Jiacheng Xu


Massive-scale Decoding for Text Generation using Lattices
Jiacheng Xu | Siddhartha Jonnalagadda | Greg Durrett
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Conditional neural text generation models generate high-quality outputs, but often concentrate around a mode when what we really want is a diverse set of options. We present a search algorithm to construct lattices encoding a massive number of generation options. First, we restructure decoding as a best-first search, which explores the space differently than beam search and improves efficiency by avoiding pruning paths. Second, we revisit the idea of hypothesis recombination: we can identify pairs of similar generation candidates during search and merge them as an approximation. On both summarization and machine translation, we show that our algorithm encodes thousands of diverse options that remain grammatical and high-quality into one lattice. This algorithm provides a foundation for building downstream generation applications on top of massive-scale diverse outputs.

ASPECTNEWS: Aspect-Oriented Summarization of News Documents
Ojas Ahuja | Jiacheng Xu | Akshay Gupta | Kevin Horecka | Greg Durrett
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Generic summaries try to cover an entire document and query-based summaries try to answer document-specific questions. But real users’ needs often fall in between these extremes and correspond to aspects, high-level topics discussed among similar types of documents. In this paper, we collect a dataset of realistic aspect-oriented summaries, AspectNews, which covers different subtopics about articles in news sub-domains. We annotate data across two domains of articles, earthquakes and fraud investigations, where each article is annotated with two distinct summaries focusing on different aspects for each domain. A system producing a single generic summary cannot concisely satisfy both aspects. Our focus in evaluation is how well existing techniques can generalize to these domains without seeing in-domain training data, so we turn to techniques to construct synthetic training data that have been used in query-focused summarization work. We compare several training schemes that differ in how strongly keywords are used and how oracle summaries are extracted. Our evaluation shows that our final approach yields (a) focused summaries, better than those from a generic summarization system or from keyword matching; (b) a system sensitive to the choice of keywords.

Training Dynamics for Text Summarization Models
Tanya Goyal | Jiacheng Xu | Junyi Jessy Li | Greg Durrett
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2022

Pre-trained language models (e.g. BART) have shown impressive results when fine-tuned on large summarization datasets. However, little is understood about this fine-tuning process, including what knowledge is retained from pre-training time or how content selection and generation strategies are learnt across iterations. In this work, we analyze the training dynamics for generation models, focusing on summarization. Across different datasets (CNN/DM, XSum, MediaSum) and summary properties, such as abstractiveness and hallucination, we study what the model learns at different stages of its fine-tuning process. We find that a propensity to copy the input is learned early in the training process consistently across all datasets studied. On the other hand, factual errors, such as hallucination of unsupported facts, are learnt in the later stages, though this behavior is more varied across domains. Based on these observations, we explore complementary approaches for modifying training: first, disregarding high-loss tokens that are challenging to learn and second, disregarding low-loss tokens that are learnt very quickly in the latter stages of the training process. We show that these simple training modifications allow us to configure our model to achieve different goals, such as improving factuality or improving abstractiveness.


Disfl-QA: A Benchmark Dataset for Understanding Disfluencies in Question Answering
Aditya Gupta | Jiacheng Xu | Shyam Upadhyay | Diyi Yang | Manaal Faruqui
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL-IJCNLP 2021

Dissecting Generation Modes for Abstractive Summarization Models via Ablation and Attribution
Jiacheng Xu | Greg Durrett
Proceedings of the 59th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 11th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Despite the prominence of neural abstractive summarization models, we know little about how they actually form summaries and how to understand where their decisions come from. We propose a two-step method to interpret summarization model decisions. We first analyze the model’s behavior by ablating the full model to categorize each decoder decision into one of several generation modes: roughly, is the model behaving like a language model, is it relying heavily on the input, or is it somewhere in between? After isolating decisions that do depend on the input, we explore interpreting these decisions using several different attribution methods. We compare these techniques based on their ability to select content and reconstruct the model’s predicted token from perturbations of the input, thus revealing whether highlighted attributions are truly important for the generation of the next token. While this machinery can be broadly useful even beyond summarization, we specifically demonstrate its capability to identify phrases the summarization model has memorized and determine where in the training pipeline this memorization happened, as well as study complex generation phenomena like sentence fusion on a per-instance basis.

Contemporary NLP Modeling in Six Comprehensive Programming Assignments
Greg Durrett | Jifan Chen | Shrey Desai | Tanya Goyal | Lucas Kabela | Yasumasa Onoe | Jiacheng Xu
Proceedings of the Fifth Workshop on Teaching NLP

We present a series of programming assignments, adaptable to a range of experience levels from advanced undergraduate to PhD, to teach students design and implementation of modern NLP systems. These assignments build from the ground up and emphasize full-stack understanding of machine learning models: initially, students implement inference and gradient computation by hand, then use PyTorch to build nearly state-of-the-art neural networks using current best practices. Topics are chosen to cover a wide range of modeling and inference techniques that one might encounter, ranging from linear models suitable for industry applications to state-of-the-art deep learning models used in NLP research. The assignments are customizable, with constrained options to guide less experienced students or open-ended options giving advanced students freedom to explore. All of them can be deployed in a fully autogradable fashion, and have collectively been tested on over 300 students across several semesters.


