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Shift-Reduce Constituency Parsing with Contextual Representations

This repository contains an implementation of the Recurrent Neural Network Grammars (Dyer et al. 2016) and In-Order (Liu and Zhang 2017) constituency parsers, both integrated with a BERT (Devlin et al. 2019) sentence encoder.

Our best current models for the In-Order system with BERT obtain 96.0 F1 on the English PTB test set and 92.0 F1 on the Chinese Treebank v5.1 test set. More results (including out-of-domain transfer) are described in Cross-Domain Generalization of Neural Constituency Parsers (Fried*, Kitaev*, and Klein, 2019).

Modifications to the RNNG and In-Order parsers implemented here include:

  • BERT integration for the discriminative models
  • Beam search decoding for the discriminative and generative models
  • Minimum-risk training using policy gradient for the discriminative models
  • Dynamic oracle training for the RNNG discriminative model

This repo contains a compilation of code from many people and multiple research projects; please see Credits and Citations below for details.

Note: for most practical parsing purposes, we'd recommend using the BERT-equipped Chart parser of Kitaev, Cao, and Klein, 2019, which is easier to setup, faster, has a smaller model size, and achieves performance nearly as strong as this parser.


  1. Available Models
  2. Prerequisites
  3. Build Instructions
  4. Usage
  5. Training
  6. Citations
  7. Credits

Available Models

Model Language Info
english English 95.65 F1 / 57.28 EM on the PTB test set (with beam size 10). 1.2GB. This is the model that is the best-scoring on the development set out of the five runs of In-Order+BERT English models described in our ACL 2019 paper.
english-wwm English 95.99 F1 / 57.99 EM on the PTB test set (with beam size 10). 1.2GB. This model is identical to english above, but uses a BERT model pre-trained with whole-word masking.
chinese Chinese 91.96 F1 / 44.54 EM on the CTB v5.1 test set (with beam size 10). 370MB. This is the model that is best-scoring on the development set out of the five runs of In-Order+BERT Chinese models.



  • MKL allows faster processing for the non-BERT CPU operations

We use a submodule for the BERT code. To get this when cloning our repository:

git clone --recursive

If you didn't clone with --recursive, you'll need to manually get the bert submodule. Run the following inside the top-level rnng-bert directory:

git submodule update --init --recursive

Build Instructions

Assuming the latest development version of Eigen is stored at: /opt/tools/eigen-dev, and you've extracted or built the TensorFlow C files (see prerequisites above) at $HOME/lib/libtensorflow-gpu-linux-x86_64-1.12.0:

mkdir build
cd build
cmake -DEIGEN3_INCLUDE_DIR=/opt/tools/eigen-dev -DTENSORFLOW_ROOT=$HOME/lib/libtensorflow-gpu-linux-x86_64-1.12.0 -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release ..
make -j2

If your BOOST installation is in a non-standard location, also specify -DBOOST_ROOT=/path/to/boost

Optional: to compile with MKL, assuming MKL is stored at /opt/intel/mkl, instead run:

mkdir build
cd build
cmake -DEIGEN3_INCLUDE_DIR=/opt/tools/eigen-dev -DTENSORFLOW_ROOT=$HOME/lib/libtensorflow-gpu-linux-x86_64-1.12.0 -DMKL=TRUE -DMKL_ROOT=/opt/intel/mkl -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release ..
make -j2

Optional: If training the parser, you'll also need the evalb executable. Build it by running make inside the EVALB directory.


First, download and extract one of the models. For the rest of this section, we'll assume that you've downloaded and extracted english-wwm into the bert_models folder.

Parsing Raw Text

Input should be a file with one sentence per line, consisting of space-separated tokens. For best performance, you should use tokenization in the style of the Penn Treebank.

For English, you can tokenize sentences using a tokenizer such as nltk.word_tokenize. Here is an example tokenized sentence (taken from the Penn Treebank):

No , it was n't Black Monday .

(note that "wasn't" is split into "was" and "n't").

For Chinese, use a tokenizer such as jieba or unofficial tokenizers for SpaCy. Here is an example tokenized sentence (from the Penn Chinese Treebank and using its tokenization; automatic tokenizers may return different tokeizations):

“ 中 美 合作 高 科技 项目 签字 仪式 ” 今天 在 上海 举行 。

Once the token input file is constructed, run python3 scripts/ $model_dir $token_file --beam_size 10 to parse the token file and print parse trees to standard out. For example,

python3 scripts/ bert_models/english-wwm tokens.txt --beam_size 10

Note: These parsers are not currently designed to predict part-of-speech (POS) tags, and will output trees that use XX for all POS tags.

Comparing Against a Treebank

Given a treebank file in $treebank_file with one tree per line (for example, as produced by our PTB data generation code), you can parse the tokens in these sentences and compute parse evaluation scores using the following:

python3 scripts/ $treebank_file > treebank.tokens
python3 scripts/ bert_models/english-wwm treebank.tokens --beam_size 10 > treebank.parsed
python3 scripts/ $treebank_file treebank.parsed > treebank.parsed.retagged
EVALB/evalb -p EVALB/COLLINS_ch.prm $treebank_file treebank.parsed.retagged

(COLLINS_ch.prm is a parameter file that can be used to evaluate on either the English or Chinese Penn Treebanks; it is modified from COLLINS.prm to drop the PU punctuation tag which is found in the CTB corpora.)


Here are rough instructions, more complete ones will (hopefully) be coming soon. Please contact dfried AT cs DOT berkeley DOT edu if you'd like help training the models that use BERT in the meantime.

