Composing RNNs and FSTs for Small Data: Recovering Missing Characters in Old Hawaiian Text

Oiwi Parker Jones, Brendan Shillingford

Oct 15, 2018 NIPS 2018 Workshop IRASL Blind Submission readers: everyone
  • Abstract: In contrast to the older writing system of the 19th century, modern Hawaiian orthography employs characters for long vowels and glottal stops. These extra characters account for about one-third of the phonemes in Hawaiian, so including them makes a big difference to reading comprehension and pronunciation. However, transliterating between older and newer texts is a laborious task when performed manually. We introduce two related methods to help solve this transliteration problem automatically, given that there were not enough data to train an end-to-end deep learning model. One approach is implemented, end-to-end, using finite state transducers (FSTs). The other is a hybrid deep learning approach which approximately composes an FST with a recurrent neural network (RNN). We find that the hybrid approach outperforms the end-to-end FST by partitioning the original problem into one part that can be modelled by hand, using an FST, and into another part, which is easily solved by an RNN trained on the available data.
  • TL;DR: A novel, hybrid deep learning approach provides the best solution to a limited-data problem (which is important to the conservation of the Hawaiian language)
  • Keywords: hybrid deep learning, NLP, data efficiency, endangered languages
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