Distributed Representations and Nested Compositional Structure
Tony A. Plate
University of Toronto
Distributed representations are attractive for a number of reasons. They offer the possibility of representing concepts in a continuous space, they degrade gracefully with noise, and they can be processed in a parallel network of simple processing elements. However, the problem of representing nested structure in distributed representations has been for some time a prominent concern of both proponents and critics of connectionism [Fodor and Pylyshyn 1988; Smolensky 1990; Hinton 1990]. The lack of connectionist representations for complex structure has held back progress in tackling higher-level cognitive tasks such as language understanding and reasoning. In this thesis I review connectionist representations and propose a method for the distributed representation of nested structure, which I call "Holographic Reduced Representations " (HRRs). HRRs provide an implementation of Hinton's  "reduced descriptions". HRRs use circular convolution to associate atomic items, which are rep...