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Pre-trained Contextual Embedding of Source Code

Aditya Kanade, Petros Maniatis, Gogul Balakrishnan, Kensen Shi. ICML 2020


The source code of a program not only serves as a formal description of an executable task, but it also serves to communicate developer intent in a human-readable form. To facilitate this, developers use meaningful identifier names and natural-language documentation. This makes it possible to successfully apply sequence-modeling approaches, shown to be effective in natural-language processing, to source code. A major advancement in natural-language understanding has been the use of pre-trained token embeddings; BERT and other works have further shown that pre-trained contextual embeddings can be extremely powerful and can be fine-tuned effectively for a variety of downstream supervised tasks. Inspired by these developments, we present the first attempt to replicate this success on source code. We curate a massive corpus of Python programs from GitHub to pre-train a BERT model, which we call Code Understanding BERT (CuBERT). We also pre-train Word2Vec embeddings on the same dataset. We create a benchmark of five classification tasks and compare fine-tuned CuBERT against sequence models trained with and without the Word2Vec embeddings. Our results show that CuBERT outperforms the baseline methods by a margin of 2.9-22%. We also show its superiority when fine-tuned with smaller datasets, and over fewer epochs. We further evaluate CuBERT’s effectiveness on a joint classification, localization and repair task involving prediction of two pointers.

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