Binarized Neural Machine Translation

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Yichi Zhang, Ankush Garg, Yuan Cao, Lukasz Lew, Behrooz Ghorbani, Zhiru Zhang, Orhan Firat


The rapid scaling of language models is motivating research using low-bitwidth quantization.In this work, we propose a novel binarization technique for Transformers applied to machine translation (BMT), the first of its kind. We identify and address the problem of inflated dot-product variance when using one-bit weights and activations. Specifically, BMT leverages additional LayerNorms and residual connections to improve binarization quality. Experiments on the WMT dataset show that a one-bit weight-only Transformer can achieve the same quality as a float one, while being 16$\times$ smaller in size. One-bit activations incur varying degrees of quality drop, but mitigated by the proposed architectural changes. We further conduct a scaling law study using production-scale translation datasets, which shows that one-bit weight Transformers scale and generalize well in both in-domain and out-of-domain settings. Implementation in JAX/Flax will be open sourced.