Symon Stevens-Guille


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.


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.


Breaking NLP: Using Morphosyntax, Semantics, Pragmatics and World Knowledge to Fool Sentiment Analysis Systems
Taylor Mahler | Willy Cheung | Micha Elsner | David King | Marie-Catherine de Marneffe | Cory Shain | Symon Stevens-Guille | Michael White
Proceedings of the First Workshop on Building Linguistically Generalizable NLP Systems

This paper describes our “breaker” submission to the 2017 EMNLP “Build It Break It” shared task on sentiment analysis. In order to cause the “builder” systems to make incorrect predictions, we edited items in the blind test data according to linguistically interpretable strategies that allow us to assess the ease with which the builder systems learn various components of linguistic structure. On the whole, our submitted pairs break all systems at a high rate (72.6%), indicating that sentiment analysis as an NLP task may still have a lot of ground to cover. Of the breaker strategies that we consider, we find our semantic and pragmatic manipulations to pose the most substantial difficulties for the builder systems.