Navigating with graph representations for fast and scalable decoding of neural language models

Minjia Zhang, Xiaodong Liu, Wenhan Wang, Jianfeng Gao, Yuxiong He

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Neural language models (NLMs) have recently gained a renewed interest by achieving state-of-the-art performance across many natural language processing (NLP) tasks. However, NLMs are very computationally demanding largely due to the computational cost of the decoding process, which consists of a softmax layer over a large vocabulary. We observe that in the decoding of many NLP tasks, only the probabilities of the top-K hypotheses need to be calculated preciously and K is often much smaller than the vocabulary size. This paper proposes a novel softmax layer approximation algorithm, called Fast Graph Decoder (FGD), which quickly identifies, for a given context, a set of K words that are most likely to occur according to a NLM. We demonstrate that FGD reduces the decoding time by an order of magnitude while attaining close to the full softmax baseline accuracy on neural machine translation and language modeling tasks. We also prove the theoretical guarantee on the softmax approximation quality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6308-6319
Number of pages12
JournalAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes
Event32nd Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2018 - Montreal, Canada
Duration: Dec 2 2018Dec 8 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Signal Processing


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