Discourse-Aware Neural Extractive Text Summarization
Jiacheng Xu | Zhe Gan | Yu Cheng | Jingjing Liu
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Recently BERT has been adopted for document encoding in state-of-the-art text summarization models. However, sentence-based extractive models often result in redundant or uninformative phrases in the extracted summaries. Also, long-range dependencies throughout a document are not well captured by BERT, which is pre-trained on sentence pairs instead of documents. To address these issues, we present a discourse-aware neural summarization model - DiscoBert. DiscoBert extracts sub-sentential discourse units (instead of sentences) as candidates for extractive selection on a finer granularity. To capture the long-range dependencies among discourse units, structural discourse graphs are constructed based on RST trees and coreference mentions, encoded with Graph Convolutional Networks. Experiments show that the proposed model outperforms state-of-the-art methods by a significant margin on popular summarization benchmarks compared to other BERT-base models.

Compressive Summarization with Plausibility and Salience Modeling
Shrey Desai | Jiacheng Xu | Greg Durrett
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

Compressive summarization systems typically rely on a seed set of syntactic rules to determine under what circumstances deleting a span is permissible, then learn which compressions to actually apply by optimizing for ROUGE. In this work, we propose to relax these explicit syntactic constraints on candidate spans, and instead leave the decision about what to delete to two data-driven criteria: plausibility and salience. Deleting a span is plausible if removing it maintains the grammaticality and factuality of a sentence, and it is salient if it removes important information from the summary. Each of these is judged by a pre-trained Transformer model, and only deletions that are both plausible and not salient can be applied. When integrated into a simple extraction-compression pipeline, our method achieves strong in-domain results on benchmark datasets, and human evaluation shows that the plausibility model generally selects for grammatical and factual deletions. Furthermore, the flexibility of our approach allows it to generalize cross-domain, and we show that our system fine-tuned on only 500 samples from a new domain can match or exceed a strong in-domain extractive model.

Understanding Neural Abstractive Summarization Models via Uncertainty
Jiacheng Xu | Shrey Desai | Greg Durrett
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

An advantage of seq2seq abstractive summarization models is that they generate text in a free-form manner, but this flexibility makes it difficult to interpret model behavior. In this work, we analyze summarization decoders in both blackbox and whitebox ways by studying on the entropy, or uncertainty, of the model’s token-level predictions. For two strong pre-trained models, PEGASUS and BART on two summarization datasets, we find a strong correlation between low prediction entropy and where the model copies tokens rather than generating novel text. The decoder’s uncertainty also connects to factors like sentence position and syntactic distance between adjacent pairs of tokens, giving a sense of what factors make a context particularly selective for the model’s next output token. Finally, we study the relationship of decoder uncertainty and attention behavior to understand how attention gives rise to these observed effects in the model. We show that uncertainty is a useful perspective for analyzing summarization and text generation models more broadly.


Neural Extractive Text Summarization with Syntactic Compression
Jiacheng Xu | Greg Durrett
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

Recent neural network approaches to summarization are largely either selection-based extraction or generation-based abstraction. In this work, we present a neural model for single-document summarization based on joint extraction and syntactic compression. Our model chooses sentences from the document, identifies possible compressions based on constituency parses, and scores those compressions with a neural model to produce the final summary. For learning, we construct oracle extractive-compressive summaries, then learn both of our components jointly with this supervision. Experimental results on the CNN/Daily Mail and New York Times datasets show that our model achieves strong performance (comparable to state-of-the-art systems) as evaluated by ROUGE. Moreover, our approach outperforms an off-the-shelf compression module, and human and manual evaluation shows that our model’s output generally remains grammatical.


Spherical Latent Spaces for Stable Variational Autoencoders
Jiacheng Xu | Greg Durrett
Proceedings of the 2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

A hallmark of variational autoencoders (VAEs) for text processing is their combination of powerful encoder-decoder models, such as LSTMs, with simple latent distributions, typically multivariate Gaussians. These models pose a difficult optimization problem: there is an especially bad local optimum where the variational posterior always equals the prior and the model does not use the latent variable at all, a kind of “collapse” which is encouraged by the KL divergence term of the objective. In this work, we experiment with another choice of latent distribution, namely the von Mises-Fisher (vMF) distribution, which places mass on the surface of the unit hypersphere. With this choice of prior and posterior, the KL divergence term now only depends on the variance of the vMF distribution, giving us the ability to treat it as a fixed hyperparameter. We show that doing so not only averts the KL collapse, but consistently gives better likelihoods than Gaussians across a range of modeling conditions, including recurrent language modeling and bag-of-words document modeling. An analysis of the properties of our vMF representations shows that they learn richer and more nuanced structures in their latent representations than their Gaussian counterparts.


Cached Long Short-Term Memory Neural Networks for Document-Level Sentiment Classification
Jiacheng Xu | Danlu Chen | Xipeng Qiu | Xuanjing Huang
Proceedings of the 2016 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing