Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies: Demonstrations

Avi Sil, Xi Victoria Lin (Editors)

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Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies: Demonstrations
Avi Sil | Xi Victoria Lin

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PhoNLP: A joint multi-task learning model for Vietnamese part-of-speech tagging, named entity recognition and dependency parsing
Linh The Nguyen | Dat Quoc Nguyen

We present the first multi-task learning model – named PhoNLP – for joint Vietnamese part-of-speech (POS) tagging, named entity recognition (NER) and dependency parsing. Experiments on Vietnamese benchmark datasets show that PhoNLP produces state-of-the-art results, outperforming a single-task learning approach that fine-tunes the pre-trained Vietnamese language model PhoBERT (Nguyen and Nguyen, 2020) for each task independently. We publicly release PhoNLP as an open-source toolkit under the Apache License 2.0. Although we specify PhoNLP for Vietnamese, our PhoNLP training and evaluation command scripts in fact can directly work for other languages that have a pre-trained BERT-based language model and gold annotated corpora available for the three tasks of POS tagging, NER and dependency parsing. We hope that PhoNLP can serve as a strong baseline and useful toolkit for future NLP research and applications to not only Vietnamese but also the other languages. Our PhoNLP is available at

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Machine-Assisted Script Curation
Manuel Ciosici | Joseph Cummings | Mitchell DeHaven | Alex Hedges | Yash Kankanampati | Dong-Ho Lee | Ralph Weischedel | Marjorie Freedman

We describe Machine-Aided Script Curator (MASC), a system for human-machine collaborative script authoring. Scripts produced with MASC include (1) English descriptions of sub-events that comprise a larger, complex event; (2) event types for each of those events; (3) a record of entities expected to participate in multiple sub-events; and (4) temporal sequencing between the sub-events. MASC automates portions of the script creation process with suggestions for event types, links to Wikidata, and sub-events that may have been forgotten. We illustrate how these automations are useful to the script writer with a few case-study scripts.

NAMER: A Node-Based Multitasking Framework for Multi-Hop Knowledge Base Question Answering
Minhao Zhang | Ruoyu Zhang | Lei Zou | Yinnian Lin | Sen Hu

We present NAMER, an open-domain Chinese knowledge base question answering system based on a novel node-based framework that better grasps the structural mapping between questions and KB queries by aligning the nodes in a query with their corresponding mentions in question. Equipped with techniques including data augmentation and multitasking, we show that the proposed framework outperforms the previous SoTA on CCKS CKBQA dataset. Moreover, we develop a novel data annotation strategy that facilitates the node-to-mention alignment, a dataset ( with such strategy is also published to promote further research. An online demo of NAMER ( is provided to visualize our framework and supply extra information for users, a video illustration ( of NAMER is also available.

DiSCoL: Toward Engaging Dialogue Systems through Conversational Line Guided Response Generation
Sarik Ghazarian | Zixi Liu | Tuhin Chakrabarty | Xuezhe Ma | Aram Galstyan | Nanyun Peng

Having engaging and informative conversations with users is the utmost goal for open-domain conversational systems. Recent advances in transformer-based language models and their applications to dialogue systems have succeeded to generate fluent and human-like responses. However, they still lack control over the generation process towards producing contentful responses and achieving engaging conversations. To achieve this goal, we present DiSCoL (Dialogue Systems through Coversational Line guided response generation). DiSCoL is an open-domain dialogue system that leverages conversational lines (briefly convlines) as controllable and informative content-planning elements to guide the generation model produce engaging and informative responses. Two primary modules in DiSCoL’s pipeline are conditional generators trained for 1) predicting relevant and informative convlines for dialogue contexts and 2) generating high-quality responses conditioned on the predicted convlines. Users can also change the returned convlines to control the direction of the conversations towards topics that are more interesting for them. Through automatic and human evaluations, we demonstrate the efficiency of the convlines in producing engaging conversations.

