# The Transformer: fairseq edition

*by Javier Ferrando*

The Transformer was presented in "Attention is All You Need" and introduced a new architecture for many NLP tasks. In this post we exhibit an explanation of the Transformer architecture on Neural Machine Translation focusing on the fairseq implementation. We believe this could be useful for researchers and developers starting out on this framework.

The blog is inspired by The annotated Transformer, The Illustrated Transformer and Fairseq Transformer, BART blogs.

## Model Architecture

The Transformer is based on a stack of encoders and another stack of decoders. The encoder maps an input sequence of tokens to a sequence of continuous vector representations . Given , the decoder then generates an output sequence of symbols one element at a time. At each step the model is auto-regressive, consuming the previously generated symbols as additional input when generating the next token.

To see the general structure of the code in fairseq implementation I recommend reading Fairseq Transformer, BART.

This model is implemented in fairseq as `TransformerModel`

in fairseq/models/transformer.py.

```
class TransformerModel(FairseqEncoderDecoderModel):
...
def forward(
self,
src_tokens,
src_lengths,
prev_output_tokens,
return_all_hiddens: bool = True,
features_only: bool = False,
alignment_layer: Optional[int] = None,
alignment_heads: Optional[int] = None,
):
encoder_out = self.encoder(
src_tokens, src_lengths=src_lengths, return_all_hiddens=return_all_hiddens
)
decoder_out = self.decoder(
prev_output_tokens,
encoder_out=encoder_out,
features_only=features_only,
alignment_layer=alignment_layer,
alignment_heads=alignment_heads,
src_lengths=src_lengths,
return_all_hiddens=return_all_hiddens,
)
return decoder_out
```

## Encoder

The encoder (`TransformerEncoder`

) is composed of a stack of identical layers.

The encoder recieves a list of tokens `src_tokens`

which are then converted to continuous vector representions `x = self.forward_embedding(src_tokens, token_embeddings)`

, which is made of the sum of the (scaled) embedding lookup and the positional embedding: `x = self.embed_scale * self.embed_tokens(src_tokens) + self.embed_positions(src_tokens)`

.

From now on, let's consider as the encoder layer input sequence. refers then to the vectors representation of the input sequence tokens of the first layer, after computing `self.forward_embedding`

on `src_tokens`

.

Note that although is represented in fairseq as a tensor of shape `src_len x batch x encoder_embed_dim`

, for the sake of simplicity, we take `batch=1`

in the upcoming mathematical notation and just consider it as a `src_len x encoder_embed_dim`

matrix.

```
class TransformerEncoder(FairseqEncoder):
...
def forward(
self,
src_tokens,
src_lengths,
return_all_hiddens: bool = False,
token_embeddings: Optional[torch.Tensor] = None,
):
x, encoder_embedding = self.forward_embedding(src_tokens, token_embeddings)
# batch x src_lengths x encoder_embed_dim
# -> src_lengths x batch x encoder_embed_dim
x = x.transpose(0, 1)
# compute padding mask
encoder_padding_mask = src_tokens.eq(self.padding_idx)
encoder_states = [] if return_all_hiddens else None
# encoder layers
for layer in self.layers:
x = layer(x, encoder_padding_mask)
if return_all_hiddens:
assert encoder_states is not None
encoder_states.append(x)
if self.layer_norm is not None:
x = self.layer_norm(x)
return EncoderOut(
encoder_out=x, # src_lengths x batch x encoder_embed_dim
encoder_padding_mask=encoder_padding_mask,
encoder_embedding=encoder_embedding,
encoder_states=encoder_states, # List[src_lengths x batch x encoder_embed_dim]
src_tokens=None,
src_lengths=None,
)
```

This returns a NamedTuple object `encoder_out`

.

- encoder_out: of shape
`src_len x batch x encoder_embed_dim`

, the last layer encoder's embedding which, as we will see, is used by the Decoder. Note that is the same as when`batch=1`

. - encoder_padding_mask: of shape
`batch x src_len`

. Binary ByteTensor where padding elements are indicated by 1. - encoder_embedding: of shape
`src_len x batch x encoder_embed_dim`

, the words (scaled) embedding lookup. - encoder_states: of shape
`list[src_len x batch x encoder_embed_dim]`

, intermediate enocoder layer's output.

