Xu Tan


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Empowering Diffusion Models on the Embedding Space for Text Generation
Zhujin Gao | Junliang Guo | Xu Tan | Yongxin Zhu | Fang Zhang | Jiang Bian | Linli Xu
Proceedings of the 2024 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Diffusion models have achieved state-of-the-art synthesis quality on both visual and audio tasks, and recent works further adapt them to textual data by diffusing on the embedding space. In this paper, we conduct systematic studies of the optimization challenges encountered with both the embedding space and the denoising model, which have not been carefully explored. Firstly, the data distribution is learnable for embeddings, which may lead to the collapse of the embedding space and unstable training. To alleviate this problem, we propose a new objective called the anchor loss which is more efficient than previous methods. Secondly, we find the noise levels of conventional schedules are insufficient for training a desirable denoising model while introducing varying degrees of degeneration in consequence. To address this challenge, we propose a novel framework called noise rescaling. Based on the above analysis, we propose Difformer, an embedding diffusion model based on Transformer. Experiments on varieties of seminal text generation tasks show the effectiveness of the proposed methods and the superiority of Difformer over previous state-of-the-art embedding diffusion baselines.


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Extract and Attend: Improving Entity Translation in Neural Machine Translation
Zixin Zeng | Rui Wang | Yichong Leng | Junliang Guo | Shufang Xie | Xu Tan | Tao Qin | Tie-Yan Liu
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2023

While Neural Machine Translation (NMT) has achieved great progress in recent years, it still suffers from inaccurate translation of entities (e.g., person/organization name, location), due to the lack of entity training instances. When we humans encounter an unknown entity during translation, we usually first look up in a dictionary and then organize the entity translation together with the translations of other parts to form a smooth target sentence. Inspired by this translation process, we propose an Extract-and-Attend approach to enhance entity translation in NMT, where the translation candidates of source entities are first extracted from a dictionary and then attended to by the NMT model to generate the target sentence. Specifically, the translation candidates are extracted by first detecting the entities in a source sentence and then translating the entities through looking up in a dictionary. Then, the extracted candidates are added as a prefix of the decoder input to be attended to by the decoder when generating the target sentence through self-attention. Experiments conducted on En-Zh and En-Ru demonstrate that the proposed method is effective on improving both the translation accuracy of entities and the overall translation quality, with up to 35% reduction on entity error rate and 0.85 gain on BLEU and 13.8 gain on COMET.

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TranSFormer: Slow-Fast Transformer for Machine Translation
Bei Li | Yi Jing | Xu Tan | Zhen Xing | Tong Xiao | Jingbo Zhu
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2023

Learning multiscale Transformer models has been evidenced as a viable approach to augmenting machine translation systems. Prior research has primarily focused on treating subwords as basic units in developing such systems. However, the incorporation of fine-grained character-level features into multiscale Transformer has not yet been explored. In this work, we present a Slow-Fast two-stream learning model, referred to as TranSFormer, which utilizes a “slow” branch to deal with subword sequences and a “fast” branch to deal with longer character sequences. This model is efficient since the fast branch is very lightweight by reducing the model width, and yet provides useful fine-grained features for the slow branch. Our TranSFormer shows consistent BLEU improvements (larger than 1 BLEU point) on several machine translation benchmarks.

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MusicAgent: An AI Agent for Music Understanding and Generation with Large Language Models
Dingyao Yu | Kaitao Song | Peiling Lu | Tianyu He | Xu Tan | Wei Ye | Shikun Zhang | Jiang Bian
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing: System Demonstrations

