Transformer XL


The Transformer-XL model was proposed in Transformer-XL: Attentive Language Models Beyond a Fixed-Length Context by Zihang Dai*, Zhilin Yang*, Yiming Yang, Jaime Carbonell, Quoc V. Le, Ruslan Salakhutdinov. It’s a causal (uni-directional) transformer with relative positioning (sinusoïdal) embeddings which can reuse previously computed hidden-states to attend to longer context (memory). This model also uses adaptive softmax inputs and outputs (tied).

The abstract from the paper is the following:

Transformers have a potential of learning longer-term dependency, but are limited by a fixed-length context in the setting of language modeling. We propose a novel neural architecture Transformer-XL that enables learning dependency beyond a fixed length without disrupting temporal coherence. It consists of a segment-level recurrence mechanism and a novel positional encoding scheme. Our method not only enables capturing longer-term dependency, but also resolves the context fragmentation problem. As a result, Transformer-XL learns dependency that is 80% longer than RNNs and 450% longer than vanilla Transformers, achieves better performance on both short and long sequences, and is up to 1,800+ times faster than vanilla Transformers during evaluation. Notably, we improve the state-of-the-art results of bpc/perplexity to 0.99 on enwiki8, 1.08 on text8, 18.3 on WikiText-103, 21.8 on One Billion Word, and 54.5 on Penn Treebank (without finetuning). When trained only on WikiText-103, Transformer-XL manages to generate reasonably coherent, novel text articles with thousands of tokens.


  • Transformer-XL uses relative sinusoidal positional embeddings. Padding can be done on the left or on the right. The original implementation trains on SQuAD with padding on the left, therefore the padding defaults are set to left.

  • Transformer-XL is one of the few models that has no sequence length limit.