PMRC: Prompt-Based Machine Reading Comprehension for Few-Shot Named Entity Recognition


  • Jin Huang Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications
  • Danfeng Yan Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications
  • Yuanqiang Cai Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications



NLP: (Large) Language Models, NLP: Information Extraction


The prompt-based method has been proven effective in improving the performance of pre-trained language models (PLMs) on sentence-level few-shot tasks. However, when applying prompting to token-level tasks such as Named Entity Recognition (NER), specific templates need to be designed, and all possible segments of the input text need to be enumerated. These methods have high computational complexity in both training and inference processes, making them difficult to apply in real-world scenarios. To address these issues, we redefine the NER task as a Machine Reading Comprehension (MRC) task and incorporate prompting into the MRC framework. Specifically, we sequentially insert boundary markers for various entity types into the templates and use these markers as anchors during the inference process to differentiate entity types. In contrast to the traditional multi-turn question-answering extraction in the MRC framework, our method can extract all spans of entity types in one round. Furthermore, we propose word-based template and example-based template that enhance the MRC framework's perception of entity start and end positions while significantly reducing the manual effort required for template design. It is worth noting that in cross-domain scenarios, PMRC does not require redesigning the model architecture and can continue training by simply replacing the templates to recognize entity types in the target domain. Experimental results demonstrate that our approach outperforms state-of-the-art models in low-resource settings, achieving an average performance improvement of +5.2% in settings where access to source domain data is limited. Particularly, on the ATIS dataset with a large number of entity types and 10-shot setting, PMRC achieves a performance improvement of +15.7%. Moreover, our method achieves a decoding speed 40.56 times faster than the template-based cloze-style approach.



How to Cite

Huang, J., Yan, D., & Cai, Y. (2024). PMRC: Prompt-Based Machine Reading Comprehension for Few-Shot Named Entity Recognition. Proceedings of the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, 38(16), 18316-18326.



AAAI Technical Track on Natural Language Processing I