Allyson Ettinger


2023

pdf bib
Counterfactual reasoning: Testing language models’ understanding of hypothetical scenarios
Jiaxuan Li | Lang Yu | Allyson Ettinger
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

Current pre-trained language models have enabled remarkable improvements in downstream tasks, but it remains difficult to distinguish effects of statistical correlation from more systematic logical reasoning grounded on the understanding of real world. We tease these factors apart by leveraging counterfactual conditionals, which force language models to predict unusual consequences based on hypothetical propositions. We introduce a set of tests from psycholinguistic experiments, as well as larger-scale controlled datasets, to probe counterfactual predictions from five pre-trained language models. We find that models are consistently able to override real-world knowledge in counterfactual scenarios, and that this effect is more robust in case of stronger baseline world knowledge—however, we also find that for most models this effect appears largely to be driven by simple lexical cues. When we mitigate effects of both world knowledge and lexical cues to test knowledge of linguistic nuances of counterfactuals, we find that only GPT-3 shows sensitivity to these nuances, though this sensitivity is also non-trivially impacted by lexical associative factors.

pdf bib
Linguistic Productivity: the Case of Determiners in English
Raquel G. Alhama | Ruthe Foushee | Daniel Byrne | Allyson Ettinger | Susan Goldin-Meadow | Afra Alishahi
Proceedings of the 13th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing and the 3rd Conference of the Asia-Pacific Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

pdf bib
“You Are An Expert Linguistic Annotator”: Limits of LLMs as Analyzers of Abstract Meaning Representation
Allyson Ettinger | Jena Hwang | Valentina Pyatkin | Chandra Bhagavatula | Yejin Choi
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023

Large language models (LLMs) demonstrate an amazing proficiency and fluency in the use of language. Does that mean that they have also acquired insightful linguistic knowledge about the language, to an extent that they can serve as an “expert linguistic annotator’? In this paper, we examine the successes and limitations of the GPT-3, ChatGPT, and GPT-4 models, focusing on the Abstract Meaning Representation (AMR) parsing formalism (Banarescu et al., 2013), which provides rich graphical representations of sentence meaning structure while abstracting away from surface forms. We compare models’ analysis of this semantic structure across two settings: 1) direct production of AMR parses based on zero- and few-shot examples, and 2) indirect partial reconstruction of AMR via metalinguistic natural language queries (e.g., “Identify the primary event of this sentence, and the predicate corresponding to that event.”). Across these settings, we find that models can reliably reproduce the basic format of AMR, as well as some core event, argument, and modifier structure-however, model outputs are prone to frequent and major errors, and holistic analysis of parse acceptability shows that even with few-shot demonstrations, models have virtually 0% success in producing fully accurate parses. Eliciting responses in natural language produces similar patterns of errors. Overall, our findings indicate that these models out-of-the-box can accurately identify some core aspects of semantic structure, but there remain key limitations in their ability to support fully accurate semantic analyses or parses.

pdf bib
Can You Follow Me? Testing Situational Understanding for ChatGPT
Chenghao Yang | Allyson Ettinger
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Understanding sentence meanings and updating information states appropriately across time—what we call “situational understanding” (SU)—is a critical ability for human-like AI agents. SU is essential in particular for chat models, such as ChatGPT, to enable consistent, coherent, and effective dialogue between humans and AI. Previous works have identified certain SU limitations in non-chatbot Large Language models (LLMs), but the extent and causes of these limitations are not well understood, and capabilities of current chat-based models in this domain have not been explored. In this work we tackle these questions, proposing a novel synthetic environment for SU testing which allows us to do controlled and systematic testing of SU in chat-oriented models, through assessment of models’ ability to track and enumerate environment states. Our environment also allows for close analysis of dynamics of model performance, to better understand underlying causes for performance patterns. We apply our test to ChatGPT, the state-of-the-art chatbot, and find that despite the fundamental simplicity of the task, the model’s performance reflects an inability to retain correct environment states across time. Our follow-up analyses suggest that performance degradation is largely because ChatGPT has non-persistent in-context memory (although it can access the full dialogue history) and it is susceptible to hallucinated updates—including updates that artificially inflate accuracies. Our findings suggest overall that ChatGPT is not currently equipped for robust tracking of situation states, and that trust in the impressive dialogue performance of ChatGPT comes with risks. We release the codebase for reproducing our test environment, as well as all prompts and API responses from ChatGPT, at https://github.com/yangalan123/SituationalTesting.

