Alisa Liu


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Proceedings of the Third Workshop on Understanding Implicit and Underspecified Language
Valentina Pyatkin | Daniel Fried | Elias Stengel-Eskin | Alisa Liu | Sandro Pezzelle
Proceedings of the Third Workshop on Understanding Implicit and Underspecified Language


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That was the last straw, we need more: Are Translation Systems Sensitive to Disambiguating Context?
Jaechan Lee | Alisa Liu | Orevaoghene Ahia | Hila Gonen | Noah Smith
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023

The translation of ambiguous text presents a challenge for translation systems, as it requires using the surrounding context to disambiguate the intended meaning as much as possible. While prior work has studied ambiguities that result from different grammatical features of the source and target language, we study semantic ambiguities that exist in the source (English in this work) itself. In particular, we focus on idioms that are open to both literal and figurative interpretations (e.g., goose egg), and collect TIDE, a dataset of 512 pairs of English sentences containing idioms with disambiguating context such that one is literal (it laid a goose egg) and another is figurative (they scored a goose egg, as in a score of zero). In experiments, we compare MT-specific models and language models for (i) their preference when given an ambiguous subsentence, (ii) their sensitivity to disambiguating context, and (iii) the performance disparity between figurative and literal source sentences. We find that current MT models consistently translate English idioms literally, even when the context suggests a figurative interpretation. On the other hand, LMs are far more context-aware, although there remain disparities across target languages. Our findings underline the potential of LMs as a strong backbone for context-aware translation.

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We’re Afraid Language Models Aren’t Modeling Ambiguity
Alisa Liu | Zhaofeng Wu | Julian Michael | Alane Suhr | Peter West | Alexander Koller | Swabha Swayamdipta | Noah Smith | Yejin Choi
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Ambiguity is an intrinsic feature of natural language. Managing ambiguity is a key part of human language understanding, allowing us to anticipate misunderstanding as communicators and revise our interpretations as listeners. As language models are increasingly employed as dialogue interfaces and writing aids, handling ambiguous language is critical to their success. We capture ambiguity in a sentence through its effect on entailment relations with another sentence, and collect AmbiEnt, a linguist-annotated benchmark of 1,645 examples with diverse kinds of ambiguity. We design a suite of tests based on AmbiEnt, presenting the first evaluation of pretrained LMs to recognize ambiguity and disentangle possible meanings. We find that the task remains extremely challenging, including for GPT-4, whose generated disambiguations are considered correct only 32% of the time in crowdworker evaluation, compared to 90% for disambiguations in our dataset. Finally, to illustrate the value of ambiguity-sensitive tools, we show that a multilabel NLI model can flag political claims in the wild that are misleading due to ambiguity. We encourage the field to rediscover the importance of ambiguity for NLP.

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Self-Instruct: Aligning Language Models with Self-Generated Instructions
Yizhong Wang | Yeganeh Kordi | Swaroop Mishra | Alisa Liu | Noah A. Smith | Daniel Khashabi | Hannaneh Hajishirzi
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Large “instruction-tuned” language models (i.e., finetuned to respond to instructions) have demonstrated a remarkable ability to generalize zero-shot to new tasks. Nevertheless, they depend heavily on human-written instruction data that is often limited in quantity, diversity, and creativity, therefore hindering the generality of the tuned model. We introduce Self-Instruct, a framework for improving the instruction-following capabilities of pretrained language models by bootstrapping off their own generations. Our pipeline generates instructions, input, and output samples from a language model, then filters invalid or similar ones before using them to finetune the original model. Applying our method to the vanilla GPT3, we demonstrate a 33% absolute improvement over the original model on Super-NaturalInstructions, on par with the performance of InstructGPT-001, which was trained with private user data and human annotations. For further evaluation, we curate a set of expert-written instructions for novel tasks, and show through human evaluation that tuning GPT3 with Self-Instruct outperforms using existing public instruction datasets by a large margin, leaving only a 5% absolute gap behind InstructGPT-001. Self-Instruct provides an almost annotation-free method for aligning pre-trained language models with instructions, and we release our large synthetic dataset to facilitate future studies on instruction tuning.

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Detoxifying Text with MaRCo: Controllable Revision with Experts and Anti-Experts
Skyler Hallinan | Alisa Liu | Yejin Choi | Maarten Sap
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

Text detoxification has the potential to mitigate the harms of toxicity by rephrasing text to remove offensive meaning, but subtle toxicity remains challenging to tackle. We introduce MaRCo, a detoxification algorithm that combines controllable generation and text rewriting methods using a Product of Experts with autoencoder language models (LMs). MaRCo uses likelihoods under a non-toxic LM (expert) and a toxic LM (anti-expert) to find candidate words to mask and potentially replace. We evaluate our method on several subtle toxicity and microaggressions datasets, and show that it not only outperforms baselines on automatic metrics, but MaRCo’s rewrites are preferred 2.1 times more in human evaluation. Its applicability to instances of subtle toxicity is especially promising, demonstrating a path forward for addressing increasingly elusive online hate.


