DictFormer: Tiny Transformer with Shared Dictionary

Qian Lou · Ting Hua · Yen-Chang Hsu · Yilin Shen · Hongxia Jin

Keywords: [ transformer ] [ machine translation ] [ attention ]

Abstract: We introduce DictFormer with the efficient shared dictionary to provide a compact, fast, and accurate transformer model. DictFormer significantly reduces the redundancy in the transformer's parameters by replacing the prior transformer's parameters with a compact, shared dictionary, few unshared coefficients, and indices. Also, DictFormer enables faster computations since expensive weights multiplications are converted into cheap shared look-ups on dictionary and few linear projections. Training dictionary and coefficients are not trivial since indices used for looking up dictionary are not differentiable. We adopt a sparse-constraint training with $l_1\,\,norm$ relaxation to learn coefficients and indices in DictFormer. DictFormer is flexible to support different model sizes by dynamically changing dictionary size. Compared to existing lightweight Transformers, DictFormer consistently reduces model size over Transformer on multiple tasks, e.g., machine translation, abstractive summarization, and language modeling. Extensive experiments show that DictFormer reduces $3.6\times$ to $8.9\times$ model size with similar accuracy over multiple tasks, compared to Transformer.

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