Alon Halevy


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NormBank: A Knowledge Bank of Situational Social Norms
Caleb Ziems | Jane Dwivedi-Yu | Yi-Chia Wang | Alon Halevy | Diyi Yang
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

We present NormBank, a knowledge bank of 155k situational norms. This resource is designed to ground flexible normative reasoning for interactive, assistive, and collaborative AI systems. Unlike prior commonsense resources, NormBank grounds each inference within a multivalent sociocultural frame, which includes the setting (e.g., restaurant), the agents’ contingent roles (waiter, customer), their attributes (age, gender), and other physical, social, and cultural constraints (e.g., the temperature or the country of operation). In total, NormBank contains 63k unique constraints from a taxonomy that we introduce and iteratively refine here. Constraints then apply in different combinations to frame social norms. Under these manipulations, norms are non-monotonic — one can cancel an inference by updating its frame even slightly. Still, we find evidence that neural models can help reliably extend the scope and coverage of NormBank. We further demonstrate the utility of this resource with a series of transfer experiments. For data and code, see

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TimelineQA: A Benchmark for Question Answering over Timelines
Wang-Chiew Tan | Jane Dwivedi-Yu | Yuliang Li | Lambert Mathias | Marzieh Saeidi | Jing Nathan Yan | Alon Halevy
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2023

Lifelogs are descriptions of experiences that a person had during their life. Lifelogs are created by fusing data from the multitude of digital services, such as online photos, maps, shopping and content streaming services. Question answering over lifelogs can offer personal assistants a critical resource when they try to provide advice in context. However, obtaining answers to questions over lifelogs is beyond the current state of the art of question answering techniques for a variety of reasons, the most pronounced of which is that lifelogs combine free text with some degree of structure such as temporal and geographical information. We create and publicly release TimelineQA, a benchmark for accelerating progress on querying lifelogs. TimelineQA generates lifelogs of imaginary people. The episodes in the lifelog range from major life episodes such as high school graduation to those that occur on a daily basis such as going for a run. We describe a set of experiments on TimelineQA with several state-of-the-art QA models. Our experiments reveal that for atomic queries, an extractive QA system significantly out-performs a state-of-the-art retrieval-augmented QA system. For multi-hop queries involving aggregates, we show that the best result is obtained with a state-of-the-art table QA technique, assuming the ground truth set of episodes for deriving the answer is available.

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Reimagining Retrieval Augmented Language Models for Answering Queries
Wang-Chiew Tan | Yuliang Li | Pedro Rodriguez | Richard James | Xi Victoria Lin | Alon Halevy | Wen-tau Yih
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2023

We present a reality check on large language models and inspect the promise of retrieval-augmented language models in comparison. Such language models are semi-parametric, where models integrate model parameters and knowledge from external data sources to make their predictions, as opposed to the parametric nature of vanilla large language models. We give initial experimental findings that semi-parametric architectures can be enhanced with views, a query analyzer/planner, and provenance to make a significantly more powerful system for question answering in terms of accuracy and efficiency, and potentially for other NLP tasks.


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That’s so cute!: The CARE Dataset for Affective Response Detection
Jane Yu | Alon Halevy
Proceedings of the 26th Conference on Computational Natural Language Learning (CoNLL)

Social media plays an increasing role in our communication with friends and family, and in our consumption of entertainment and information. Hence, to design effective ranking functions for posts on social media, it would be useful to predict the affective responses of a post (e.g., whether it is likely to elicit feelings of entertainment, inspiration, or anger). Similar to work on emotion detection (which focuses on the affect of the publisher of the post), the traditional approach to recognizing affective response would involve an expensive investment in human annotation of training data. We create and publicly release CARE DB, a dataset of 230k social media post annotations according to seven affective responses using the Common Affective Response Expression (CARE) method. The CARE method is a means of leveraging the signal that is present in comments that are posted in response to a post, providing high-precision evidence about the affective response to the post without human annotation. Unlike human annotation, the annotation process we describe here can be iterated upon to expand the coverage of the method, particularly for new affective responses. We present experiments that demonstrate that the CARE annotations compare favorably with crowdsourced annotations. Finally, we use CARE DB to train competitive BERT-based models for predicting affective response as well as emotion detection, demonstrating the utility of the dataset for related tasks.

