Google Research

Transforming Sequence Tagging Into A Seq2Seq Task

EMNLP 2022


Pretrained, large, generative language models (LMs) have had great success in a wide range of sequence tagging and structured prediction tasks. Casting a sequence tagging task as a Seq2Seq problem requires deciding the formats of the input and output sequences. However, we lack a principled understanding of the trade-offs associated with these formats (such as the effect on model accuracy, sequence length, multilingual generalization, hallucination). In this paper, we rigorously study different formats one could use for casting input text sentences and their output labels into the "input" and "target" of a Seq2Seq model. Along the way, we introduce a new format, which we show to not only be simpler but also more effective. Additionally the new formats demonstrate significant gains in the multilingual settings -- both zero-shot transfer learning and joint training. Lastly, we find that the new formats are more robust and almost completely devoid of the danger of hallucination that often plagues existing formats. With well over a 1000 experiments studying 14 different formats, over 7 diverse public benchmarks -- including 3 multilingual datasets spanning 7 languages -- we believe our findings provide a strong empirical basis in understanding how we should tackle sequence tagging tasks.

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