Variational Autoencoders for Semi-supervised Text Classification

Although semi-supervised variational autoencoder (SemiVAE) works in image classification task, it fails in text classification task if using vanilla LSTM as its decoder. From a perspective of reinforcement learning, it is verified that the decoder's capability to distinguish between different categorical labels is essential. Therefore, Semi-supervised Sequential Variational Autoencoder (SSVAE) is proposed, which increases the capability by feeding label into its decoder RNN at each time-step. Two specific decoder structures are investigated and both of them are verified to be effective. Besides, in order to reduce the computational complexity in training, a novel optimization method is proposed, which estimates the gradient of the unlabeled objective function by sampling, along with two variance reduction techniques. Experimental results on Large Movie Review Dataset (IMDB) and AG's News corpus show that the proposed approach significantly improves the classification accuracy compared with pure-supervised classifiers, and achieves competitive performance against previous advanced methods. State-of-the-art results can be obtained by integrating other pretraining-based methods.

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