Zhiliang Tian


Improving Meta-learning for Low-resource Text Classification and Generation via Memory Imitation
Yingxiu Zhao | Zhiliang Tian | Huaxiu Yao | Yinhe Zheng | Dongkyu Lee | Yiping Song | Jian Sun | Nevin Zhang
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Building models of natural language processing (NLP) is challenging in low-resource scenarios where limited data are available. Optimization-based meta-learning algorithms achieve promising results in low-resource scenarios by adapting a well-generalized model initialization to handle new tasks. Nonetheless, these approaches suffer from the memorization overfitting issue, where the model tends to memorize the meta-training tasks while ignoring support sets when adapting to new tasks. To address this issue, we propose a memory imitation meta-learning (MemIML) method that enhances the model’s reliance on support sets for task adaptation. Specifically, we introduce a task-specific memory module to store support set information and construct an imitation module to force query sets to imitate the behaviors of support sets stored in the memory. A theoretical analysis is provided to prove the effectiveness of our method, and empirical results also demonstrate that our method outperforms competitive baselines on both text classification and generation tasks.

Semi-Supervised Lifelong Language Learning
Yingxiu Zhao | Yinhe Zheng | Bowen Yu | Zhiliang Tian | Dongkyu Lee | Jian Sun | Yongbin Li | Nevin L. Zhang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

Lifelong learning aims to accumulate knowledge and alleviate catastrophic forgetting when learning tasks sequentially. However, existing lifelong language learning methods only focus on the supervised learning setting. Unlabeled data, which can be easily accessed in real-world scenarios, are underexplored. In this paper, we explore a novel setting, semi-supervised lifelong language learning (SSLL), where a model learns sequentially arriving language tasks with both labeled and unlabeled data. We propose an unlabeled data enhanced lifelong learner to explore SSLL. Specially, we dedicate task-specific modules to alleviate catastrophic forgetting and design two modules to exploit unlabeled data: (1) a virtual supervision enhanced task solver is constructed on a teacher-student framework to mine the underlying knowledge from unlabeled data; and (2) a backward augmented learner is built to encourage knowledge transfer from newly arrived unlabeled data to previous tasks. Experimental results on various language tasks demonstrate our model’s effectiveness and superiority over competitive baselines under the new setting SSLL.

Empathetic and Emotionally Positive Conversation Systems with an Emotion-specific Query-Response Memory
Zhiliang Tian | Yinliang Wang | Yiping Song | Chi Zhang | Dongkyu Lee | Yingxiu Zhao | Dongsheng Li | Nevin L. Zhang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

Emotional conversation systems generate responses for the input queries considering the speaker’s emotions in a conversation. Existing emotional conversation systems output emotional responses according to either a given emotion or the user’s emotion reflected in the input queries. Following a given emotion may lead to an emotional drift between the given emotion and the conversation state, and following only the user’s emotion may aggravate the user’s negative feelings if users suffer from a negative mood. In this paper, we propose to generate empathetic responses catering to the user’s emotions while leading the conversation to be emotionally positive. Particularly, by abstracting the conversation corpus, we extract and store the different responding strategies for different users’ emotions and conversational topics into a memory. We encourage positive emotions in conversation via a sentiment evaluator. We model the memory outputs with a Gaussian mixture distribution and sample a final responding strategy from the distribution. The strategy acts as a condition to a transformer model to generate responses. The experiments verify our model surpasses the baseline methods in appropriateness, diversity, and generating emotionally positive responses.

Hard Gate Knowledge Distillation - Leverage Calibration for Robust and Reliable Language Model
Dongkyu Lee | Zhiliang Tian | Yingxiu Zhao | Ka Chun Cheung | Nevin Zhang
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

In knowledge distillation, a student model is trained with supervisions from both knowledge from a teacher and observations drawn from a training data distribution. Knowledge of a teacher is considered a subject that holds inter-class relations which send a meaningful supervision to a student; hence, much effort has been put to find such knowledge to be distilled. In this paper, we explore a question that has been given little attention: “when to distill such knowledge.” The question is answered in our work with the concept of model calibration; we view a teacher model not only as a source of knowledge but also as a gauge to detect miscalibration of a student. This simple and yet novel view leads to a hard gate knowledge distillation scheme that switches between learning from a teacher model and training data. We verify the gating mechanism in the context of natural language generation at both the token-level and the sentence-level. Empirical comparisons with strong baselines show that hard gate knowledge distillation not only improves model generalization, but also significantly lowers model calibration error.