pdf bib
Proceedings of the Big Picture Workshop
Yanai Elazar | Allyson Ettinger | Nora Kassner | Sebastian Ruder | Noah A. Smith
Proceedings of the Big Picture Workshop

pdf bib
COMPS: Conceptual Minimal Pair Sentences for testing Robust Property Knowledge and its Inheritance in Pre-trained Language Models
Kanishka Misra | Julia Rayz | Allyson Ettinger
Proceedings of the 17th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics

A characteristic feature of human semantic cognition is its ability to not only store and retrieve the properties of concepts observed through experience, but to also facilitate the inheritance of properties (can breathe) from superordinate concepts (animal) to their subordinates (dog)—i.e. demonstrate property inheritance. In this paper, we present COMPS, a collection of minimal pair sentences that jointly tests pre-trained language models (PLMs) on their ability to attribute properties to concepts and their ability to demonstrate property inheritance behavior. Analyses of 22 different PLMs on COMPS reveal that they can easily distinguish between concepts on the basis of a property when they are trivially different, but find it relatively difficult when concepts are related on the basis of nuanced knowledge representations. Furthermore, we find that PLMs can show behaviors suggesting successful property inheritance in simple contexts, but fail in the presence of distracting information, which decreases the performance of many models sometimes even below chance. This lack of robustness in demonstrating simple reasoning raises important questions about PLMs’ capacity to make correct inferences even when they appear to possess the prerequisite knowledge.

2022

pdf bib
“No, They Did Not”: Dialogue Response Dynamics in Pre-trained Language Models
Sanghee J. Kim | Lang Yu | Allyson Ettinger
Proceedings of the 29th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

A critical component of competence in language is being able to identify relevant components of an utterance and reply appropriately. In this paper we examine the extent of such dialogue response sensitivity in pre-trained language models, conducting a series of experiments with a particular focus on sensitivity to dynamics involving phenomena of at-issueness and ellipsis. We find that models show clear sensitivity to a distinctive role of embedded clauses, and a general preference for responses that target main clause content of prior utterances. However, the results indicate mixed and generally weak trends with respect to capturing the full range of dynamics involved in targeting at-issue versus not-at-issue content. Additionally, models show fundamental limitations in grasp of the dynamics governing ellipsis, and response selections show clear interference from superficial factors that outweigh the influence of principled discourse constraints.

pdf bib
Proceedings of the Society for Computation in Linguistics 2022
Allyson Ettinger | Tim Hunter | Brandon Prickett
Proceedings of the Society for Computation in Linguistics 2022

2021

pdf bib
Variation and generality in encoding of syntactic anomaly information in sentence embeddings
Qinxuan Wu | Allyson Ettinger
Proceedings of the Fourth BlackboxNLP Workshop on Analyzing and Interpreting Neural Networks for NLP

While sentence anomalies have been applied periodically for testing in NLP, we have yet to establish a picture of the precise status of anomaly information in representations from NLP models. In this paper we aim to fill two primary gaps, focusing on the domain of syntactic anomalies. First, we explore fine-grained differences in anomaly encoding by designing probing tasks that vary the hierarchical level at which anomalies occur in a sentence. Second, we test not only models’ ability to detect a given anomaly, but also the generality of the detected anomaly signal, by examining transfer between distinct anomaly types. Results suggest that all models encode some information supporting anomaly detection, but detection performance varies between anomalies, and only representations from more re- cent transformer models show signs of generalized knowledge of anomalies. Follow-up analyses support the notion that these models pick up on a legitimate, general notion of sentence oddity, while coarser-grained word position information is likely also a contributor to the observed anomaly detection.

pdf bib
Proceedings of the Society for Computation in Linguistics 2021
Allyson Ettinger | Ellie Pavlick | Brandon Prickett
Proceedings of the Society for Computation in Linguistics 2021

pdf bib
Pragmatic competence of pre-trained language models through the lens of discourse connectives
Lalchand Pandia | Yan Cong | Allyson Ettinger
Proceedings of the 25th Conference on Computational Natural Language Learning

As pre-trained language models (LMs) continue to dominate NLP, it is increasingly important that we understand the depth of language capabilities in these models. In this paper, we target pre-trained LMs’ competence in pragmatics, with a focus on pragmatics relating to discourse connectives. We formulate cloze-style tests using a combination of naturally-occurring data and controlled inputs drawn from psycholinguistics. We focus on testing models’ ability to use pragmatic cues to predict discourse connectives, models’ ability to understand implicatures relating to connectives, and the extent to which models show humanlike preferences regarding temporal dynamics of connectives. We find that although models predict connectives reasonably well in the context of naturally-occurring data, when we control contexts to isolate high-level pragmatic cues, model sensitivity is much lower. Models also do not show substantial humanlike temporal preferences. Overall, the findings suggest that at present, dominant pre-training paradigms do not result in substantial pragmatic competence in our models.

pdf bib
Sorting through the noise: Testing robustness of information processing in pre-trained language models
Lalchand Pandia | Allyson Ettinger
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Pre-trained LMs have shown impressive performance on downstream NLP tasks, but we have yet to establish a clear understanding of their sophistication when it comes to processing, retaining, and applying information presented in their input. In this paper we tackle a component of this question by examining robustness of models’ ability to deploy relevant context information in the face of distracting content. We present models with cloze tasks requiring use of critical context information, and introduce distracting content to test how robustly the models retain and use that critical information for prediction. We also systematically manipulate the nature of these distractors, to shed light on dynamics of models’ use of contextual cues. We find that although models appear in simple contexts to make predictions based on understanding and applying relevant facts from prior context, the presence of distracting but irrelevant content has clear impact in confusing model predictions. In particular, models appear particularly susceptible to factors of semantic similarity and word position. The findings are consistent with the conclusion that LM predictions are driven in large part by superficial contextual cues, rather than by robust representations of context meaning.

pdf bib
On the Interplay Between Fine-tuning and Composition in Transformers
Lang Yu | Allyson Ettinger
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL-IJCNLP 2021

2020

pdf bib
Assessing Phrasal Representation and Composition in Transformers
Lang Yu | Allyson Ettinger
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

Deep transformer models have pushed performance on NLP tasks to new limits, suggesting sophisticated treatment of complex linguistic inputs, such as phrases. However, we have limited understanding of how these models handle representation of phrases, and whether this reflects sophisticated composition of phrase meaning like that done by humans. In this paper, we present systematic analysis of phrasal representations in state-of-the-art pre-trained transformers. We use tests leveraging human judgments of phrase similarity and meaning shift, and compare results before and after control of word overlap, to tease apart lexical effects versus composition effects. We find that phrase representation in these models relies heavily on word content, with little evidence of nuanced composition. We also identify variations in phrase representation quality across models, layers, and representation types, and make corresponding recommendations for usage of representations from these models.

pdf bib
Learning to Ignore: Long Document Coreference with Bounded Memory Neural Networks
Shubham Toshniwal | Sam Wiseman | Allyson Ettinger | Karen Livescu | Kevin Gimpel
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

Long document coreference resolution remains a challenging task due to the large memory and runtime requirements of current models. Recent work doing incremental coreference resolution using just the global representation of entities shows practical benefits but requires keeping all entities in memory, which can be impractical for long documents. We argue that keeping all entities in memory is unnecessary, and we propose a memory-augmented neural network that tracks only a small bounded number of entities at a time, thus guaranteeing a linear runtime in length of document. We show that (a) the model remains competitive with models with high memory and computational requirements on OntoNotes and LitBank, and (b) the model learns an efficient memory management strategy easily outperforming a rule-based strategy

pdf bib
Spying on Your Neighbors: Fine-grained Probing of Contextual Embeddings for Information about Surrounding Words
Josef Klafka | Allyson Ettinger
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Although models using contextual word embeddings have achieved state-of-the-art results on a host of NLP tasks, little is known about exactly what information these embeddings encode about the context words that they are understood to reflect. To address this question, we introduce a suite of probing tasks that enable fine-grained testing of contextual embeddings for encoding of information about surrounding words. We apply these tasks to examine the popular BERT, ELMo and GPT contextual encoders, and find that each of our tested information types is indeed encoded as contextual information across tokens, often with near-perfect recoverability—but the encoders vary in which features they distribute to which tokens, how nuanced their distributions are, and how robust the encoding of each feature is to distance. We discuss implications of these results for how different types of models break down and prioritize word-level context information when constructing token embeddings.

pdf bib
PeTra: A Sparsely Supervised Memory Model for People Tracking
Shubham Toshniwal | Allyson Ettinger | Kevin Gimpel | Karen Livescu
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

We propose PeTra, a memory-augmented neural network designed to track entities in its memory slots. PeTra is trained using sparse annotation from the GAP pronoun resolution dataset and outperforms a prior memory model on the task while using a simpler architecture. We empirically compare key modeling choices, finding that we can simplify several aspects of the design of the memory module while retaining strong performance. To measure the people tracking capability of memory models, we (a) propose a new diagnostic evaluation based on counting the number of unique entities in text, and (b) conduct a small scale human evaluation to compare evidence of people tracking in the memory logs of PeTra relative to a previous approach. PeTra is highly effective in both evaluations, demonstrating its ability to track people in its memory despite being trained with limited annotation.

pdf bib
Exploring BERT’s Sensitivity to Lexical Cues using Tests from Semantic Priming
Kanishka Misra | Allyson Ettinger | Julia Rayz
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