AI-empowered music processing is a diverse feld that encompasses dozens of tasks, ranging from generation tasks (e.g., timbre synthesis) to comprehension tasks (e.g., music classifcation). For developers and amateurs, it is very diffcult to grasp all of these task to satisfy their requirements in music processing, especially considering the huge differences in the representations of music data and the model applicability across platforms among various tasks. Consequently, it is necessary to build a system to organize and integrate these tasks, and thus help practitioners to automatically analyze their demand and call suitable tools as solutions to fulfill their requirements. Inspired by the recent success of large language models (LLMs) in task automation, we develop a system, named MusicAgent, which integrates numerous music-related tools and an autonomous workflow to address user requirements. More specifically, we build 1) toolset that collects tools from diverse sources, including Hugging Face, GitHub, and Web API, etc. 2) an autonomous workflow empowered by LLMs (e.g., ChatGPT) to organize these tools and automatically decompose user requests into multiple sub-tasks and invoke corresponding music tools. The primary goal of this system is to free users from the intricacies of AI-music tools, enabling them to concentrate on the creative aspect. By granting users the freedom to effortlessly combine tools, the system offers a seamless and enriching music experience. The code is available on GitHub along with a brief instructional video.

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DiffusionNER: Boundary Diffusion for Named Entity Recognition
Yongliang Shen | Kaitao Song | Xu Tan | Dongsheng Li | Weiming Lu | Yueting Zhuang
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

In this paper, we propose DiffusionNER, which formulates the named entity recognition task as a boundary-denoising diffusion process and thus generates named entities from noisy spans. During training, DiffusionNER gradually adds noises to the golden entity boundaries by a fixed forward diffusion process and learns a reverse diffusion process to recover the entity boundaries. In inference, DiffusionNER first randomly samples some noisy spans from a standard Gaussian distribution and then generates the named entities by denoising them with the learned reverse diffusion process. The proposed boundary-denoising diffusion process allows progressive refinement and dynamic sampling of entities, empowering DiffusionNER with efficient and flexible entity generation capability. Experiments on multiple flat and nested NER datasets demonstrate that DiffusionNER achieves comparable or even better performance than previous state-of-the-art models.

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Towards Understanding Omission in Dialogue Summarization
Yicheng Zou | Kaitao Song | Xu Tan | Zhongkai Fu | Qi Zhang | Dongsheng Li | Tao Gui
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Dialogue summarization aims to condense the lengthy dialogue into a concise summary, and has recently achieved significant progress. However, the result of existing methods is still far from satisfactory. Previous works indicated that omission is a major factor in affecting the quality of summarization, but few of them have further explored the omission problem, such as how omission affects summarization results and how to detect omission, which is critical for reducing omission and improving summarization quality. Moreover, analyzing and detecting omission relies on summarization datasets with omission labels (i.e., which dialogue utterances are omitted in the summarization), which are not available in the current literature. In this paper, we propose the OLDS dataset, which provides high-quality omission labels for dialogue summarization. By analyzing this dataset, we find that a large improvement in summarization quality can be achieved by providing ground-truth omission labels for the summarization model to recover omission information, which demonstrates the importance of omission detection for omission mitigation in dialogue summarization. Therefore, we formulate an omission detection task and demonstrate our proposed dataset can support the training and evaluation of this task well. We also call for research action on omission detection based on our proposed datasets. Our dataset and codes are publicly available.


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ProphetChat: Enhancing Dialogue Generation with Simulation of Future Conversation
Chang Liu | Xu Tan | Chongyang Tao | Zhenxin Fu | Dongyan Zhao | Tie-Yan Liu | Rui Yan
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Typical generative dialogue models utilize the dialogue history to generate the response. However, since one dialogue utterance can often be appropriately answered by multiple distinct responses, generating a desired response solely based on the historical information is not easy. Intuitively, if the chatbot can foresee in advance what the user would talk about (i.e., the dialogue future) after receiving its response, it could possibly provide a more informative response. Accordingly, we propose a novel dialogue generation framework named ProphetChat that utilizes the simulated dialogue futures in the inference phase to enhance response generation. To enable the chatbot to foresee the dialogue future, we design a beam-search-like roll-out strategy for dialogue future simulation using a typical dialogue generation model and a dialogue selector. With the simulated futures, we then utilize the ensemble of a history-to-response generator and a future-to-response generator to jointly generate a more informative response. Experiments on two popular open-domain dialogue datasets demonstrate that ProphetChat can generate better responses over strong baselines, which validates the advantages of incorporating the simulated dialogue futures.