Prompt Conditioned VAE: Enhancing Generative Replay for Lifelong Learning in Task-Oriented Dialogue
Yingxiu Zhao | Yinhe Zheng | Zhiliang Tian | Chang Gao | Jian Sun | Nevin L. Zhang
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Lifelong learning (LL) is vital for advanced task-oriented dialogue (ToD) systems. To address the catastrophic forgetting issue of LL, generative replay methods are widely employed to consolidate past knowledge with generated pseudo samples. However, most existing generative replay methods use only a single task-specific token to control their models. This scheme is usually not strong enough to constrain the generative model due to insufficient information involved. In this paper, we propose a novel method, prompt conditioned VAE for lifelong learning (PCLL), to enhance generative replay by incorporating tasks’ statistics. PCLL captures task-specific distributions with a conditional variational autoencoder, conditioned on natural language prompts to guide the pseudo-sample generation. Moreover, it leverages a distillation process to further consolidate past knowledge by alleviating the noise in pseudo samples. Experiments on natural language understanding tasks of ToD systems demonstrate that PCLL significantly outperforms competitive baselines in building lifelong learning models.


Enhancing Content Preservation in Text Style Transfer Using Reverse Attention and Conditional Layer Normalization
Dongkyu Lee | Zhiliang Tian | Lanqing Xue | Nevin L. Zhang
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)

Text style transfer aims to alter the style (e.g., sentiment) of a sentence while preserving its content. A common approach is to map a given sentence to content representation that is free of style, and the content representation is fed to a decoder with a target style. Previous methods in filtering style completely remove tokens with style at the token level, which incurs the loss of content information. In this paper, we propose to enhance content preservation by implicitly removing the style information of each token with reverse attention, and thereby retain the content. Furthermore, we fuse content information when building the target style representation, making it dynamic with respect to the content. Our method creates not only style-independent content representation, but also content-dependent style representation in transferring style. Empirical results show that our method outperforms the state-of-the-art baselines by a large margin in terms of content preservation. In addition, it is also competitive in terms of style transfer accuracy and fluency.


Response-Anticipated Memory for On-Demand Knowledge Integration in Response Generation
Zhiliang Tian | Wei Bi | Dongkyu Lee | Lanqing Xue | Yiping Song | Xiaojiang Liu | Nevin L. Zhang
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Neural conversation models are known to generate appropriate but non-informative responses in general. A scenario where informativeness can be significantly enhanced is Conversing by Reading (CbR), where conversations take place with respect to a given external document. In previous work, the external document is utilized by (1) creating a context-aware document memory that integrates information from the document and the conversational context, and then (2) generating responses referring to the memory. In this paper, we propose to create the document memory with some anticipated responses in mind. This is achieved using a teacher-student framework. The teacher is given the external document, the context, and the ground-truth response, and learns how to build a response-aware document memory from three sources of information. The student learns to construct a response-anticipated document memory from the first two sources, and teacher’s insight on memory creation. Empirical results show that our model outperforms the previous state-of-the-art for the CbR task.


Learning to Abstract for Memory-augmented Conversational Response Generation
Zhiliang Tian | Wei Bi | Xiaopeng Li | Nevin L. Zhang
Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Neural generative models for open-domain chit-chat conversations have become an active area of research in recent years. A critical issue with most existing generative models is that the generated responses lack informativeness and diversity. A few researchers attempt to leverage the results of retrieval models to strengthen the generative models, but these models are limited by the quality of the retrieval results. In this work, we propose a memory-augmented generative model, which learns to abstract from the training corpus and saves the useful information to the memory to assist the response generation. Our model clusters query-response samples, extracts characteristics of each cluster, and learns to utilize these characteristics for response generation. Experimental results show that our model outperforms other competitive baselines.


Diversifying Neural Conversation Model with Maximal Marginal Relevance
Yiping Song | Zhiliang Tian | Dongyan Zhao | Ming Zhang | Rui Yan
Proceedings of the Eighth International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Volume 2: Short Papers)

Neural conversation systems, typically using sequence-to-sequence (seq2seq) models, are showing promising progress recently. However, traditional seq2seq suffer from a severe weakness: during beam search decoding, they tend to rank universal replies at the top of the candidate list, resulting in the lack of diversity among candidate replies. Maximum Marginal Relevance (MMR) is a ranking algorithm that has been widely used for subset selection. In this paper, we propose the MMR-BS decoding method, which incorporates MMR into the beam search (BS) process of seq2seq. The MMR-BS method improves the diversity of generated replies without sacrificing their high relevance with the user-issued query. Experiments show that our proposed model achieves the best performance among other comparison methods.

How to Make Context More Useful? An Empirical Study on Context-Aware Neural Conversational Models
Zhiliang Tian | Rui Yan | Lili Mou | Yiping Song | Yansong Feng | Dongyan Zhao
Proceedings of the 55th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

Generative conversational systems are attracting increasing attention in natural language processing (NLP). Recently, researchers have noticed the importance of context information in dialog processing, and built various models to utilize context. However, there is no systematic comparison to analyze how to use context effectively. In this paper, we conduct an empirical study to compare various models and investigate the effect of context information in dialog systems. We also propose a variant that explicitly weights context vectors by context-query relevance, outperforming the other baselines.