Xintong Li


PaddleSpeech: An Easy-to-Use All-in-One Speech Toolkit
Hui Zhang | Tian Yuan | Junkun Chen | Xintong Li | Renjie Zheng | Yuxin Huang | Xiaojie Chen | Enlei Gong | Zeyu Chen | Xiaoguang Hu | Dianhai Yu | Yanjun Ma | Liang Huang
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies: System Demonstrations

PaddleSpeech is an open-source all-in-one speech toolkit. It aims at facilitating the development and research of speech processing technologies by providing an easy-to-use command-line interface and a simple code structure. This paper describes the design philosophy and core architecture of PaddleSpeech to support several essential speech-to-text and text-to-speech tasks. PaddleSpeech achieves competitive or state-of-the-art performance on various speech datasets and implements the most popular methods. It also provides recipes and pretrained models to quickly reproduce the experimental results in this paper. PaddleSpeech is publicly avaiable at

Generating Discourse Connectives with Pre-trained Language Models: Conditioning on Discourse Relations Helps Reconstruct the PDTB
Symon Stevens-Guille | Aleksandre Maskharashvili | Xintong Li | Michael White
Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Special Interest Group on Discourse and Dialogue

We report results of experiments using BART (Lewis et al., 2019) and the Penn Discourse Tree Bank (Webber et al., 2019) (PDTB) to generate texts with correctly realized discourse relations. We address a question left open by previous research (Yung et al., 2021; Ko and Li, 2020) concerning whether conditioning the model on the intended discourse relation—which corresponds to adding explicit discourse relation information into the input to the model—improves its performance. Our results suggest that including discourse relation information in the input of the model significantly improves the consistency with which it produces a correctly realized discourse relation in the output. We compare our models’ performance to known results concerning the discourse structures found in written text and their possible explanations in terms of discourse interpretation strategies hypothesized in the psycholinguistics literature. Our findings suggest that natural language generation models based on current pre-trained Transformers will benefit from infusion with discourse level information if they aim to construct discourses with the intended relations.


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Neural Methodius Revisited: Do Discourse Relations Help with Pre-Trained Models Too?
Aleksandre Maskharashvili | Symon Stevens-Guille | Xintong Li | Michael White
Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Natural Language Generation

Recent developments in natural language generation (NLG) have bolstered arguments in favor of re-introducing explicit coding of discourse relations in the input to neural models. In the Methodius corpus, a meaning representation (MR) is hierarchically structured and includes discourse relations. Meanwhile pre-trained language models have been shown to implicitly encode rich linguistic knowledge which provides an excellent resource for NLG. By virtue of synthesizing these lines of research, we conduct extensive experiments on the benefits of using pre-trained models and discourse relation information in MRs, focusing on the improvement of discourse coherence and correctness. We redesign the Methodius corpus; we also construct another Methodius corpus in which MRs are not hierarchically structured but flat. We report experiments on different versions of the corpora, which probe when, where, and how pre-trained models benefit from MRs with discourse relation information in them. We conclude that discourse relations significantly improve NLG when data is limited.

Self-Training for Compositional Neural NLG in Task-Oriented Dialogue
Xintong Li | Symon Stevens-Guille | Aleksandre Maskharashvili | Michael White
Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Natural Language Generation

Neural approaches to natural language generation in task-oriented dialogue have typically required large amounts of annotated training data to achieve satisfactory performance, especially when generating from compositional inputs. To address this issue, we show that self-training enhanced with constrained decoding yields large gains in data efficiency on a conversational weather dataset that employs compositional meaning representations. In particular, our experiments indicate that self-training with constrained decoding can enable sequence-to-sequence models to achieve satisfactory quality using vanilla decoding with five to ten times less data than with ordinary supervised baseline; moreover, by leveraging pretrained models, data efficiency can be increased further to fifty times. We confirm the main automatic results with human evaluations and show that they extend to an enhanced, compositional version of the E2E dataset. The end result is an approach that makes it possible to achieve acceptable performance on compositional NLG tasks using hundreds rather than tens of thousands of training samples.

Building Adaptive Acceptability Classifiers for Neural NLG
Soumya Batra | Shashank Jain | Peyman Heidari | Ankit Arun | Catharine Youngs | Xintong Li | Pinar Donmez | Shawn Mei | Shiunzu Kuo | Vikas Bhardwaj | Anuj Kumar | Michael White
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

We propose a novel framework to train models to classify acceptability of responses generated by natural language generation (NLG) models, improving upon existing sentence transformation and model-based approaches. An NLG response is considered acceptable if it is both semantically correct and grammatical. We don’t make use of any human references making the classifiers suitable for runtime deployment. Training data for the classifiers is obtained using a 2-stage approach of first generating synthetic data using a combination of existing and new model-based approaches followed by a novel validation framework to filter and sort the synthetic data into acceptable and unacceptable classes. Our 2-stage approach adapts to a wide range of data representations and does not require additional data beyond what the NLG models are trained on. It is also independent of the underlying NLG model architecture, and is able to generate more realistic samples close to the distribution of the NLG model-generated responses. We present results on 5 datasets (WebNLG, Cleaned E2E, ViGGO, Alarm, and Weather) with varying data representations. We compare our framework with existing techniques that involve synthetic data generation using simple sentence transformations and/or model-based techniques, and show that building acceptability classifiers using data that resembles the generation model outputs followed by a validation framework outperforms the existing techniques, achieving state-of-the-art results. We also show that our techniques can be used in few-shot settings using self-training.