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Revisiting Over-Smoothness in Text to Speech
Yi Ren | Xu Tan | Tao Qin | Zhou Zhao | Tie-Yan Liu
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Non-autoregressive text to speech (NAR-TTS) models have attracted much attention from both academia and industry due to their fast generation speed. One limitation of NAR-TTS models is that they ignore the correlation in time and frequency domains while generating speech mel-spectrograms, and thus cause blurry and over-smoothed results. In this work, we revisit this over-smoothing problem from a novel perspective: the degree of over-smoothness is determined by the gap between the complexity of data distributions and the capability of modeling methods. Both simplifying data distributions and improving modeling methods can alleviate the problem. Accordingly, we first study methods reducing the complexity of data distributions. Then we conduct a comprehensive study on NAR-TTS models that use some advanced modeling methods. Based on these studies, we find that 1) methods that provide additional condition inputs reduce the complexity of data distributions to model, thus alleviating the over-smoothing problem and achieving better voice quality. 2) Among advanced modeling methods, Laplacian mixture loss performs well at modeling multimodal distributions and enjoys its simplicity, while GAN and Glow achieve the best voice quality while suffering from increased training or model complexity. 3) The two categories of methods can be combined to further alleviate the over-smoothness and improve the voice quality. 4) Our experiments on the multi-speaker dataset lead to similar conclusions as above and providing more variance information can reduce the difficulty of modeling the target data distribution and alleviate the requirements for model capacity.

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Non-Autoregressive Sequence Generation
Jiatao Gu | Xu Tan
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Tutorial Abstracts

Non-autoregressive sequence generation (NAR) attempts to generate the entire or partial output sequences in parallel to speed up the generation process and avoid potential issues (e.g., label bias, exposure bias) in autoregressive generation. While it has received much research attention and has been applied in many sequence generation tasks in natural language and speech, naive NAR models still face many challenges to close the performance gap between state-of-the-art autoregressive models because of a lack of modeling power. In this tutorial, we will provide a thorough introduction and review of non-autoregressive sequence generation, in four sections: 1) Background, which covers the motivation of NAR generation, the problem definition, the evaluation protocol, and the comparison with standard autoregressive generation approaches. 2) Method, which includes different aspects: model architecture, objective function, training data, learning paradigm, and additional inference tricks. 3) Application, which covers different tasks in text and speech generation, and some advanced topics in applications. 4) Conclusion, in which we describe several research challenges and discuss the potential future research directions. We hope this tutorial can serve both academic researchers and industry practitioners working on non-autoregressive sequence generation.

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A Study of Syntactic Multi-Modality in Non-Autoregressive Machine Translation
Kexun Zhang | Rui Wang | Xu Tan | Junliang Guo | Yi Ren | Tao Qin | Tie-Yan Liu
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

It is difficult for non-autoregressive translation (NAT) models to capture the multi-modal distribution of target translations due to their conditional independence assumption, which is known as the “multi-modality problem”, including the lexical multi-modality and the syntactic multi-modality. While the first one has been well studied, the syntactic multi-modality brings severe challenges to the standard cross entropy (XE) loss in NAT and is understudied. In this paper, we conduct a systematic study on the syntactic multi-modality problem. Specifically, we decompose it into short- and long-range syntactic multi-modalities and evaluate several recent NAT algorithms with advanced loss functions on both carefully designed synthesized datasets and real datasets. We find that the Connectionist Temporal Classification (CTC) loss and the Order-Agnostic Cross Entropy (OAXE) loss can better handle short- and long-range syntactic multi-modalities respectively. Furthermore, we take the best of both and design a new loss function to better handle the complicated syntactic multi-modality in real-world datasets. To facilitate practical usage, we provide a guide to using different loss functions for different kinds of syntactic multi-modality.

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TeleMelody: Lyric-to-Melody Generation with a Template-Based Two-Stage Method
Zeqian Ju | Peiling Lu | Xu Tan | Rui Wang | Chen Zhang | Songruoyao Wu | Kejun Zhang | Xiang-Yang Li | Tao Qin | Tie-Yan Liu
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Lyric-to-melody generation is an important task in automatic songwriting. Previous lyric-to-melody generation systems usually adopt end-to-end models that directly generate melodies from lyrics, which suffer from several issues: 1) lack of paired lyric-melody training data; 2) lack of control on generated melodies. In this paper, we develop TeleMelody, a two-stage lyric-to-melody generation system with music template (e.g., tonality, chord progression, rhythm pattern, and cadence) to bridge the gap between lyrics and melodies (i.e., the system consists of a lyric-to-template module and a template-to-melody module). TeleMelody has two advantages. First, it is data efficient. The template-to-melody module is trained in a self-supervised way (i.e., the source template is extracted from the target melody) that does not need any lyric-melody paired data. The lyric-to-template module is made up of some rules and a lyric-to-rhythm model, which is trained with paired lyric-rhythm data that is easier to obtain than paired lyric-melody data. Second, it is controllable. The design of the template ensures that the generated melodies can be controlled by adjusting the musical elements in the template. Both subjective and objective experimental evaluations demonstrate that TeleMelody generates melodies with higher quality, better controllability, and less requirement on paired lyric-melody data than previous generation systems.

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Mask the Correct Tokens: An Embarrassingly Simple Approach for Error Correction
Kai Shen | Yichong Leng | Xu Tan | Siliang Tang | Yuan Zhang | Wenjie Liu | Edward Lin
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Text error correction aims to correct the errors in text sequences such as those typed by humans or generated by speech recognition models.Previous error correction methods usually take the source (incorrect) sentence as encoder input and generate the target (correct) sentence through the decoder. Since the error rate of the incorrect sentence is usually low (e.g., 10%), the correction model can only learn to correct on limited error tokens but trivially copy on most tokens (correct tokens), which harms the effective training of error correction. In this paper, we argue that the correct tokens should be better utilized to facilitate effective training and then propose a simple yet effective masking strategy to achieve this goal.Specifically, we randomly mask out a part of the correct tokens in the source sentence and let the model learn to not only correct the original error tokens but also predict the masked tokens based on their context information. Our method enjoys several advantages: 1) it alleviates trivial copy; 2) it leverages effective training signals from correct tokens; 3) it is a plug-and-play module and can be applied to different models and tasks. Experiments on spelling error correction and speech recognition error correction on Mandarin datasets and grammar error correction on English datasets with both autoregressive and non-autoregressive generation models show that our method improves the correctionaccuracy consistently.


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DeepRapper: Neural Rap Generation with Rhyme and Rhythm Modeling
Lanqing Xue | Kaitao Song | Duocai Wu | Xu Tan | Nevin L. Zhang | Tao Qin | Wei-Qiang Zhang | Tie-Yan Liu
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)

Rap generation, which aims to produce lyrics and corresponding singing beats, needs to model both rhymes and rhythms. Previous works for rap generation focused on rhyming lyrics, but ignored rhythmic beats, which are important for rap performance. In this paper, we develop DeepRapper, a Transformer-based rap generation system that can model both rhymes and rhythms. Since there is no available rap datasets with rhythmic beats, we develop a data mining pipeline to collect a large-scale rap dataset, which includes a large number of rap songs with aligned lyrics and rhythmic beats. Second, we design a Transformer-based autoregressive language model which carefully models rhymes and rhythms. Specifically, we generate lyrics in the reverse order with rhyme representation and constraint for rhyme enhancement, and insert a beat symbol into lyrics for rhythm/beat modeling. To our knowledge, DeepRapper is the first system to generate rap with both rhymes and rhythms. Both objective and subjective evaluations demonstrate that DeepRapper generates creative and high-quality raps with rhymes and rhythms.