FITAnnotator: A Flexible and Intelligent Text Annotation System
Yanzeng Li | Bowen Yu | Li Quangang | Tingwen Liu

In this paper, we introduce FITAnnotator, a generic web-based tool for efficient text annotation. Benefiting from the fully modular architecture design, FITAnnotator provides a systematic solution for the annotation of a variety of natural language processing tasks, including classification, sequence tagging and semantic role annotation, regardless of the language. Three kinds of interfaces are developed to annotate instances, evaluate annotation quality and manage the annotation task for annotators, reviewers and managers, respectively. FITAnnotator also gives intelligent annotations by introducing task-specific assistant to support and guide the annotators based on active learning and incremental learning strategies. This assistant is able to effectively update from the annotator feedbacks and easily handle the incremental labeling scenarios.

Robustness Gym: Unifying the NLP Evaluation Landscape
Karan Goel | Nazneen Fatema Rajani | Jesse Vig | Zachary Taschdjian | Mohit Bansal | Christopher Ré

Despite impressive performance on standard benchmarks, natural language processing (NLP) models are often brittle when deployed in real-world systems. In this work, we identify challenges with evaluating NLP systems and propose a solution in the form of Robustness Gym (RG), a simple and extensible evaluation toolkit that unifies 4 standard evaluation paradigms: subpopulations, transformations, evaluation sets, and adversarial attacks. By providing a common platform for evaluation, RG enables practitioners to compare results from disparate evaluation paradigms with a single click, and to easily develop and share novel evaluation methods using a built-in set of abstractions. RG is under active development and we welcome feedback & contributions from the community.

EventPlus: A Temporal Event Understanding Pipeline
Mingyu Derek Ma | Jiao Sun | Mu Yang | Kung-Hsiang Huang | Nuan Wen | Shikhar Singh | Rujun Han | Nanyun Peng

We present EventPlus, a temporal event understanding pipeline that integrates various state-of-the-art event understanding components including event trigger and type detection, event argument detection, event duration and temporal relation extraction. Event information, especially event temporal knowledge, is a type of common sense knowledge that helps people understand how stories evolve and provides predictive hints for future events. EventPlus as the first comprehensive temporal event understanding pipeline provides a convenient tool for users to quickly obtain annotations about events and their temporal information for any user-provided document. Furthermore, we show EventPlus can be easily adapted to other domains (e.g., biomedical domain). We make EventPlus publicly available to facilitate event-related information extraction and downstream applications.

COVID-19 Literature Knowledge Graph Construction and Drug Repurposing Report Generation
Qingyun Wang | Manling Li | Xuan Wang | Nikolaus Parulian | Guangxing Han | Jiawei Ma | Jingxuan Tu | Ying Lin | Ranran Haoran Zhang | Weili Liu | Aabhas Chauhan | Yingjun Guan | Bangzheng Li | Ruisong Li | Xiangchen Song | Yi Fung | Heng Ji | Jiawei Han | Shih-Fu Chang | James Pustejovsky | Jasmine Rah | David Liem | Ahmed ELsayed | Martha Palmer | Clare Voss | Cynthia Schneider | Boyan Onyshkevych

To combat COVID-19, both clinicians and scientists need to digest the vast amount of relevant biomedical knowledge in literature to understand the disease mechanism and the related biological functions. We have developed a novel and comprehensive knowledge discovery framework, COVID-KG to extract fine-grained multimedia knowledge elements (entities, relations and events) from scientific literature. We then exploit the constructed multimedia knowledge graphs (KGs) for question answering and report generation, using drug repurposing as a case study. Our framework also provides detailed contextual sentences, subfigures, and knowledge subgraphs as evidence. All of the data, KGs, reports.