### Encoder Layer

The previous snippet of code shows a loop over the layers of the Encoder block, `for layer in self.layers`

. This layer is implemented in fairseq in `class TransformerEncoderLayer(nn.Module)`

inside fairseq/modules/transformer_layer.py and computes the following operations:

The input of the encoder layer is passed through the self-attention module `self.self_attn`

, dropout (`self.dropout_module(x)`

) is then applied before getting to the Residual & Normalization module (made of a residual connection `self.residual_connection(x, residual)`

and a layer normalization (LayerNorm) `self.self_attn_layer_norm(x)`

```
class TransformerEncoderLayer(nn.Module):
...
def forward(self, x, encoder_padding_mask, attn_mask: Optional[Tensor] = None):
if attn_mask is not None:
attn_mask = attn_mask.masked_fill(attn_mask.to(torch.bool), -1e8)
residual = x
if self.normalize_before:
x = self.self_attn_layer_norm(x)
x, _ = self.self_attn(
query=x,
key=x,
value=x,
key_padding_mask=encoder_padding_mask,
attn_mask=attn_mask,
)
x = self.dropout_module(x)
x = self.residual_connection(x, residual)
if not self.normalize_before:
x = self.self_attn_layer_norm(x)
```

Then, the result is passed through a position-wise feed-forward network composed by two fully connected layers, `fc1`

and `fc2`

with a ReLU activation in between (`self.activation_fn(self.fc1(x))`

) and dropout `self.dropout_module(x)`

.

```
residual = x
if self.normalize_before:
x = self.final_layer_norm(x)
x = self.activation_fn(self.fc1(x))
x = self.activation_dropout_module(x)
x = self.fc2(x)
x = self.dropout_module(x)
```

Finally, a residual connection is made before another layer normalization layer.

```
x = self.residual_connection(x, residual)
if not self.normalize_before:
x = self.final_layer_norm(x)
return x
```

### Self-attention

As we have seen, the input of each encoder layer is firstly passed through a self-attention layer (fairseq/modules/multihead_attention.py)

```
class MultiheadAttention(nn.Module):
...
def forward(
self,
query,
key: Optional[Tensor],
value: Optional[Tensor],
key_padding_mask: Optional[Tensor] = None,
incremental_state: Optional[Dict[str, Dict[str, Optional[Tensor]]]] = None,
need_weights: bool = True,
static_kv: bool = False,
attn_mask: Optional[Tensor] = None,
before_softmax: bool = False,
need_head_weights: bool = False,
) -> Tuple[Tensor, Optional[Tensor]]:
```

Each encoder layer input , shown as `query`

below since three identical copies are passed to the self-attention module, is multiplied by three weight matrices learned during the training process: and , obtaining and . Each row of this output matrices represents the query, key and value vectors of each token in the sequence, represented as and in the formulas that follow.

```
if self.self_attention:
q = self.q_proj(query) # Q
k = self.k_proj(query) # K
v = self.v_proj(query) # V
q *= self.scaling
```

The self-attention module does the following operation:

` attn_weights = torch.bmm(q, k.transpose(1, 2)) # QK^T multiplication`

Given a token in the input, , it is passed to the self-attention function. Then, by means of dot products, scalar values (scores) are obtained between the query vector and every key vector of the input sequence . The intuition is that this performs a similarity operation, similar queries and keys vectors will yield higher scores.

These scores represent how much attention is paid by the self-attention layer to other parts of the sequence when encoding . By multiplying by the matrix , a list of `src_len`

scores is output. The scores are then passed through a softmax function giving bounded values:

```
attn_weights_float = utils.softmax(
attn_weights, dim=-1, onnx_trace=self.onnx_trace
)
attn_weights = attn_weights_float.type_as(attn_weights)
```

The division by the square root of the dimension of the key vectors (for getting more stable gradients) is done previously `q *= self.scaling`

instead in fairseq.

