Shawn Tan


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Sparse Universal Transformer
Shawn Tan | Yikang Shen | Zhenfang Chen | Aaron Courville | Chuang Gan
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

The Universal Transformer (UT) is a variant of the Transformer that shares parameters across its layers and is Turing-complete under certain assumptions. Empirical evidence also shows that UTs have better compositional generalization than Vanilla Transformers (VTs) in formal language tasks. The parameter-sharing also affords it better parameter efficiency than VTs. Despite its many advantages, most state-of-the-art NLP systems use VTs as their backbone model instead of UTs. This is mainly because scaling UT parameters is more compute and memory intensive than scaling up a VT. This paper proposes the Sparse Universal Transformer (SUT), which leverages Sparse Mixture of Experts (SMoE) to reduce UT’s computation complexity while retaining its parameter efficiency and generalization ability. Experiments show that SUT combines the best of both worlds, achieving strong generalization results on formal language tasks (Logical inference and CFQ) and impressive parameter and computation efficiency on standard natural language benchmarks like WMT’14.


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Unsupervised Dependency Graph Network
Yikang Shen | Shawn Tan | Alessandro Sordoni | Peng Li | Jie Zhou | Aaron Courville
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Recent work has identified properties of pretrained self-attention models that mirror those of dependency parse structures. In particular, some self-attention heads correspond well to individual dependency types. Inspired by these developments, we propose a new competitive mechanism that encourages these attention heads to model different dependency relations. We introduce a new model, the Unsupervised Dependency Graph Network (UDGN), that can induce dependency structures from raw corpora and the masked language modeling task. Experiment results show that UDGN achieves very strong unsupervised dependency parsing performance without gold POS tags and any other external information. The competitive gated heads show a strong correlation with human-annotated dependency types. Furthermore, the UDGN can also achieve competitive performance on masked language modeling and sentence textual similarity tasks.


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Explicitly Modeling Syntax in Language Models with Incremental Parsing and a Dynamic Oracle
Yikang Shen | Shawn Tan | Alessandro Sordoni | Siva Reddy | Aaron Courville
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Syntax is fundamental to our thinking about language. Failing to capture the structure of input language could lead to generalization problems and over-parametrization. In the present work, we propose a new syntax-aware language model: Syntactic Ordered Memory (SOM). The model explicitly models the structure with an incremental parser and maintains the conditional probability setting of a standard language model (left-to-right). To train the incremental parser and avoid exposure bias, we also propose a novel dynamic oracle, so that SOM is more robust to wrong parsing decisions. Experiments show that SOM can achieve strong results in language modeling, incremental parsing, and syntactic generalization tests while using fewer parameters than other models.


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Recursive Top-Down Production for Sentence Generation with Latent Trees
Shawn Tan | Yikang Shen | Alessandro Sordoni | Aaron Courville | Timothy J. O’Donnell
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

We model the recursive production property of context-free grammars for natural and synthetic languages. To this end, we present a dynamic programming algorithm that marginalises over latent binary tree structures with N leaves, allowing us to compute the likelihood of a sequence of N tokens under a latent tree model, which we maximise to train a recursive neural function. We demonstrate performance on two synthetic tasks: SCAN, where it outperforms previous models on the LENGTH split, and English question formation, where it performs comparably to decoders with the ground-truth tree structure. We also present experimental results on German-English translation on the Multi30k dataset, and qualitatively analyse the induced tree structures our model learns for the SCAN tasks and the German-English translation task.