Tri-Attention: Explicit Context-Aware Attention Mechanism for Natural Language Processing

In natural language processing (NLP), the context of a word or sentence plays an essential role. Contextual information such as the semantic representation of a passage or historical dialogue forms an essential part of a conversation and a precise understanding of the present phrase or sentence. However, the standard attention mechanisms typically generate weights using query and key but ignore context, forming a Bi-Attention framework, despite their great success in modeling sequence alignment. This Bi-Attention mechanism does not explicitly model the interactions between the contexts, queries and keys of target sequences, missing important contextual information and resulting in poor attention performance. Accordingly, a novel and general triple-attention (Tri-Attention) framework expands the standard Bi-Attention mechanism and explicitly interacts query, key, and context by incorporating context as the third dimension in calculating relevance scores. Four variants of Tri-Attention are generated by expanding the two-dimensional vector-based additive, dot-product, scaled dot-product, and bilinear operations in Bi-Attention to the tensor operations for Tri-Attention. Extensive experiments on three NLP tasks demonstrate that Tri-Attention outperforms about 30 state-of-the-art non-attention, standard Bi-Attention, contextual Bi-Attention approaches and pretrained neural language models1.

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