For example, given the sentence "the nice cat walks away from us" for the token , its corresponding attention weights for every other token in the input sequence could be:

Once we have normalized scores for every pair of tokens , we multiply these weights by the value vector (each row in matrix ) and finally sum up those vectors:

Where represents row of . By doing the matrix multiplication of the attention weight matrix `attn_weights`

and , , we directly get matrix .

```
attn_probs = self.dropout_module(attn_weights)
assert v is not None
attn = torch.bmm(attn_probs, v)
```

This process is done in parallel in each of the self-attention heads. So, in total `encoder_attention_heads`

matrices are output. Each head has its own and weight matrices which are randomly initialized, so the result leads to different representation subspaces in each of the self-attention heads.

The output matrices of every self-attention head are concatenated into a single one to which a linear transformation (`self.out_proj`

) is applied:

```
#concatenating each head representation before W^o projection
attn = attn.transpose(0, 1).contiguous().view(tgt_len, bsz, embed_dim)
#W^o projection
attn = self.out_proj(attn)
attn_weights: Optional[Tensor] = None
if need_weights:
attn_weights = attn_weights_float.view(
bsz, self.num_heads, tgt_len, src_len
).transpose(1, 0)
if not need_head_weights:
# average attention weights over heads
attn_weights = attn_weights.mean(dim=0)
return attn, attn_weights
```

Notice that `attn_probs`

has dimensions (bsz * self.num_heads, tgt_len, src_len)

To facilitate these residual connections, all sub-layers in the model, as well as the embedding layers, produce outputs of dimension `encoder_embed_dim`

.

## Decoder

The decoder is composed of a stack of identical layers.

The goal of the decoder is to generate a sequence in the target language. The `TransformerDecoder`

inherits from `FairseqIncrementalDecoder`

. It differs from the encoder in that it performs incremental decoding. This means that at each time step a forward pass is done through the decoder, generating , which is then fed as input to the next time step decoding process.

The encoder output `encoder_out.encoder_out`

is used by the decoder (in each layer) together with (`prev_output_tokens`

) to generate one feature vector per target token at each time step (`tgt_len = 1`

in each forward pass). This feature vector is then transformed by a linear layer and passed through a softmax layer `self.output_layer(x)`

to get a probability distribution over the target language vocabulary.

Following the beam search algorithm, top `beam`

hypotheses are chosen and inserted in the batch dimension input of the decoder (`prev_output_tokens`

) for the next time step.

We consider as the decoder layer input sequence. refers then to the vector representation of the input sequence tokens of the first layer, after computing `self.forward_embedding`

on `prev_output_tokens`

. Note that here `self.forward_embedding`

is not defined, but we refer to `self.embed_tokens(prev_output_tokens)`

and `self.embed_positions(prev_output_tokens)`

.

```
class TransformerDecoder(FairseqIncrementalDecoder):
...
def forward(
self,
prev_output_tokens,
encoder_out: Optional[EncoderOut] = None,
incremental_state: Optional[Dict[str, Dict[str, Optional[Tensor]]]] = None,
features_only: bool = False,
full_context_alignment: bool = False,
alignment_layer: Optional[int] = None,
alignment_heads: Optional[int] = None,
src_lengths: Optional[Any] = None,
return_all_hiddens: bool = False,
):
x, extra = self.extract_features(
prev_output_tokens,
encoder_out=encoder_out,
incremental_state=incremental_state,
full_context_alignment=full_context_alignment,
alignment_layer=alignment_layer,
alignment_heads=alignment_heads,
)
if not features_only:
x = self.output_layer(x)
return x, extra
```

```
def extract_features(
self,
prev_output_tokens,
encoder_out: Optional[EncoderOut] = None,
incremental_state: Optional[Dict[str, Dict[str, Optional[Tensor]]]] = None,
full_context_alignment: bool = False,
alignment_layer: Optional[int] = None,
alignment_heads: Optional[int] = None,
):
return self.extract_features_scriptable(
prev_output_tokens,
encoder_out,
incremental_state,
full_context_alignment,
alignment_layer,
alignment_heads,
)
```