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MusicBERT: Symbolic Music Understanding with Large-Scale Pre-Training
Mingliang Zeng | Xu Tan | Rui Wang | Zeqian Ju | Tao Qin | Tie-Yan Liu
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL-IJCNLP 2021

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FastCorrect 2: Fast Error Correction on Multiple Candidates for Automatic Speech Recognition
Yichong Leng | Xu Tan | Rui Wang | Linchen Zhu | Jin Xu | Wenjie Liu | Linquan Liu | Xiang-Yang Li | Tao Qin | Edward Lin | Tie-Yan Liu
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2021

Error correction is widely used in automatic speech recognition (ASR) to post-process the generated sentence, and can further reduce the word error rate (WER). Although multiple candidates are generated by an ASR system through beam search, current error correction approaches can only correct one sentence at a time, failing to leverage the voting effect from multiple candidates to better detect and correct error tokens. In this work, we propose FastCorrect 2, an error correction model that takes multiple ASR candidates as input for better correction accuracy. FastCorrect 2 adopts non-autoregressive generation for fast inference, which consists of an encoder that processes multiple source sentences and a decoder that generates the target sentence in parallel from the adjusted source sentence, where the adjustment is based on the predicted duration of each source token. However, there are some issues when handling multiple source sentences. First, it is non-trivial to leverage the voting effect from multiple source sentences since they usually vary in length. Thus, we propose a novel alignment algorithm to maximize the degree of token alignment among multiple sentences in terms of token and pronunciation similarity. Second, the decoder can only take one adjusted source sentence as input, while there are multiple source sentences. Thus, we develop a candidate predictor to detect the most suitable candidate for the decoder. Experiments on our inhouse dataset and AISHELL-1 show that FastCorrect 2 can further reduce the WER over the previous correction model with single candidate by 3.2% and 2.6%, demonstrating the effectiveness of leveraging multiple candidates in ASR error correction. FastCorrect 2 achieves better performance than the cascaded re-scoring and correction pipeline and can serve as a unified post-processing module for ASR.


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A Study of Non-autoregressive Model for Sequence Generation
Yi Ren | Jinglin Liu | Xu Tan | Zhou Zhao | Sheng Zhao | Tie-Yan Liu
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Non-autoregressive (NAR) models generate all the tokens of a sequence in parallel, resulting in faster generation speed compared to their autoregressive (AR) counterparts but at the cost of lower accuracy. Different techniques including knowledge distillation and source-target alignment have been proposed to bridge the gap between AR and NAR models in various tasks such as neural machine translation (NMT), automatic speech recognition (ASR), and text to speech (TTS). With the help of those techniques, NAR models can catch up with the accuracy of AR models in some tasks but not in some others. In this work, we conduct a study to understand the difficulty of NAR sequence generation and try to answer: (1) Why NAR models can catch up with AR models in some tasks but not all? (2) Why techniques like knowledge distillation and source-target alignment can help NAR models. Since the main difference between AR and NAR models is that NAR models do not use dependency among target tokens while AR models do, intuitively the difficulty of NAR sequence generation heavily depends on the strongness of dependency among target tokens. To quantify such dependency, we propose an analysis model called CoMMA to characterize the difficulty of different NAR sequence generation tasks. We have several interesting findings: 1) Among the NMT, ASR and TTS tasks, ASR has the most target-token dependency while TTS has the least. 2) Knowledge distillation reduces the target-token dependency in target sequence and thus improves the accuracy of NAR models. 3) Source-target alignment constraint encourages dependency of a target token on source tokens and thus eases the training of NAR models.