Neural NLG for Methodius: From RST Meaning Representations to Texts
Symon Stevens-Guille | Aleksandre Maskharashvili | Amy Isard | Xintong Li | Michael White
Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Natural Language Generation

While classic NLG systems typically made use of hierarchically structured content plans that included discourse relations as central components, more recent neural approaches have mostly mapped simple, flat inputs to texts without representing discourse relations explicitly. In this paper, we investigate whether it is beneficial to include discourse relations in the input to neural data-to-text generators for texts where discourse relations play an important role. To do so, we reimplement the sentence planning and realization components of a classic NLG system, Methodius, using LSTM sequence-to-sequence (seq2seq) models. We find that although seq2seq models can learn to generate fluent and grammatical texts remarkably well with sufficiently representative Methodius training data, they cannot learn to correctly express Methodius’s similarity and contrast comparisons unless the corresponding RST relations are included in the inputs. Additionally, we experiment with using self-training and reverse model reranking to better handle train/test data mismatches, and find that while these methods help reduce content errors, it remains essential to include discourse relations in the input to obtain optimal performance.

Regularized Context Gates on Transformer for Machine Translation
Xintong Li | Lemao Liu | Rui Wang | Guoping Huang | Max Meng
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Context gates are effective to control the contributions from the source and target contexts in the recurrent neural network (RNN) based neural machine translation (NMT). However, it is challenging to extend them into the advanced Transformer architecture, which is more complicated than RNN. This paper first provides a method to identify source and target contexts and then introduce a gate mechanism to control the source and target contributions in Transformer. In addition, to further reduce the bias problem in the gate mechanism, this paper proposes a regularization method to guide the learning of the gates with supervision automatically generated using pointwise mutual information. Extensive experiments on 4 translation datasets demonstrate that the proposed model obtains an averaged gain of 1.0 BLEU score over a strong Transformer baseline.

Leveraging Large Pretrained Models for WebNLG 2020
Xintong Li | Aleksandre Maskharashvili | Symon Jory Stevens-Guille | Michael White
Proceedings of the 3rd International Workshop on Natural Language Generation from the Semantic Web (WebNLG+)

In this paper, we report experiments on finetuning large pretrained models to realize resource description framework (RDF) triples to natural language. We provide the details of how to build one of the top-ranked English generation models in WebNLG Challenge 2020. We also show that there appears to be considerable potential for reranking to improve the current state of the art both in terms of statistical metrics and model-based metrics. Our human analyses of the generated texts show that for Russian, pretrained models showed some success, both in terms of lexical and morpho-syntactic choices for generation, as well as for content aggregation. Nevertheless, in a number of cases, the model can be unpredictable, both in terms of failure or success. Omissions of the content and hallucinations, which in many cases occurred at the same time, were major problems. By contrast, the models for English showed near perfect performance on the validation set.


On the Word Alignment from Neural Machine Translation
Xintong Li | Guanlin Li | Lemao Liu | Max Meng | Shuming Shi
Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Prior researches suggest that neural machine translation (NMT) captures word alignment through its attention mechanism, however, this paper finds attention may almost fail to capture word alignment for some NMT models. This paper thereby proposes two methods to induce word alignment which are general and agnostic to specific NMT models. Experiments show that both methods induce much better word alignment than attention. This paper further visualizes the translation through the word alignment induced by NMT. In particular, it analyzes the effect of alignment errors on translation errors at word level and its quantitative analysis over many testing examples consistently demonstrate that alignment errors are likely to lead to translation errors measured by different metrics.

Understanding and Improving Hidden Representations for Neural Machine Translation
Guanlin Li | Lemao Liu | Xintong Li | Conghui Zhu | Tiejun Zhao | Shuming Shi
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies, Volume 1 (Long and Short Papers)

Multilayer architectures are currently the gold standard for large-scale neural machine translation. Existing works have explored some methods for understanding the hidden representations, however, they have not sought to improve the translation quality rationally according to their understanding. Towards understanding for performance improvement, we first artificially construct a sequence of nested relative tasks and measure the feature generalization ability of the learned hidden representation over these tasks. Based on our understanding, we then propose to regularize the layer-wise representations with all tree-induced tasks. To overcome the computational bottleneck resulting from the large number of regularization terms, we design efficient approximation methods by selecting a few coarse-to-fine tasks for regularization. Extensive experiments on two widely-used datasets demonstrate the proposed methods only lead to small extra overheads in training but no additional overheads in testing, and achieve consistent improvements (up to +1.3 BLEU) compared to the state-of-the-art translation model.


Target Foresight Based Attention for Neural Machine Translation
Xintong Li | Lemao Liu | Zhaopeng Tu | Shuming Shi | Max Meng
Proceedings of the 2018 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies, Volume 1 (Long Papers)

In neural machine translation, an attention model is used to identify the aligned source words for a target word (target foresight word) in order to select translation context, but it does not make use of any information of this target foresight word at all. Previous work proposed an approach to improve the attention model by explicitly accessing this target foresight word and demonstrated the substantial gains in alignment task. However, this approach is useless in machine translation task on which the target foresight word is unavailable. In this paper, we propose a new attention model enhanced by the implicit information of target foresight word oriented to both alignment and translation tasks. Empirical experiments on Chinese-to-English and Japanese-to-English datasets show that the proposed attention model delivers significant improvements in terms of both alignment error rate and BLEU.