In the first time step, `prev_output_tokens`

represents the beginning of sentence (BOS) token index. Its embedding enters the decoder as a tensor `beam*batch x tgt_len x encoder_embed_dim`

.

```
def extract_features_scriptable(
self,
prev_output_tokens,
encoder_out: Optional[EncoderOut] = None,
incremental_state: Optional[Dict[str, Dict[str, Optional[Tensor]]]] = None,
full_context_alignment: bool = False,
alignment_layer: Optional[int] = None,
alignment_heads: Optional[int] = None,
):
..
positions = (
self.embed_positions(
prev_output_tokens, incremental_state=incremental_state
)
x = self.embed_scale * self.embed_tokens(prev_output_tokens)
if positions is not None:
x += positions
attn: Optional[Tensor] = None
inner_states: List[Optional[Tensor]] = [x]
for idx, layer in enumerate(self.layers):
if incremental_state is None and not full_context_alignment:
self_attn_mask = self.buffered_future_mask(x)
else:
self_attn_mask = None
x, layer_attn, _ = layer(
x,
encoder_out.encoder_out if encoder_out is not None else None,
encoder_out.encoder_padding_mask if encoder_out is not None else None,
incremental_state,
self_attn_mask=self_attn_mask,
self_attn_padding_mask=self_attn_padding_mask,
need_attn=bool((idx == alignment_layer)),
need_head_weights=bool((idx == alignment_layer)),
)
inner_states.append(x)
if layer_attn is not None and idx == alignment_layer:
attn = layer_attn.float().to(x)
if attn is not None:
if alignment_heads is not None:
attn = attn[:alignment_heads]
# average probabilities over heads
attn = attn.mean(dim=0)
if self.layer_norm is not None:
x = self.layer_norm(x)
# T x B x C -> B x T x C
x = x.transpose(0, 1)
if self.project_out_dim is not None:
x = self.project_out_dim(x)
return x, {"attn": [attn], "inner_states": inner_states}
```

### Decoder layer

The previous snippet of code shows a loop over the layers of the Decoder block `for idx, layer in enumerate(self.layers):`

. This layer is implemented in fairseq in `class TransformerDecoderLayer(nn.Module)`

inside fairseq/modules/transformer_layer.py and computes the following operations:

In addition to the two sub-layers in each encoder layer, the decoder inserts a third sub-layer (Encoder-Decoder Attention), which performs multi-head attention over the output of the encoder stack as input for and and the ouput of the previous module . Similar to the encoder, it employs residual connections around each of the sub-layers, followed by layer normalization.

```
class TransformerDecoderLayer(nn.Module):
..
def forward(
self,
x,
encoder_out: Optional[torch.Tensor] = None,
encoder_padding_mask: Optional[torch.Tensor] = None,
incremental_state: Optional[Dict[str, Dict[str, Optional[Tensor]]]] = None,
prev_self_attn_state: Optional[List[torch.Tensor]] = None,
prev_attn_state: Optional[List[torch.Tensor]] = None,
self_attn_mask: Optional[torch.Tensor] = None,
self_attn_padding_mask: Optional[torch.Tensor] = None,
need_attn: bool = False,
need_head_weights: bool = False,
):
...
residual = x
if self.normalize_before:
x = self.self_attn_layer_norm(x)
```

### Self-attention in the decoder

```
...
y = x
x, attn = self.self_attn(
query=x,
key=y,
value=y,
key_padding_mask=self_attn_padding_mask,
incremental_state=incremental_state, # previous keys and values stored here
need_weights=False,
attn_mask=self_attn_mask,
)
x = self.dropout_module(x)
x = self.residual_connection(x, residual)
if not self.normalize_before:
x = self.self_attn_layer_norm(x)
```

During incremental decoding, enter the self-attention module as `prev_key`

and `prev_value`

vectors that are stored in `incremental_state`

. Since there is no need to recompute and every time, incremental decoding caches these values and concatenates with keys an values from . Then, updated and are stored in `prev_key`

and passed again to `incremental_state`

.