Models trained to estimate word probabilities in context have become ubiquitous in natural language processing. How do these models use lexical cues in context to inform their word probabilities? To answer this question, we present a case study analyzing the pre-trained BERT model with tests informed by semantic priming. Using English lexical stimuli that show priming in humans, we find that BERT too shows “priming”, predicting a word with greater probability when the context includes a related word versus an unrelated one. This effect decreases as the amount of information provided by the context increases. Follow-up analysis shows BERT to be increasingly distracted by related prime words as context becomes more informative, assigning lower probabilities to related words. Our findings highlight the importance of considering contextual constraint effects when studying word prediction in these models, and highlight possible parallels with human processing.

pdf bib
Proceedings of the Society for Computation in Linguistics 2020
Allyson Ettinger | Gaja Jarosz | Joe Pater
Proceedings of the Society for Computation in Linguistics 2020

pdf bib
What BERT Is Not: Lessons from a New Suite of Psycholinguistic Diagnostics for Language Models
Allyson Ettinger
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 8

Pre-training by language modeling has become a popular and successful approach to NLP tasks, but we have yet to understand exactly what linguistic capacities these pre-training processes confer upon models. In this paper we introduce a suite of diagnostics drawn from human language experiments, which allow us to ask targeted questions about information used by language models for generating predictions in context. As a case study, we apply these diagnostics to the popular BERT model, finding that it can generally distinguish good from bad completions involving shared category or role reversal, albeit with less sensitivity than humans, and it robustly retrieves noun hypernyms, but it struggles with challenging inference and role-based event prediction— and, in particular, it shows clear insensitivity to the contextual impacts of negation.

2018

pdf bib
Assessing Composition in Sentence Vector Representations
Allyson Ettinger | Ahmed Elgohary | Colin Phillips | Philip Resnik
Proceedings of the 27th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

An important component of achieving language understanding is mastering the composition of sentence meaning, but an immediate challenge to solving this problem is the opacity of sentence vector representations produced by current neural sentence composition models. We present a method to address this challenge, developing tasks that directly target compositional meaning information in sentence vector representations with a high degree of precision and control. To enable the creation of these controlled tasks, we introduce a specialized sentence generation system that produces large, annotated sentence sets meeting specified syntactic, semantic and lexical constraints. We describe the details of the method and generation system, and then present results of experiments applying our method to probe for compositional information in embeddings from a number of existing sentence composition models. We find that the method is able to extract useful information about the differing capacities of these models, and we discuss the implications of our results with respect to these systems’ capturing of sentence information. We make available for public use the datasets used for these experiments, as well as the generation system.

2017

pdf bib
Proceedings of ACL 2017, Student Research Workshop
Allyson Ettinger | Spandana Gella | Matthieu Labeau | Cecilia Ovesdotter Alm | Marine Carpuat | Mark Dredze
Proceedings of ACL 2017, Student Research Workshop

pdf bib
Proceedings of the First Workshop on Building Linguistically Generalizable NLP Systems
Emily Bender | Hal Daumé III | Allyson Ettinger | Sudha Rao
Proceedings of the First Workshop on Building Linguistically Generalizable NLP Systems

pdf bib
Towards Linguistically Generalizable NLP Systems: A Workshop and Shared Task
Allyson Ettinger | Sudha Rao | Hal Daumé III | Emily M. Bender
Proceedings of the First Workshop on Building Linguistically Generalizable NLP Systems

This paper presents a summary of the first Workshop on Building Linguistically Generalizable Natural Language Processing Systems, and the associated Build It Break It, The Language Edition shared task. The goal of this workshop was to bring together researchers in NLP and linguistics with a carefully designed shared task aimed at testing the generalizability of NLP systems beyond the distributions of their training data. We describe the motivation, setup, and participation of the shared task, provide discussion of some highlighted results, and discuss lessons learned.

2016

pdf bib
Retrofitting Sense-Specific Word Vectors Using Parallel Text
Allyson Ettinger | Philip Resnik | Marine Carpuat
Proceedings of the 2016 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

pdf bib
Evaluating vector space models using human semantic priming results
Allyson Ettinger | Tal Linzen
Proceedings of the 1st Workshop on Evaluating Vector-Space Representations for NLP

pdf bib
Probing for semantic evidence of composition by means of simple classification tasks
Allyson Ettinger | Ahmed Elgohary | Philip Resnik
Proceedings of the 1st Workshop on Evaluating Vector-Space Representations for NLP

2015

pdf bib
Dialogue focus tracking for zero pronoun resolution
Sudha Rao | Allyson Ettinger | Hal Daumé III | Philip Resnik
Proceedings of the 2015 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies