Strongly Incremental Constituency Parsing with Graph Neural Networks

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Kaiyu Yang, Jia Deng


Parsing sentences into syntax trees can benefit downstream applications in NLP. Transition-based parsers build trees by executing actions in a state transition system. They are computationally efficient, and can leverage machine learning to predict actions based on partial trees. However, existing transition-based parsers are predominantly based on the shift-reduce transition system, which does not align with how humans are known to parse sentences. Psycholinguistic research suggests that human parsing is strongly incremental—humans grow a single parse tree by adding exactly one token at each step. In this paper, we propose a novel transition system called attach-juxtapose. It is strongly incremental; it represents a partial sentence using a single tree; each action adds exactly one token into the partial tree. Based on our transition system, we develop a strongly incremental parser. At each step, it encodes the partial tree using a graph neural network and predicts an action. We evaluate our parser on Penn Treebank (PTB) and Chinese Treebank (CTB). On PTB, it outperforms existing parsers trained with only constituency trees; and it performs on par with state-of-the-art parsers that use dependency trees as additional training data. On CTB, our parser establishes a new state of the art. Code is available at