Abstract: We show state-of-the-art word representation learning methods maximize an objective function that is a lower bound on the mutual information between different parts of a word sequence (i.e., a sentence). Our formulation provides an alternative perspective that unifies classical word embedding models (e.g., Skip-gram) and modern contextual embeddings (e.g., BERT, XLNet). In addition to enhancing our theoretical understanding of these methods, our derivation leads to a principled framework that can be used to construct new self-supervised tasks. We provide an example by drawing inspirations from related methods based on mutual information maximization that have been successful in computer vision, and introduce a simple self-supervised objective that maximizes the mutual information between a global sentence representation and n-grams in the sentence. Our analysis offers a holistic view of representation learning methods to transfer knowledge and translate progress across multiple domains (e.g., natural language processing, computer vision, audio processing).
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