  1. Generate a Tensorflow computation graph in protobuf format for your BERT model (if it's not already present in bert_models/*_graph.pb; we currently have graphs for bert-{base,large}-{cased,uncased} and BERT-base chinese). Here is an example invocation for bert-base-uncased (after downloading and extracting Google's pretrained model into the bert_models directory):
export BERT_MODEL_DIR="bert_models/cased_L-12_H-768_A-12"
export BERT_GRAPH_PATH="bert_models/cased_L-12_H-768_A-12_graph.pb"
python3 scripts/ --bert_model_dir $BERT_MODEL_DIR --bert_output_file $BERT_GRAPH_PATH

Computation graph files depend not only on the size of the BERT architecture (base vs large) but also on the number of subwords in the model vocabulary, so you will likely need to generate a new graph if you are using a BERT model for another language (or a multilingual model).

  1. Obtain treebank files for your corpus, and put them into files with one parse tree per line (for example, as produced by our PTB data generation code). Optional: remove functional annotations and extraneous non-terminals, like TOP, which are all discarded in standard evaluation, using scripts/

  2. Produce a dictionary and oracle files for your treebank splits (adapted from corpora/english/

export DICTIONARY=<dictionary_file_to_create>
python3 scripts/ <train_treebank_file> > $DICTIONARY
python3 scripts/ $DICTIONARY <train_treebank_file> --bert_model_dir $BERT_MODEL_DIR > corpora/<your_corpus_name>/ --in_order
python3 scripts/ $DICTIONARY <dev_treebank_file> --bert_model_dir $BERT_MODEL_DIR > corpora/<your_corpus_name>/ --in_order

By default, the standard RNNG top-down transition system will be used; to use the In-Order system pass --in_order to the scripts/ commands above.

Subword token indices will be obtained using the vocab.txt file in $BERT_MODEL_DIR. Lowercasing will be performed iff "uncased" is part of the $BERT_MODEL_DIR filepath string, but if your model name doesn't use this convention, you can force lowercasing (or case preservation) by passing do_lower_case=True or do_lower_case=False as an argument to bert_tokenize.Tokenizer in scripts/

  1. Train the parser (adapted from

Here is the command to train a parser with a BERT base model, with the standard RNNG top-down transition system:

build/nt-parser/nt-parser \
    --cnn-mem 3000,3000,500 \
    -T corpora/<your_corpus_name>/ \
    -d corpora/<your_corpus_name>/ \
    -C <dev_treebank_file> \
    -t \
    --bert \
    --bert_model_dir $BERT_MODEL_DIR \
    --bert_graph_path $BERT_GRAPH_PATH \
    --lstm_input_dim 128 \
    --hidden_dim 128 \
    -D 0.2 \
    --batch_size 32 \
    --subbatch_max_tokens 500 \
    --eval_batch_size 8 \
    --bert_lr 2e-5 \
    --lr_decay_patience 2 \
    --bert_large \
    --model_output_dir <path_to_save> \
    --optimizer adam

This assumes a BERT base model (with embedding size 768); if you are using a BERT large model (with embedding size 1024), also pass --bert_large. For a non-standard embedding size, you'll need to modify the BERT_DIM definition.

If you are using the In-Order system, also pass --inorder. (Note that the argument name differs from the --in_order used for, apologies!)


This repo contains code from a number of papers.

For the RNNG or In-Order models, please cite the original papers:

  author = {Chris Dyer and Adhiguna Kuncoro and Miguel Ballesteros and Noah A. Smith},
  title = {Recurrent Neural Network Grammars},
  booktitle = {Proc. of NAACL},
  year = {2016},

  author = {Liu, Jiangming and Zhang, Yue },
  title = {In-Order Transition-based Constituent Parsing},
  journal = {Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics},
  volume = {5},
  year = {2017},
  issn = {2307-387X},
  pages = {413--424}          

For beam search in the generative model:

  title     = {Effective Inference for Generative Neural Parsing},
  author    = {Mitchell Stern and Daniel Fried and Dan Klein},
  booktitle = {Proceedings of EMNLP},
  month     = {September},
  year      = {2017},

For policy gradient or dynamic oracle training:

  title     = {Policy Gradient as a Proxy for Dynamic Oracles in Constituency Parsing},
  author    = {Daniel Fried and Dan Klein},
  booktitle = {Proceedings of ACL},
  month     = {July},
  year      = {2018},

For the BERT integration:

  title = {{BERT}: Pre-training of Deep Bidirectional Transformers for Language Understanding},
  author = {Devlin, Jacob  and
    Chang, Ming-Wei  and
    Lee, Kenton  and
    Toutanova, Kristina},
  booktitle = {Proceedings of NAACL},
  month = {June},
  year = {2019},

  title     = {Cross-Domain Generalization of Neural Constituency Parsers},
  author    = {Daniel Fried, Nikita Kitaev, and Dan Klein},
  booktitle = {Proceedings of ACL},
  month     = {July},
  year      = {2019},


The code in this repo (and parts of this readme) is derived from the RNNG parser by Chris Dyer, Adhiguna Kuncoro, Miguel Ballesteros, and Noah Smith, incorporating the In-Order transition system of Jiangming Liu and Yue Zhang. Additional modifications (beam search, abstraction of the parser state and ensembling, BERT integration, the RNNG dynamic oracle, and min-risk policy gradient training) were made by Daniel Fried, Mitchell Stern, and Nikita Kitaev.


Constituency parser for English and Chinese, built on the RNNG and In-Order parsers with BERT






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