Nebojsa Jojic


Coherence boosting: When your pretrained language model is not paying enough attention
Nikolay Malkin | Zhen Wang | Nebojsa Jojic
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Long-range semantic coherence remains a challenge in automatic language generation and understanding. We demonstrate that large language models have insufficiently learned the effect of distant words on next-token prediction. We present coherence boosting, an inference procedure that increases a LM’s focus on a long context. We show the benefits of coherence boosting with pretrained models by distributional analyses of generated ordinary text and dialog responses. It is also found that coherence boosting with state-of-the-art models for various zero-shot NLP tasks yields performance gains with no additional training.


Studying word order through iterative shuffling
Nikolay Malkin | Sameera Lanka | Pranav Goel | Nebojsa Jojic
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

As neural language models approach human performance on NLP benchmark tasks, their advances are widely seen as evidence of an increasingly complex understanding of syntax. This view rests upon a hypothesis that has not yet been empirically tested: that word order encodes meaning essential to performing these tasks. We refute this hypothesis in many cases: in the GLUE suite and in various genres of English text, the words in a sentence or phrase can rarely be permuted to form a phrase carrying substantially different information. Our surprising result relies on inference by iterative shuffling (IBIS), a novel, efficient procedure that finds the ordering of a bag of words having the highest likelihood under a fixed language model. IBIS can use any black-box model without additional training and is superior to existing word ordering algorithms. Coalescing our findings, we discuss how shuffling inference procedures such as IBIS can benefit language modeling and constrained generation.

GPT Perdetry Test: Generating new meanings for new words
Nikolay Malkin | Sameera Lanka | Pranav Goel | Sudha Rao | Nebojsa Jojic
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Human innovation in language, such as inventing new words, is a challenge for pretrained language models. We assess the ability of one large model, GPT-3, to process new words and decide on their meaning. We create a set of nonce words and prompt GPT-3 to generate their dictionary definitions. We find GPT-3 produces plausible definitions that align with human judgments. Moreover, GPT-3’s definitions are sometimes preferred to those invented by humans, signaling its intriguing ability not just to adapt, but to add to the evolving vocabulary of the English language.


Learning Web-based Procedures by Reasoning over Explanations and Demonstrations in Context
Shashank Srivastava | Oleksandr Polozov | Nebojsa Jojic | Christopher Meek
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

We explore learning web-based tasks from a human teacher through natural language explanations and a single demonstration. Our approach investigates a new direction for semantic parsing that models explaining a demonstration in a context, rather than mapping explanations to demonstrations. By leveraging the idea of inverse semantics from program synthesis to reason backwards from observed demonstrations, we ensure that all considered interpretations are consistent with executable actions in any context, thus simplifying the problem of search over logical forms. We present a dataset of explanations paired with demonstrations for web-based tasks. Our methods show better task completion rates than a supervised semantic parsing baseline (40% relative improvement on average), and are competitive with simple exploration-and-demonstration based methods, while requiring no exploration of the environment. In learning to align explanations with demonstrations, basic properties of natural language syntax emerge as learned behavior. This is an interesting example of pragmatic language acquisition without any linguistic annotation.


A Spatial Model for Extracting and Visualizing Latent Discourse Structure in Text
Shashank Srivastava | Nebojsa Jojic
Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

We present a generative probabilistic model of documents as sequences of sentences, and show that inference in it can lead to extraction of long-range latent discourse structure from a collection of documents. The approach is based on embedding sequences of sentences from longer texts into a 2- or 3-D spatial grids, in which one or two coordinates model smooth topic transitions, while the third captures the sequential nature of the modeled text. A significant advantage of our approach is that the learned models are naturally visualizable and interpretable, as semantic similarity and sequential structure are modeled along orthogonal directions in the grid. We show that the method is effective in capturing discourse structures in narrative text across multiple genres, including biographies, stories, and newswire reports. In particular, our method outperforms or is competitive with state-of-the-art generative approaches on tasks such as predicting the outcome of a story, and sentence ordering.


Steering Output Style and Topic in Neural Response Generation
Di Wang | Nebojsa Jojic | Chris Brockett | Eric Nyberg
Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

We propose simple and flexible training and decoding methods for influencing output style and topic in neural encoder-decoder based language generation. This capability is desirable in a variety of applications, including conversational systems, where successful agents need to produce language in a specific style and generate responses steered by a human puppeteer or external knowledge. We decompose the neural generation process into empirically easier sub-problems: a faithfulness model and a decoding method based on selective-sampling. We also describe training and sampling algorithms that bias the generation process with a specific language style restriction, or a topic restriction. Human evaluation results show that our proposed methods are able to to restrict style and topic without degrading output quality in conversational tasks.