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# Lagrangian Method for Q-Function Learning (with Applications to Machine Translation)

*Proceedings of the 39th International Conference on Machine Learning*, PMLR 162:2129-2159, 2022.

#### Abstract

This paper discusses a new approach to the fundamental problem of learning optimal Q-functions. In this approach, optimal Q-functions are formulated as saddle points of a nonlinear Lagrangian function derived from the classic Bellman optimality equation. The paper shows that the Lagrangian enjoys strong duality, in spite of its nonlinearity, which paves the way to a general Lagrangian method to Q-function learning. As a demonstration, the paper develops an imitation learning algorithm based on the duality theory, and applies the algorithm to a state-of-the-art machine translation benchmark. The paper then turns to demonstrate a symmetry breaking phenomenon regarding the optimality of the Lagrangian saddle points, which justifies a largely overlooked direction in developing the Lagrangian method.