Computational Linguistics, Volume 44, Issue 4 - December 2018

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Cambridge, MA
MIT Press
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Computational Linguistics, Volume 44, Issue 4 - December 2018

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The Lost Combinator
Mark Steedman

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Squib: The Language Resource Switchboard
Claus Zinn

The CLARIN research infrastructure gives users access to an increasingly rich and diverse set of language-related resources and tools. Whereas there is ample support for searching resources using metadata-based search, or full-text search, or for aggregating resources into virtual collections, there is little support for users to help them process resources in one way or another. In spite of the large number of tools that process texts in many different languages, there is no single point of access where users can find tools to fit their needs and the resources they have. In this squib, we present the Language Resource Switchboard (LRS), which helps users to discover tools that can process their resources. For this, the LRS identifies all applicable tools for a given resource, lists the tasks the tools can achieve, and invokes the selected tool in such a way so that processing can start immediately with little or no prior tool parameterization.

Squib: Reproducibility in Computational Linguistics: Are We Willing to Share?
Martijn Wieling | Josine Rawee | Gertjan van Noord

This study focuses on an essential precondition for reproducibility in computational linguistics: the willingness of authors to share relevant source code and data. Ten years after Ted Pedersen’s influential “Last Words” contribution in Computational Linguistics, we investigate to what extent researchers in computational linguistics are willing and able to share their data and code. We surveyed all 395 full papers presented at the 2011 and 2016 ACL Annual Meetings, and identified whether links to data and code were provided. If working links were not provided, authors were requested to provide this information. Although data were often available, code was shared less often. When working links to code or data were not provided in the paper, authors provided the code in about one third of cases. For a selection of ten papers, we attempted to reproduce the results using the provided data and code. We were able to reproduce the results approximately for six papers. For only a single paper did we obtain the exact same results. Our findings show that even though the situation appears to have improved comparing 2016 to 2011, empiricism in computational linguistics still largely remains a matter of faith. Nevertheless, we are somewhat optimistic about the future. Ensuring reproducibility is not only important for the field as a whole, but also seems worthwhile for individual researchers: The median citation count for studies with working links to the source code is higher.

Last Words: What Can Be Accomplished with the State of the Art in Information Extraction? A Personal View
Ralph Weischedel | Elizabeth Boschee

Though information extraction (IE) research has more than a 25-year history, F1 scores remain low. Thus, one could question continued investment in IE research. In this article, we present three applications where information extraction of entities, relations, and/or events has been used, and note the common features that seem to have led to success. We also identify key research challenges whose solution seems essential for broader successes. Because a few practical deployments already exist and because breakthroughs on particular challenges would greatly broaden the technology’s deployment, further R and D investments are justified.

Book Review: Automatic Text Simplification by Horacio Saggion
Xiaojun Wan

Introduction to the Special Issue on Language in Social Media: Exploiting Discourse and Other Contextual Information
Farah Benamara | Diana Inkpen | Maite Taboada

Social media content is changing the way people interact with each other and share information, personal messages, and opinions about situations, objects, and past experiences. Most social media texts are short online conversational posts or comments that do not contain enough information for natural language processing (NLP) tools, as they are often accompanied by non-linguistic contextual information, including meta-data (e.g., the user’s profile, the social network of the user, and their interactions with other users). Exploiting such different types of context and their interactions makes the automatic processing of social media texts a challenging research task. Indeed, simply applying traditional text mining tools is clearly sub-optimal, as, typically, these tools take into account neither the interactive dimension nor the particular nature of this data, which shares properties with both spoken and written language. This special issue contributes to a deeper understanding of the role of these interactions to process social media data from a new perspective in discourse interpretation. This introduction first provides the necessary background to understand what context is from both the linguistic and computational linguistic perspectives, then presents the most recent context-based approaches to NLP for social media. We conclude with an overview of the papers accepted in this special issue, highlighting what we believe are the future directions in processing social media texts.

Interactional Stancetaking in Online Forums
Scott F. Kiesling | Umashanthi Pavalanathan | Jim Fitzpatrick | Xiaochuang Han | Jacob Eisenstein

Language is shaped by the relationships between the speaker/writer and the audience, the object of discussion, and the talk itself. In turn, language is used to reshape these relationships over the course of an interaction. Computational researchers have succeeded in operationalizing sentiment, formality, and politeness, but each of these constructs captures only some aspects of social and relational meaning. Theories of interactional stancetaking have been put forward as holistic accounts, but until now, these theories have been applied only through detailed qualitative analysis of (portions of) a few individual conversations. In this article, we propose a new computational operationalization of interpersonal stancetaking. We begin with annotations of three linked stance dimensions—affect, investment, and alignment—on 68 conversation threads from the online platform Reddit. Using these annotations, we investigate thread structure and linguistic properties of stancetaking in online conversations. We identify lexical features that characterize the extremes along each stancetaking dimension, and show that these stancetaking properties can be predicted with moderate accuracy from bag-of-words features, even with a relatively small labeled training set. These quantitative analyses are supplemented by extensive qualitative analysis, highlighting the compatibility of computational and qualitative methods in synthesizing evidence about the creation of interactional meaning.

