A Probabilistic Formulation of Unsupervised Text Style Transfer

Sep 25, 2019 Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • TL;DR: We formulate a probabilistic latent sequence model to tackle unsupervised text style transfer, and show its effectiveness across a suite of unsupervised text style transfer tasks.
  • Abstract: We present a deep generative model for unsupervised text style transfer that unifies previously proposed non-generative techniques. Our probabilistic approach models non-parallel data from two domains as a partially observed parallel corpus. By hypothesizing a parallel latent sequence that generates each observed sequence, our model learns to transform sequences from one domain to another in a completely unsupervised fashion. In contrast with traditional generative sequence models (e.g. the HMM), our model makes few assumptions about the data it generates: it uses a recurrent language model as a prior and an encoder-decoder as a transduction distribution. While computation of marginal data likelihood is intractable in this model class, we show that amortized variational inference admits a practical surrogate. Further, by drawing connections between our variational objective and other recent unsupervised style transfer and machine translation techniques, we show how our probabilistic view can unify some known non-generative objectives such as backtranslation and adversarial loss. Finally, we demonstrate the effectiveness of our method on a wide range of unsupervised style transfer tasks, including sentiment transfer, formality transfer, word decipherment, author imitation, and related language translation. Across all style transfer tasks, our approach yields substantial gains over state-of-the-art non-generative baselines, including the state-of-the-art unsupervised machine translation techniques that our approach generalizes. Further, we conduct experiments on a standard unsupervised machine translation task and find that our unified approach matches the current state-of-the-art.
  • Keywords: unsupervised text style transfer, deep latent sequence model
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