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Generated Knowledge Prompting for Commonsense Reasoning
Jiacheng Liu | Alisa Liu | Ximing Lu | Sean Welleck | Peter West | Ronan Le Bras | Yejin Choi | Hannaneh Hajishirzi
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

It remains an open question whether incorporating external knowledge benefits commonsense reasoning while maintaining the flexibility of pretrained sequence models. To investigate this question, we develop generated knowledge prompting, which consists of generating knowledge from a language model, then providing the knowledge as additional input when answering a question. Our method does not require task-specific supervision for knowledge integration, or access to a structured knowledge base, yet it improves performance of large-scale, state-of-the-art models on four commonsense reasoning tasks, achieving state-of-the-art results on numerical commonsense (NumerSense), general commonsense (CommonsenseQA 2.0), and scientific commonsense (QASC) benchmarks. Generated knowledge prompting highlights large-scale language models as flexible sources of external knowledge for improving commonsense reasoning. Our code is available at

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WANLI: Worker and AI Collaboration for Natural Language Inference Dataset Creation
Alisa Liu | Swabha Swayamdipta | Noah A. Smith | Yejin Choi
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

A recurring challenge of crowdsourcing NLP datasets at scale is that human writers often rely on repetitive patterns when crafting examples, leading to a lack of linguistic diversity. We introduce a novel approach for dataset creation based on worker and AI collaboration, which brings together the generative strength of language models and the evaluative strength of humans. Starting with an existing dataset, MultiNLI for natural language inference (NLI), our approach uses dataset cartography to automatically identify examples that demonstrate challenging reasoning patterns, and instructs GPT-3 to compose new examples with similar patterns. Machine generated examples are then automatically filtered, and finally revised and labeled by human crowdworkers. The resulting dataset, WANLI, consists of 107,885 NLI examples and presents unique empirical strengths over existing NLI datasets. Remarkably, training a model on WANLI improves performance on eight out-of-domain test sets we consider, including by 11% on HANS and 9% on Adversarial NLI, compared to training on the 4x larger MultiNLI. Moreover, it continues to be more effective than MultiNLI augmented with other NLI datasets. Our results demonstrate the promise of leveraging natural language generation techniques and re-imagining the role of humans in the dataset creation process.


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DExperts: Decoding-Time Controlled Text Generation with Experts and Anti-Experts
Alisa Liu | Maarten Sap | Ximing Lu | Swabha Swayamdipta | Chandra Bhagavatula | Noah A. Smith | Yejin Choi
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 recent advances in natural language generation, it remains challenging to control attributes of generated text. We propose DExperts: Decoding-time Experts, a decoding-time method for controlled text generation that combines a pretrained language model with “expert” LMs and/or “anti-expert” LMs in a product of experts. Intuitively, under the ensemble, tokens only get high probability if they are considered likely by the experts, and unlikely by the anti-experts. We apply DExperts to language detoxification and sentiment-controlled generation, where we outperform existing controllable generation methods on both automatic and human evaluations. Moreover, because DExperts operates only on the output of the pretrained LM, it is effective with (anti-)experts of smaller size, including when operating on GPT-3. Our work highlights the promise of tuning small LMs on text with (un)desirable attributes for efficient decoding-time steering.


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CODAH: An Adversarially-Authored Question Answering Dataset for Common Sense
Michael Chen | Mike D’Arcy | Alisa Liu | Jared Fernandez | Doug Downey
Proceedings of the 3rd Workshop on Evaluating Vector Space Representations for NLP

Commonsense reasoning is a critical AI capability, but it is difficult to construct challenging datasets that test common sense. Recent neural question answering systems, based on large pre-trained models of language, have already achieved near-human-level performance on commonsense knowledge benchmarks. These systems do not possess human-level common sense, but are able to exploit limitations of the datasets to achieve human-level scores. We introduce the CODAH dataset, an adversarially-constructed evaluation dataset for testing common sense. CODAH forms a challenging extension to the recently-proposed SWAG dataset, which tests commonsense knowledge using sentence-completion questions that describe situations observed in video. To produce a more difficult dataset, we introduce a novel procedure for question acquisition in which workers author questions designed to target weaknesses of state-of-the-art neural question answering systems. Workers are rewarded for submissions that models fail to answer correctly both before and after fine-tuning (in cross-validation). We create 2.8k questions via this procedure and evaluate the performance of multiple state-of-the-art question answering systems on our dataset. We observe a significant gap between human performance, which is 95.3%, and the performance of the best baseline accuracy of 65.3% by the OpenAI GPT model.