Deep Learning for Natural Language Processing, 6 credits

This is a brief overview of the content of the course ​Deep Learning for Natural Language Processing​, given in the spring of 2020. The course will be taught at Linköping University and Chalmers jointly by Marco Kuhlmann and Richard Johansson.

Understanding human language is one of the central goals in Artificial Intelligence. Recently, deep learning approaches have revolutionized the field, and define the state of the art for many different natural language processing (NLP) tasks, including commerically important applications such as translation, summarization, and information extraction. However, natural language data exhibit a number of peculiarities that make them more challenging to work with than many other types of data commonly encountered in machine learning: natural language is discrete, structured, and highly ambiguous. It is extremely diverse: not only are there thousands of languages in the world, but in each language there is substantial variation in style and genre. Furthermore, many of the phenomena encountered in language follow long-tail statistical distributions, which makes the production of training data more costly. For these reasons, machine learning architectures for NLP applications tend to be quite different from those used in other fields.

The goal of the course is to give participants the theoretical knowledge and practical experience required to use state-of-the-art natural language processing in their own research – for example, to integrate existing software components for natural language understanding into an autonomous system, or to understand, implement, and evaluate a cutting-edge deep learning architecture based on its description in a research article.

The course is divided into two-day modules. The following is a non-exhaustive overview of the main topics of the three modules.

Module #1: Introduction to deep learning and NLP (March 30-31, Linköping)

The first module covers fundamental concepts in NLP and deep learning models. We first discuss NLP as a research area, including a quick overview of the history of the field, and highlight the particular challenges of building machine learning models for language processing problems. We will then discuss fundamental notions in​ representation learning for NLP​, including representations of words and larger units, and the opportunities for pre-training and transfer learning in NLP. Finally, we will consider the family of NLP tasks that can be cast as text categorization problems​, and see a number of deep learning architectures for this class of problems. This module will also include a quick practical refresher of general deep learning architectures and libraries.

Module #2: Structured prediction problems in NLP (April 27-28, Gothenburg)

The second module is focused on NLP problems that require an automatic system to convert a text into a structured format: ​structured prediction problems​. This family of tasks ranges from structurally simple problems such as sequence tagging to complex prediction tasks where a tree or graph needs to be produced by the system. We will first focus on sequence tagging problems of the type normally encountered in information extraction, such as named entity recognition, and see a number of deep learning architectures for sequence prediction tasks, including models such as recurrent neural networks and conditional random fields. We will then consider structured prediction more generally, and discuss different approaches to casting structured prediction problems as machine learning tasks, and the challenges of training such models. A number of complex prediction tasks will be highlighted, such as dependency parsing and relation extraction.

Module #3: Generation problems in NLP (May 25-26, Linköping)

The third module focuses on​ generation problems​: NLP tasks that require the system to produce free text. The most well-known problem of this type is probably machine translation, and this use case will be discussed extensively. We will introduce deep learning architectures for translation tasks, including the famous sequence-to-sequence and attention models. The module will also discuss a number of additional generation tasks, including text summarization and generation for dialogue systems. We will also consider multimodal generation tasks, such as image captioning.