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Constraining Linear-chain CRFs to Regular Languages

Sean Papay · Roman Klinger · Sebastian Pado

Keywords: [ sequence labeling ] [ semantic role labeling ]

Abstract: A major challenge in structured prediction is to represent the interdependencies within output structures. When outputs are structured as sequences, linear-chain conditional random fields (CRFs) are a widely used model class which can learn local dependencies in the output. However, the CRF's Markov assumption makes it impossible for CRFs to represent distributions with nonlocal dependencies, and standard CRFs are unable to respect nonlocal constraints of the data (such as global arity constraints on output labels). We present a generalization of CRFs that can enforce a broad class of constraints, including nonlocal ones, by specifying the space of possible output structures as a regular language $\mathcal{L}$. The resulting regular-constrained CRF (RegCCRF) has the same formal properties as a standard CRF, but assigns zero probability to all label sequences not in $\mathcal{L}$. Notably, RegCCRFs can incorporate their constraints during training, while related models only enforce constraints during decoding. We prove that constrained training is never worse than constrained decoding, and show empirically that it can be substantially better in practice. Additionally, we demonstrate a practical benefit on downstream tasks by incorporating a RegCCRF into a deep neural model for semantic role labeling, exceeding state-of-the-art results on a standard dataset.

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