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SimulSpeech: End-to-End Simultaneous Speech to Text Translation
Yi Ren | Jinglin Liu | Xu Tan | Chen Zhang | Tao Qin | Zhou Zhao | Tie-Yan Liu
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

In this work, we develop SimulSpeech, an end-to-end simultaneous speech to text translation system which translates speech in source language to text in target language concurrently. SimulSpeech consists of a speech encoder, a speech segmenter and a text decoder, where 1) the segmenter builds upon the encoder and leverages a connectionist temporal classification (CTC) loss to split the input streaming speech in real time, 2) the encoder-decoder attention adopts a wait-k strategy for simultaneous translation. SimulSpeech is more challenging than previous cascaded systems (with simultaneous automatic speech recognition (ASR) and simultaneous neural machine translation (NMT)). We introduce two novel knowledge distillation methods to ensure the performance: 1) Attention-level knowledge distillation transfers the knowledge from the multiplication of the attention matrices of simultaneous NMT and ASR models to help the training of the attention mechanism in SimulSpeech; 2) Data-level knowledge distillation transfers the knowledge from the full-sentence NMT model and also reduces the complexity of data distribution to help on the optimization of SimulSpeech. Experiments on MuST-C English-Spanish and English-German spoken language translation datasets show that SimulSpeech achieves reasonable BLEU scores and lower delay compared to full-sentence end-to-end speech to text translation (without simultaneous translation), and better performance than the two-stage cascaded simultaneous translation model in terms of BLEU scores and translation delay.


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Microsoft Research Asia’s Systems for WMT19
Yingce Xia | Xu Tan | Fei Tian | Fei Gao | Di He | Weicong Chen | Yang Fan | Linyuan Gong | Yichong Leng | Renqian Luo | Yiren Wang | Lijun Wu | Jinhua Zhu | Tao Qin | Tie-Yan Liu
Proceedings of the Fourth Conference on Machine Translation (Volume 2: Shared Task Papers, Day 1)

We Microsoft Research Asia made submissions to 11 language directions in the WMT19 news translation tasks. We won the first place for 8 of the 11 directions and the second place for the other three. Our basic systems are built on Transformer, back translation and knowledge distillation. We integrate several of our rececent techniques to enhance the baseline systems: multi-agent dual learning (MADL), masked sequence-to-sequence pre-training (MASS), neural architecture optimization (NAO), and soft contextual data augmentation (SCA).

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Unsupervised Pivot Translation for Distant Languages
Yichong Leng | Xu Tan | Tao Qin | Xiang-Yang Li | Tie-Yan Liu
Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Unsupervised neural machine translation (NMT) has attracted a lot of attention recently. While state-of-the-art methods for unsupervised translation usually perform well between similar languages (e.g., English-German translation), they perform poorly between distant languages, because unsupervised alignment does not work well for distant languages. In this work, we introduce unsupervised pivot translation for distant languages, which translates a language to a distant language through multiple hops, and the unsupervised translation on each hop is relatively easier than the original direct translation. We propose a learning to route (LTR) method to choose the translation path between the source and target languages. LTR is trained on language pairs whose best translation path is available and is applied on the unseen language pairs for path selection. Experiments on 20 languages and 294 distant language pairs demonstrate the advantages of the unsupervised pivot translation for distant languages, as well as the effectiveness of the proposed LTR for path selection. Specifically, in the best case, LTR achieves an improvement of 5.58 BLEU points over the conventional direct unsupervised method.

