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On Tree-Based Neural Sentence Modeling

Authors: Haoyue Shi, Hao Zhou, Jiaze Chen and Lei Li.

This repo includes the implementation of our paper "On Tree-Based Neural Sentence Modeling" at EMNLP 2018 [1].

In this repo, you may find

  • various kinds of text encoders (contributions for new encoders are always welcome!!);
  • a unified PyTorch framework which can support three common groups of NLP tasks.



We study the problem of sentence encoding on various downstream tasks, which can be grouped into three categories: sentence classification, sentence relation classification and sentence generation.

Our investigated sentence encoders are: (bi-)LSTMs, (binary) constituency tree LSTMs, balanced tree LSTMs, fully left-branching tree LSTMs, fully right-branching tree LSTMs. The last three are trivial trees containing no syntactic information. We also support bidirectional leaf RNN (LSTM) for tree-based encoders. trees.jpg

We get the following surprising conclusions:

  1. Trivial tree encoders get competitive or even better results on all the investigated tasks.
  2. Further analysis show that tree modeling gives better results when crucial words are closer to the final representation.


We evaluate the models in the following ten datasets, of which the metadata are summarized in the following table.

Dataset #Train #Dev #Test #Class Avg. Length
Sentence Classification
AG News [5] 60K 6.7K 4.3K 4 31.5
Amazon Review Polarity [5] 128K 14K 16K 2 33.7
Amazon Review Full [5] 110K 12K 27K 5 33.8
DBpedia [5] 106K 11K 15K 14 20.1
Word-Level Semantic Relation [6] 7.1K 891 2.7K 10 23.1
Sentence Relation Classification
SNLI [7] 550K 10K 10K 3 11.2
Conjunction Prediction [8] 552K 10K 10K 9 23.3
Sentence Generation
Paraphrasing 98K 2K 3K N/A 10.2
Machine Translation 1.2M 20K 80K N/A 34.1
Autoencoder 1.2M 20K 80K N/A 34.1

We provide a sample of our data format at data/. You may process your own data following our instruction. Please contact Freda if you need a copy of our experimental datasets. The copyrights are held by the original authors.


  • Python 3
  • PyTorch 0.3.0

Run the Code


  1. Tokenize and parse sentences using ZPar [3].
  2. Put data to data/. Our data is in json, e.g., data/dbpedia_train.json. Please refer to our examples and instruction for more details.
  3. Put vocabularies to vocab/, which is a list of words for each task.

Train Models

We just introduce some important options here. For adjusting more detailed ones (like learning rate), please refer to our code. It should be very easy to find and understand.

Sentence Classification

python3 -m src.train_classification --encoder-type $ENCODER_TYPE --data-prefix data/$TASK_NAME \
    --vocab-path vocab/$TASK_NAME.vocab --num-classes $NUM_CLASSES --save-dir models/$TASK_NAME \
    --pooling $POOLING_METHOD

$ENCODER_TYPE can be lstm, parsing (for binary parsing tree based LSTM [4]), gumbel (for Gumbel Softmax based latent tree learning [2]), balanced (for balanced tree LSTM), left (for left-branching tree LSTM), right (for right-branching tree LSTM). Code for Gumbel softmax based latent tree learning is adapted from

--pooling is optional (default None), which can also be attention, mean, max pooling mechanisms. Please refer to our paper for details.

Example (run balanced tree encoder on DBpedia dataset):

python3 -m src.train_classification --encoder-type balanced --data-prefix data/dbpedia --vocab-path vocab/dbpedia.vocab --num-classes 14 --save-dir models/dbpedia

If you would like to train a bi-LSTM or tree LSTM with bidirectional leaf RNN, please add --bidirectional or --bidirectional --leaf-rnn to the command.

Sentence Relation Classification

python3 -m src.train_sentrel_classification --encoder-type $ENCODER_TYPE --data-prefix data/$TASK_NAME \
    --vocab-path vocab/$TASK_NAME.vocab --num-classes $NUM_CLASSES --save-dir models/$TASK_NAME 

which is roughly the same to sentence classification.

Sentence Generation

python3 -m src.train_genration --encoder-type $ENCODER_TYPE --data-prefix data/$TASK_NAME \
    --src-vocab-path vocab/$TASK_NAME_SOURCE.vocab --tgt-vocab-path vocab/$TASK_NAME_TARGET.vocab --save-dir models/$TASK_NAME 

Cite TreeEnc

If you find our code useful, please consider citing

    title={On Tree-Based Neural Sentence Modeling},
    author={Shi, Haoyue and Zhou, Hao and Chen, Jiaze and Li, Lei},
    booktitle={Proceedings of the Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing},


[1] Haoyue Shi, Hao Zhou, Jiaze Chen, Lei li. 2018. On Tree-Based Neural Sentence Modeling. In Proc. of EMNLP.

[2] Jihun Choi, Kang Min Yoo, Sang-goo Lee. 2018. Learning to Compose Task-Specific Tree Structures. In Proc. of AAAI.

[3] Yue Zhang and Stephen Clark. 2011. Syntactic Processing using the Generalized Perceptron and Beam Search. Computational Linguistics.

[4] Richard Socher, Alex Perelygin, Jean Wu, Jason Chuang, Christopher D. Manning, Andrew Ng, and Christopher Potts. 2013. Recursive Deep Models for Semantic Compositionality over a Sentiment Treebank. In Proc. of EMNLP.

[5] Xiang Zhang, Junbo Zhao, and Yann LeCun. 2015. Character-Level Convolutional Networks for Text Classification. In Proc. of NIPS

[6] Iris Hendrickx, Su Nam Kim, Zornitsa Kozareva, Preslav Nakov, Diarmuid O Seaghdha, Sebastian Pado, Marco Pennacchiotti, Lorenza Romano, and Stan Szpakowicz. 2009. Semeval-2010 Task 8: Multi-Way Classification of Semantic Relations between Pairs of Nominals. In Proc. of the Workshop on Semantic Evaluations: Recent Achievements and Future Directions

[7] Samuel R. Bowman, Gabor Angeli, Christopher Potts, and Christopher D. Manning. 2015. A Large Annotated Corpus for Learning Natural Language Inference. In Proc. of EMNLP.

[8] Yacine Jernite, Samuel R. Bowman, and David Sontag. 2017. Discourse-based Objectives for Fast Unsupervised Sentence Representation Learning. arXiv preprint arXiv:1705.00557.

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