FOCUS: Effective Embedding Initialization for Monolingual Specialization of Multilingual Models


Using model weights pretrained on a high-resource language as a warm start can reduce the need for data and compute to obtain high-quality language models in low-resource languages. To accommodate the new language, the pretrained vocabulary and embeddings need to be adapted. Previous work on embedding initialization for such adapted vocabularies has mostly focused on monolingual source models. In this paper, we investigate the multilingual source model setting and propose FOCUS - Fast Overlapping Token Combinations Using Sparsemax, a novel embedding initialization method that outperforms previous work when adapting XLM-R. FOCUS represents newly added tokens as combinations of tokens in the overlap of the pretrained and new vocabularies. The overlapping tokens are selected based on semantic similarity in an auxiliary token embedding space. Our implementation of FOCUS is publicly available on GitHub.

EMNLP (Main) 2023
Konstantin Dobler
Konstantin Dobler
PhD Student & Graduate Researcher

I’m a PhD student at Hasso Plattner Institute researching transfer learning of large language models.