Multifaceted Domain-Specific Document Embeddings
Julian Risch | Philipp Hager | Ralf Krestel

Current document embeddings require large training corpora but fail to learn high-quality representations when confronted with a small number of domain-specific documents and rare terms. Further, they transform each document into a single embedding vector, making it hard to capture different notions of document similarity or explain why two documents are considered similar. In this work, we propose our Faceted Domain Encoder, a novel approach to learn multifaceted embeddings for domain-specific documents. It is based on a Siamese neural network architecture and leverages knowledge graphs to further enhance the embeddings even if only a few training samples are available. The model identifies different types of domain knowledge and encodes them into separate dimensions of the embedding, thereby enabling multiple ways of finding and comparing related documents in the vector space. We evaluate our approach on two benchmark datasets and find that it achieves the same embedding quality as state-of-the-art models while requiring only a tiny fraction of their training data. An interactive demo, our source code, and the evaluation datasets are available online: and a screencast is available on YouTube:

Improving Evidence Retrieval for Automated Explainable Fact-Checking
Chris Samarinas | Wynne Hsu | Mong Li Lee

Automated fact-checking on a large-scale is a challenging task that has not been studied systematically until recently. Large noisy document collections like the web or news articles make the task more difficult. We describe a three-stage automated fact-checking system, named Quin+, using evidence retrieval and selection methods. We demonstrate that using dense passage representations leads to much higher evidence recall in a noisy setting. We also propose two sentence selection approaches, an embedding-based selection using a dense retrieval model, and a sequence labeling approach for context-aware selection. Quin+ is able to verify open-domain claims using results from web search engines.

Interactive Plot Manipulation using Natural Language
Yihan Wang | Yutong Shao | Ndapa Nakashole

We present an interactive Plotting Agent, a system that enables users to directly manipulate plots using natural language instructions within an interactive programming environment. The Plotting Agent maps language to plot updates. We formulate this problem as a slot-based task-oriented dialog problem, which we tackle with a sequence-to-sequence model. This plotting model while accurate in most cases, still makes errors, therefore, the system allows a feedback mode, wherein the user is presented with a top-k list of plots, among which the user can pick the desired one. From this kind of feedback, we can then, in principle, continuously learn and improve the system. Given that plotting is widely used across data-driven fields, we believe our demonstration will be of interest to both practitioners such as data scientists broadly defined, and researchers interested in natural language interfaces.

ActiveAnno: General-Purpose Document-Level Annotation Tool with Active Learning Integration
Max Wiechmann | Seid Muhie Yimam | Chris Biemann

ActiveAnno is an annotation tool focused on document-level annotation tasks developed both for industry and research settings. It is designed to be a general-purpose tool with a wide variety of use cases. It features a modern and responsive web UI for creating annotation projects, conducting annotations, adjudicating disagreements, and analyzing annotation results. ActiveAnno embeds a highly configurable and interactive user interface. The tool also integrates a RESTful API that enables integration into other software systems, including an API for machine learning integration. ActiveAnno is built with extensible design and easy deployment in mind, all to enable users to perform annotation tasks with high efficiency and high-quality annotation results.

TextEssence: A Tool for Interactive Analysis of Semantic Shifts Between Corpora
Denis Newman-Griffis | Venkatesh Sivaraman | Adam Perer | Eric Fosler-Lussier | Harry Hochheiser

Embeddings of words and concepts capture syntactic and semantic regularities of language; however, they have seen limited use as tools to study characteristics of different corpora and how they relate to one another. We introduce TextEssence, an interactive system designed to enable comparative analysis of corpora using embeddings. TextEssence includes visual, neighbor-based, and similarity-based modes of embedding analysis in a lightweight, web-based interface. We further propose a new measure of embedding confidence based on nearest neighborhood overlap, to assist in identifying high-quality embeddings for corpus analysis. A case study on COVID-19 scientific literature illustrates the utility of the system. TextEssence can be found at

Supporting Spanish Writers using Automated Feedback
Aoife Cahill | James Bruno | James Ramey | Gilmar Ayala Meneses | Ian Blood | Florencia Tolentino | Tamar Lavee | Slava Andreyev

We present a tool that provides automated feedback to students studying Spanish writing. The feedback is given for four categories: topic development, coherence, writing conventions, and essay organization. The tool is made freely available via a Google Docs add-on. A small user study with third-level students in Mexico shows that students found the tool generally helpful and that most of them plan to continue using it as they work to improve their writing skills.

