Creating Your Own Models

Using the included models is fine, but at some point you’ll probably want to implement your own models, which is what this tutorial is for.

Generally speaking, in order to implement a new model, you’ll need to implement a DatasetReader subclass to read in your datasets and a Model subclass corresponding to the model you want to implement. (If there’s already a DatasetReader for the dataset you want to use, of course you can reuse that one.) In this tutorial we’ll also implement a custom PyTorch Module, but you won’t need to do that in general.

Our simple tagger model uses an LSTM to capture dependencies between the words in the input sentence, but doesn’t have a great way to capture dependencies between the tags. This can be a problem for tasks like named-entity recognition where you’d never want to (for example) have a “start of a place” tag followed by an “inside a person” tag.

We’ll try to build an NER model that can outperform our simple tagger on the CoNLL 2003 dataset, which (due to licensing reasons) you’ll have to source for yourself.

The simple tagger gets about 88% span-based F1 on the validation dataset. We’d like to do better.

One way to approach this is to add a Conditional Random Field layer at the end of our tagging model. (If you’re not familiar with conditional random fields, this overview paper is helpful, as is this PyTorch tutorial.)

The “linear-chain” conditional random field we’ll implement has a num_tags x num_tags matrix of transition costs, where transitions[i, j] represents the likelihood of transitioning from the j-th tag to the i-th tag. In addition to whatever tags we’re trying to predict, we’ll have special “start” and “end” tags that we’ll stick before and after each sentence in order to capture the “transition” inherent in being the tag at the beginning or end of a sentence.

As this is just a component of our model, we’ll implement it as a Module.

Implementing the CRF Module

To implement a PyTorch module, we just need to inherit from torch.nn.Module and override

    def forward(self, *input):

to compute the log-likelihood of the provided inputs.

To initialize this module, we just need the number of tags.

    def __init__(self, num_tags: int) -> None:

        self.num_tags = num_tags

        # transitions[i, j] is the logit for transitioning from state i to state j.
        self.transitions = torch.nn.Parameter(torch.randn(num_tags, num_tags))

        # Also need logits for transitioning from "start" state and to "end" state.
        self.start_transitions = torch.nn.Parameter(torch.randn(num_tags))
        self.end_transitions = torch.nn.Parameter(torch.randn(num_tags))

I’m not going to get into the exact mechanics of how the log-likelihood is calculated; you should read the aforementioned overview paper (and look at our implementation) if you want the details. The key points are

  • the input to this module is a (sequence_length, num_tags) tensor of logits representing the likelihood of each tag at each position in some sequence and a (sequence_length,) tensor of gold tags. (In fact, we actually provide batches consisting of multiple sequences, but I’m glossing over that detail.)
  • The likelihood of producing a certain tag at a certain sequence position depends on both the input logits at that position and the transition parameters corresponding to the tag at the previous position
  • Computing the overall likelihood requires summing across all possible tag sequences, but we can use clever dynamic programming tricks to do so efficiently.
  • We also add a viterbi_tags() method that accepts some input logits, gets the transition probabilities, and uses the Viterbi algorithm to compute the most likely sequence of tags for a given input.

Implementing the CRF Tagger Model

The CrfTagger is not terribly different from the SimpleTagger model, so we can take that as a starting point. We need to make the following changes:

  • give our model a crf attribute containing an appropriately initialized ConditionalRandomField module
  • replace the softmax class probabilities with the Viterbi-generated most likely tags
  • replace the softmax + cross-entropy loss function with the negative of the CRF log-likelihood

We can then register the new model as "crf_tagger".

Creating a Dataset Reader

The CoNLL data is formatted like

   U.N.         NNP  I-NP  I-ORG
   official     NN   I-NP  O
   Ekeus        NNP  I-NP  I-PER
   heads        VBZ  I-VP  O
   for          IN   I-PP  O
   Baghdad      NNP  I-NP  I-LOC
   .            .    O     O

where each line contains a token, a part-of-speech tag, a syntactic chunk tag, and a named-entity tag. An empty line indicates the end of a sentence, and a line


indicates the end of a document. (Our reader is concerned only with sentences and doesn’t care about documents.)

You can poke at the code yourself, but at a high level we use itertools.groupby to chunk our input into groups of either “dividers” or “sentences”. Then for each sentence we split each row into four columns, create a TextField for the token, and create a SequenceLabelField for the tags (which for us will be the NER tags).

Creating a Config File

As the CrfTagger model is quite similar to the SimpleTagger model, we can get away with a similar configuration file. We need to make only a couple of changes:

  • change the model.type to "crf_tagger"
  • change the "dataset_reader.type" to "conll2003"
  • add a "dataset_reader.tag_label" field with value “ner” (to indicate that the NER labels are what we’re predicting)

We don’t need to, but we also make a few other changes

  • following Peters, Ammar, Bhagavatula, and Power 2017, we use a Gated Recurrent Unit (GRU) character encoder as well as a GRU for our phrase encoder
  • we also start with pretrained GloVe vectors for our token embeddings
  • we add a regularizer that applies a L2 penalty just to the transitions parameters to help avoid overfitting
  • we add a test_data_path and set evaluate_on_test to true. This is mostly to ensure that our token embedding layer loads the GloVe vectors corresponding to tokens in the test data set, so that they are not treated as out-of-vocabulary at evaluation time. The second flag just evaluates the model on the test set when training stops. Use this flag cautiously, when you’re doing real science you don’t want to evaluate on your test set too often.

Putting It All Together

At this point we’re ready to train the model. In this case our new classes are part of the allennlp library, which means we can just use allennlp/ train, but if you were to create your own model they wouldn’t be.

In that case allennlp/ never loads the modules in which you’ve defined your classes, they never get registered, and then AllenNLP is unable to instantiate them based on the configuration file.

In such a case you’ll need to create your own such script. You can actually copy that one, the only change you need to make is to import all of your custom classes at the top:

from import Conll2003DatasetReader
from myallennlp.models import CrfTagger

and so on. After which you’re ready to train:

$ train tutorials/getting_started/crf_tagger.json -s /tmp/crf_model