A Joint Model of Conversational Discourse Latent Topics on Microblogs
Jing Li | Yan Song | Zhongyu Wei | Kam-Fai Wong

Conventional topic models are ineffective for topic extraction from microblog messages, because the data sparseness exhibited in short messages lacking structure and contexts results in poor message-level word co-occurrence patterns. To address this issue, we organize microblog messages as conversation trees based on their reposting and replying relations, and propose an unsupervised model that jointly learns word distributions to represent: (1) different roles of conversational discourse, and (2) various latent topics in reflecting content information. By explicitly distinguishing the probabilities of messages with varying discourse roles in containing topical words, our model is able to discover clusters of discourse words that are indicative of topical content. In an automatic evaluation on large-scale microblog corpora, our joint model yields topics with better coherence scores than competitive topic models from previous studies. Qualitative analysis on model outputs indicates that our model induces meaningful representations for both discourse and topics. We further present an empirical study on microblog summarization based on the outputs of our joint model. The results show that the jointly modeled discourse and topic representations can effectively indicate summary-worthy content in microblog conversations.

Sarcasm Analysis Using Conversation Context
Debanjan Ghosh | Alexander R. Fabbri | Smaranda Muresan

Computational models for sarcasm detection have often relied on the content of utterances in isolation. However, the speaker’s sarcastic intent is not always apparent without additional context. Focusing on social media discussions, we investigate three issues: (1) does modeling conversation context help in sarcasm detection? (2) can we identify what part of conversation context triggered the sarcastic reply? and (3) given a sarcastic post that contains multiple sentences, can we identify the specific sentence that is sarcastic? To address the first issue, we investigate several types of Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM) networks that can model both the conversation context and the current turn. We show that LSTM networks with sentence-level attention on context and current turn, as well as the conditional LSTM network, outperform the LSTM model that reads only the current turn. As conversation context, we consider the prior turn, the succeeding turn, or both. Our computational models are tested on two types of social media platforms: Twitter and discussion forums. We discuss several differences between these data sets, ranging from their size to the nature of the gold-label annotations. To address the latter two issues, we present a qualitative analysis of the attention weights produced by the LSTM models (with attention) and discuss the results compared with human performance on the two tasks.

We Usually Don’t Like Going to the Dentist: Using Common Sense to Detect Irony on Twitter
Cynthia Van Hee | Els Lefever | Véronique Hoste

Although common sense and connotative knowledge come naturally to most people, computers still struggle to perform well on tasks for which such extratextual information is required. Automatic approaches to sentiment analysis and irony detection have revealed that the lack of such world knowledge undermines classification performance. In this article, we therefore address the challenge of modeling implicit or prototypical sentiment in the framework of automatic irony detection. Starting from manually annotated connoted situation phrases (e.g., “flight delays,” “sitting the whole day at the doctor’s office”), we defined the implicit sentiment held towards such situations automatically by using both a lexico-semantic knowledge base and a data-driven method. We further investigate how such implicit sentiment information affects irony detection by assessing a state-of-the-art irony classifier before and after it is informed with implicit sentiment information.

Combining Deep Learning and Argumentative Reasoning for the Analysis of Social Media Textual Content Using Small Data Sets
Oana Cocarascu | Francesca Toni

The use of social media has become a regular habit for many and has changed the way people interact with each other. In this article, we focus on analyzing whether news headlines support tweets and whether reviews are deceptive by analyzing the interaction or the influence that these texts have on the others, thus exploiting contextual information. Concretely, we define a deep learning method for relation–based argument mining to extract argumentative relations of attack and support. We then use this method for determining whether news articles support tweets, a useful task in fact-checking settings, where determining agreement toward a statement is a useful step toward determining its truthfulness. Furthermore, we use our method for extracting bipolar argumentation frameworks from reviews to help detect whether they are deceptive. We show experimentally that our method performs well in both settings. In particular, in the case of deception detection, our method contributes a novel argumentative feature that, when used in combination with other features in standard supervised classifiers, outperforms the latter even on small data sets.

Modeling Speech Acts in Asynchronous Conversations: A Neural-CRF Approach
Shafiq Joty | Tasnim Mohiuddin

Participants in an asynchronous conversation (e.g., forum, e-mail) interact with each other at different times, performing certain communicative acts, called speech acts (e.g., question, request). In this article, we propose a hybrid approach to speech act recognition in asynchronous conversations. Our approach works in two main steps: a long short-term memory recurrent neural network (LSTM-RNN) first encodes each sentence separately into a task-specific distributed representation, and this is then used in a conditional random field (CRF) model to capture the conversational dependencies between sentences. The LSTM-RNN model uses pretrained word embeddings learned from a large conversational corpus and is trained to classify sentences into speech act types. The CRF model can consider arbitrary graph structures to model conversational dependencies in an asynchronous conversation. In addition, to mitigate the problem of limited annotated data in the asynchronous domains, we adapt the LSTM-RNN model to learn from synchronous conversations (e.g., meetings), using domain adversarial training of neural networks. Empirical evaluation shows the effectiveness of our approach over existing ones: (i) LSTM-RNNs provide better task-specific representations, (ii) conversational word embeddings benefit the LSTM-RNNs more than the off-the-shelf ones, (iii) adversarial training gives better domain-invariant representations, and (iv) the global CRF model improves over local models.

Reviewers for Volume 44