Alexa Conversations: An Extensible Data-driven Approach for Building Task-oriented Dialogue Systems
Anish Acharya | Suranjit Adhikari | Sanchit Agarwal | Vincent Auvray | Nehal Belgamwar | Arijit Biswas | Shubhra Chandra | Tagyoung Chung | Maryam Fazel-Zarandi | Raefer Gabriel | Shuyang Gao | Rahul Goel | Dilek Hakkani-Tur | Jan Jezabek | Abhay Jha | Jiun-Yu Kao | Prakash Krishnan | Peter Ku | Anuj Goyal | Chien-Wei Lin | Qing Liu | Arindam Mandal | Angeliki Metallinou | Vishal Naik | Yi Pan | Shachi Paul | Vittorio Perera | Abhishek Sethi | Minmin Shen | Nikko Strom | Eddie Wang

Traditional goal-oriented dialogue systems rely on various components such as natural language understanding, dialogue state tracking, policy learning and response generation. Training each component requires annotations which are hard to obtain for every new domain, limiting scalability of such systems. Similarly, rule-based dialogue systems require extensive writing and maintenance of rules and do not scale either. End-to-End dialogue systems, on the other hand, do not require module-specific annotations but need a large amount of data for training. To overcome these problems, in this demo, we present Alexa Conversations, a new approach for building goal-oriented dialogue systems that is scalable, extensible as well as data efficient. The components of this system are trained in a data-driven manner, but instead of collecting annotated conversations for training, we generate them using a novel dialogue simulator based on a few seed dialogues and specifications of APIs and entities provided by the developer. Our approach provides out-of-the-box support for natural conversational phenomenon like entity sharing across turns or users changing their mind during conversation without requiring developers to provide any such dialogue flows. We exemplify our approach using a simple pizza ordering task and showcase its value in reducing the developer burden for creating a robust experience. Finally, we evaluate our system using a typical movie ticket booking task integrated with live APIs and show that the dialogue simulator is an essential component of the system that leads to over 50% improvement in turn-level action signature prediction accuracy.

RESIN: A Dockerized Schema-Guided Cross-document Cross-lingual Cross-media Information Extraction and Event Tracking System
Haoyang Wen | Ying Lin | Tuan Lai | Xiaoman Pan | Sha Li | Xudong Lin | Ben Zhou | Manling Li | Haoyu Wang | Hongming Zhang | Xiaodong Yu | Alexander Dong | Zhenhailong Wang | Yi Fung | Piyush Mishra | Qing Lyu | Dídac Surís | Brian Chen | Susan Windisch Brown | Martha Palmer | Chris Callison-Burch | Carl Vondrick | Jiawei Han | Dan Roth | Shih-Fu Chang | Heng Ji

We present a new information extraction system that can automatically construct temporal event graphs from a collection of news documents from multiple sources, multiple languages (English and Spanish for our experiment), and multiple data modalities (speech, text, image and video). The system advances state-of-the-art from two aspects: (1) extending from sentence-level event extraction to cross-document cross-lingual cross-media event extraction, coreference resolution and temporal event tracking; (2) using human curated event schema library to match and enhance the extraction output. We have made the dockerlized system publicly available for research purpose at GitHub, with a demo video.

MUDES: Multilingual Detection of Offensive Spans
Tharindu Ranasinghe | Marcos Zampieri

The interest in offensive content identification in social media has grown substantially in recent years. Previous work has dealt mostly with post level annotations. However, identifying offensive spans is useful in many ways. To help coping with this important challenge, we present MUDES, a multilingual system to detect offensive spans in texts. MUDES features pre-trained models, a Python API for developers, and a user-friendly web-based interface. A detailed description of MUDES’ components is presented in this paper.