The last time step output token in each decoding step, , enters as a query after been embedded. So, queries here have one element in the second dimension, that is, there is no need to use matrix notation. As before, scalar values (scores) are obtained between the query vector and every key vector of the whole previous tokens sequence.

Flashing back to (fairseq/modules/multihead_attention.py) we can see how key and values are obtained inside the Multihead attention module and how these udates in `saved_state`

and `incremental_state`

are done:

```
class MultiheadAttention(nn.Module):
...
def forward(
...
):
...
if incremental_state is not None:
saved_state = self._get_input_buffer(incremental_state) # getting saved_state
...
if saved_state is not None:
if "prev_key" in saved_state:
_prev_key = saved_state["prev_key"]
assert _prev_key is not None
prev_key = _prev_key.view(bsz * self.num_heads, -1, self.head_dim)
if static_kv: # in encoder-endoder attention
k = prev_key
else:
assert k is not None
k = torch.cat([prev_key, k], dim=1) # concatenation of K
if "prev_value" in saved_state:
_prev_value = saved_state["prev_value"]
assert _prev_value is not None
prev_value = _prev_value.view(bsz * self.num_heads, -1, self.head_dim)
if static_kv: # in encoder-endoder attention
v = prev_value
else:
assert v is not None
v = torch.cat([prev_value, v], dim=1) # concatenation of V
prev_key_padding_mask: Optional[Tensor] = None
if "prev_key_padding_mask" in saved_state:
prev_key_padding_mask = saved_state["prev_key_padding_mask"]
assert k is not None and v is not None
key_padding_mask = MultiheadAttention._append_prev_key_padding_mask(
key_padding_mask=key_padding_mask,
prev_key_padding_mask=prev_key_padding_mask,
batch_size=bsz,
src_len=k.size(1),
static_kv=static_kv,
)
saved_state["prev_key"] = k.view(bsz, self.num_heads, -1, self.head_dim)
saved_state["prev_value"] = v.view(bsz, self.num_heads, -1, self.head_dim)
saved_state["prev_key_padding_mask"] = key_padding_mask
# In this branch incremental_state is never None
assert incremental_state is not None
incremental_state = self._set_input_buffer(incremental_state, saved_state) # update
```

### Encoder-Decoder attention

The Encoder-Decoder attention receives key and values from the encoder output `encoder_out.encoder_out`

and the query from the previous module . Here, is compared against every key vector received from the encoder (and transformed by ).

As before, and don't need to be recomputed every time step since they are constant for the whole decoding process. Encoder-Decoder attention uses `static_kv=True`

so that there is no need to update the `incremental_state`

(see previous code snippet).

Now, just one vector is generated at each time step by each head as a weighted average of the vectors.

```
if self.encoder_attn is not None and encoder_out is not None:
residual = x
if self.normalize_before:
x = self.encoder_attn_layer_norm(x)
...
x, attn = self.encoder_attn(
query=x,
key=encoder_out,
value=encoder_out,
key_padding_mask=encoder_padding_mask,
incremental_state=incremental_state,
static_kv=True,
need_weights=need_attn or (not self.training and self.need_attn),
need_head_weights=need_head_weights,
)
x = self.dropout_module(x)
x = self.residual_connection(x, residual)
if not self.normalize_before:
x = self.encoder_attn_layer_norm(x)
```

As in the case of the encoder, the result is passed through a position-wise feed-forward network composed by two fully connected layers:

```
residual = x
if self.normalize_before:
x = self.final_layer_norm(x)
x = self.activation_fn(self.fc1(x))
x = self.activation_dropout_module(x)
x = self.fc2(x)
x = self.dropout_module(x)
```

Finally, a residual connection is made before another layer normalization layer.

```
x = self.residual_connection(x, residual)
if not self.normalize_before:
x = self.final_layer_norm(x)
...
return x, attn, None
```

## Citation

```
@misc{ferrando-transformer,
author = {Ferrando, Javier},
title = {The Transformer: fairseq edition},
year = {2020},
howpublished = {\url{https://mt.cs.upc.edu/2020/12/21/the-transformer-fairseq-edition/}},
}
```