types. We formulate such a task as a partially supervised learning problem and accordingly propose an effective algorithm to solve the problem. Comprehensive experimental studies on several public NER datasets validate the effectiveness of our method.

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Simplify the Usage of Lexicon in Chinese NER
Ruotian Ma | Minlong Peng | Qi Zhang | Zhongyu Wei | Xuanjing Huang
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Recently, many works have tried to augment the performance of Chinese named entity recognition (NER) using word lexicons. As a representative, Lattice-LSTM has achieved new benchmark results on several public Chinese NER datasets. However, Lattice-LSTM has a complex model architecture. This limits its application in many industrial areas where real-time NER responses are needed. In this work, we propose a simple but effective method for incorporating the word lexicon into the character representations. This method avoids designing a complicated sequence modeling architecture, and for any neural NER model, it requires only subtle adjustment of the character representation layer to introduce the lexicon information. Experimental studies on four benchmark Chinese NER datasets show that our method achieves an inference speed up to 6.15 times faster than those of state-of-the-art methods, along with a better performance. The experimental results also show that the proposed method can be easily incorporated with pre-trained models like BERT.

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BERT-ATTACK: Adversarial Attack Against BERT Using BERT
Linyang Li | Ruotian Ma | Qipeng Guo | Xiangyang Xue | Xipeng Qiu
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

Adversarial attacks for discrete data (such as texts) have been proved significantly more challenging than continuous data (such as images) since it is difficult to generate adversarial samples with gradient-based methods. Current successful attack methods for texts usually adopt heuristic replacement strategies on the character or word level, which remains challenging to find the optimal solution in the massive space of possible combinations of replacements while preserving semantic consistency and language fluency. In this paper, we propose BERT-Attack, a high-quality and effective method to generate adversarial samples using pre-trained masked language models exemplified by BERT. We turn BERT against its fine-tuned models and other deep neural models in downstream tasks so that we can successfully mislead the target models to predict incorrectly. Our method outperforms state-of-the-art attack strategies in both success rate and perturb percentage, while the generated adversarial samples are fluent and semantically preserved. Also, the cost of calculation is low, thus possible for large-scale generations. The code is available at