Attribute value extraction refers to the task of identifying values of an attribute of interest from product information. It is an important research topic which has been widely studied in e-Commerce and relation learning. There are two main limitations in existing attribute value extraction methods: scalability and generalizability. Most existing methods treat each attribute independently and build separate models for each of them, which are not suitable for large scale attribute systems in real-world applications. Moreover, very limited research has focused on generalizing extraction to new attributes.
In this work, we propose a novel approach for Attribute Value Extraction via Question Answering (AVEQA) using a multi-task framework. In particular, we build a question answering model which treats each attribute as a question and identifies the answer span corresponding to the attribute value in the product context. A unique BERT contextual encoder is adopted and shared across all attributes to encode both the context and the question, which makes the model scalable. A distilled masked language model with knowledge distillation loss is introduced to improve the model generalization ability. In addition, we employ a no-answer classifier to explicitly handle the cases where there are no values for a given attribute in the product context. The question answering, distilled masked language model and the no answer classification are then combined into a unified multi-task framework. We conduct extensive experiments on a public dataset. The results demonstrate that the proposed approach outperforms several state-of-the-art methods with large margin.