Methods of Moments for Learning Stochastic Languages: Unified Presentation and Empirical Comparison


Borja Balle, William Hamilton, Joelle Pineau ;
Proceedings of the 31st International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 32(2):1386-1394, 2014.


Probabilistic latent-variable models are a powerful tool for modelling structured data. However, traditional expectation-maximization methods of learning such models are both computationally expensive and prone to local-minima. In contrast to these traditional methods, recently developed learning algorithms based upon the method of moments are both computationally efficient and provide strong statistical guarantees. In this work, we provide a unified presentation and empirical comparison of three general moment-based methods in the context of modelling stochastic languages. By rephrasing these methods upon a common theoretical ground, introducing novel theoretical results where necessary, we provide a clear comparison, making explicit the statistical assumptions upon which each method relies. With this theoretical grounding, we then provide an in-depth empirical analysis of the methods on both real and synthetic data with the goal of elucidating performance trends and highlighting important implementation details.

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