WEST: Word Encoded Sequence Transducers

Ehsan Variani, Ananda Theertha Suresh, Mitchel Weintraub

Most of the parameters in large vocabulary models are used in embedding layer to map categorical features to vectors and in softmax layer for classification weights. This is a bottle-neck in memory constraint on-device training applications like federated learning and on-device inference applications like automatic speech recognition (ASR). One way of compressing the embedding and softmax layers is to substitute larger units such as words with smaller sub-units such as characters. However, often the sub-unit models perform poorly compared to the larger unit models. We propose WEST, an algorithm for encoding categorical features and output classes with a sequence of random or domain dependent sub-units and demonstrate that this transduction can lead to significant compression without compromising performance. WEST bridges the gap between larger unit and sub-unit models and can be interpreted as a MaxEnt model over sub-unit features, which can be of independent interest.

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