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Multilingual Neural Machine Translation with Language Clustering
Xu Tan | Jiale Chen | Di He | Yingce Xia | Tao Qin | Tie-Yan Liu
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

Multilingual neural machine translation (NMT), which translates multiple languages using a single model, is of great practical importance due to its advantages in simplifying the training process, reducing online maintenance costs, and enhancing low-resource and zero-shot translation. Given there are thousands of languages in the world and some of them are very different, it is extremely burdensome to handle them all in a single model or use a separate model for each language pair. Therefore, given a fixed resource budget, e.g., the number of models, how to determine which languages should be supported by one model is critical to multilingual NMT, which, unfortunately, has been ignored by previous work. In this work, we develop a framework that clusters languages into different groups and trains one multilingual model for each cluster. We study two methods for language clustering: (1) using prior knowledge, where we cluster languages according to language family, and (2) using language embedding, in which we represent each language by an embedding vector and cluster them in the embedding space. In particular, we obtain the embedding vectors of all the languages by training a universal neural machine translation model. Our experiments on 23 languages show that the first clustering method is simple and easy to understand but leading to suboptimal translation accuracy, while the second method sufficiently captures the relationship among languages well and improves the translation accuracy for almost all the languages over baseline methods.


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Beyond Error Propagation in Neural Machine Translation: Characteristics of Language Also Matter
Lijun Wu | Xu Tan | Di He | Fei Tian | Tao Qin | Jianhuang Lai | Tie-Yan Liu
Proceedings of the 2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Neural machine translation usually adopts autoregressive models and suffers from exposure bias as well as the consequent error propagation problem. Many previous works have discussed the relationship between error propagation and the accuracy drop (i.e., the left part of the translated sentence is often better than its right part in left-to-right decoding models) problem. In this paper, we conduct a series of analyses to deeply understand this problem and get several interesting findings. (1) The role of error propagation on accuracy drop is overstated in the literature, although it indeed contributes to the accuracy drop problem. (2) Characteristics of a language play a more important role in causing the accuracy drop: the left part of the translation result in a right-branching language (e.g., English) is more likely to be more accurate than its right part, while the right part is more accurate for a left-branching language (e.g., Japanese). Our discoveries are confirmed on different model structures including Transformer and RNN, and in other sequence generation tasks such as text summarization.

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Dense Information Flow for Neural Machine Translation
Yanyao Shen | Xu Tan | Di He | Tao Qin | Tie-Yan Liu
Proceedings of the 2018 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies, Volume 1 (Long Papers)

Recently, neural machine translation has achieved remarkable progress by introducing well-designed deep neural networks into its encoder-decoder framework. From the optimization perspective, residual connections are adopted to improve learning performance for both encoder and decoder in most of these deep architectures, and advanced attention connections are applied as well. Inspired by the success of the DenseNet model in computer vision problems, in this paper, we propose a densely connected NMT architecture (DenseNMT) that is able to train more efficiently for NMT. The proposed DenseNMT not only allows dense connection in creating new features for both encoder and decoder, but also uses the dense attention structure to improve attention quality. Our experiments on multiple datasets show that DenseNMT structure is more competitive and efficient.

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Double Path Networks for Sequence to Sequence Learning
Kaitao Song | Xu Tan | Di He | Jianfeng Lu | Tao Qin | Tie-Yan Liu
Proceedings of the 27th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

Encoder-decoder based Sequence to Sequence learning (S2S) has made remarkable progress in recent years. Different network architectures have been used in the encoder/decoder. Among them, Convolutional Neural Networks (CNN) and Self Attention Networks (SAN) are the prominent ones. The two architectures achieve similar performances but use very different ways to encode and decode context: CNN use convolutional layers to focus on the local connectivity of the sequence, while SAN uses self-attention layers to focus on global semantics. In this work we propose Double Path Networks for Sequence to Sequence learning (DPN-S2S), which leverage the advantages of both models by using double path information fusion. During the encoding step, we develop a double path architecture to maintain the information coming from different paths with convolutional layers and self-attention layers separately. To effectively use the encoded context, we develop a gated attention fusion module and use it to automatically pick up the information needed during the decoding step, which is also a double path network. By deeply integrating the two paths, both types of information are combined and well exploited. Experiments show that our proposed method can significantly improve the performance of sequence to sequence learning over state-of-the-art systems.