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Quantifying Adaptability in Pre-trained Language Models with 500 Tasks
Belinda Li | Jane Yu | Madian Khabsa | Luke Zettlemoyer | Alon Halevy | Jacob Andreas
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

When a neural language model (LM) is adapted to perform a new task, what aspects of the task predict the eventual performance of the model? In NLP, systematic features of LM generalization to individual examples are well characterized, but systematic aspects of LM adaptability to new tasks are not nearly as well understood. We present a large-scale empirical study of the features and limits of LM adaptability using a new benchmark, TaskBench500, built from 500 procedurally generated sequence modeling tasks. These tasks combine core aspects of language processing, including lexical semantics, sequence processing, memorization, logical reasoning, and world knowledge. Using TaskBench500, we evaluate three facets of adaptability, finding that: (1) adaptation procedures differ dramatically in their ability to memorize small datasets; (2) within a subset of task types, adaptation procedures exhibit compositional adaptability to complex tasks; and (3) failure to match training label distributions is explained by mismatches in the intrinsic difficulty of predicting individual labels. Our experiments show that adaptability to new tasks, like generalization to new examples, can be systematically described and understood, and we conclude with a discussion of additional aspects of adaptability that could be studied using the new benchmark.

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The Moral Integrity Corpus: A Benchmark for Ethical Dialogue Systems
Caleb Ziems | Jane Yu | Yi-Chia Wang | Alon Halevy | Diyi Yang
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Conversational agents have come increasingly closer to human competence in open-domain dialogue settings; however, such models can reflect insensitive, hurtful, or entirely incoherent viewpoints that erode a user’s trust in the moral integrity of the system. Moral deviations are difficult to mitigate because moral judgments are not universal, and there may be multiple competing judgments that apply to a situation simultaneously. In this work, we introduce a new resource, not to authoritatively resolve moral ambiguities, but instead to facilitate systematic understanding of the intuitions, values and moral judgments reflected in the utterances of dialogue systems. The Moral Integrity Corpus, MIC, is such a resource, which captures the moral assumptions of 38k prompt-reply pairs, using 99k distinct Rules of Thumb (RoTs). Each RoT reflects a particular moral conviction that can explain why a chatbot’s reply may appear acceptable or problematic. We further organize RoTs with a set of 9 moral and social attributes and benchmark performance for attribute classification. Most importantly, we show that current neural language models can automatically generate new RoTs that reasonably describe previously unseen interactions, but they still struggle with certain scenarios. Our findings suggest that MIC will be a useful resource for understanding and language models’ implicit moral assumptions and flexibly benchmarking the integrity of conversational agents. To download the data, see


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Database reasoning over text
James Thorne | Majid Yazdani | Marzieh Saeidi | Fabrizio Silvestri | Sebastian Riedel | Alon Halevy
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)

Neural models have shown impressive performance gains in answering queries from natural language text. However, existing works are unable to support database queries, such as “List/Count all female athletes who were born in 20th century”, which require reasoning over sets of relevant facts with operations such as join, filtering and aggregation. We show that while state-of-the-art transformer models perform very well for small databases, they exhibit limitations in processing noisy data, numerical operations, and queries that aggregate facts. We propose a modular architecture to answer these database-style queries over multiple spans from text and aggregating these at scale. We evaluate the architecture using WikiNLDB, a novel dataset for exploring such queries. Our architecture scales to databases containing thousands of facts whereas contemporary models are limited by how many facts can be encoded. In direct comparison on small databases, our approach increases overall answer accuracy from 85% to 90%. On larger databases, our approach retains its accuracy whereas transformer baselines could not encode the context.


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Open Information Extraction from Question-Answer Pairs
Nikita Bhutani | Yoshihiko Suhara | Wang-Chiew Tan | Alon Halevy | H. V. Jagadish
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies, Volume 1 (Long and Short Papers)

Open Information Extraction (OpenIE) extracts meaningful structured tuples from free-form text. Most previous work on OpenIE considers extracting data from one sentence at a time. We describe NeurON, a system for extracting tuples from question-answer pairs. One of the main motivations for NeurON is to be able to extend knowledge bases in a way that considers precisely the information that users care about. NeurON addresses several challenges. First, an answer text is often hard to understand without knowing the question, and second, relevant information can span multiple sentences. To address these, NeurON formulates extraction as a multi-source sequence-to-sequence learning task, wherein it combines distributed representations of a question and an answer to generate knowledge facts. We describe experiments on two real-world datasets that demonstrate that NeurON can find a significant number of new and interesting facts to extend a knowledge base compared to state-of-the-art OpenIE methods.


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FrameIt: Ontology Discovery for Noisy User-Generated Text
Dan Iter | Alon Halevy | Wang-Chiew Tan
Proceedings of the 2018 EMNLP Workshop W-NUT: The 4th Workshop on Noisy User-generated Text

A common need of NLP applications is to extract structured data from text corpora in order to perform analytics or trigger an appropriate action. The ontology defining the structure is typically application dependent and in many cases it is not known a priori. We describe the FrameIt System that provides a workflow for (1) quickly discovering an ontology to model a text corpus and (2) learning an SRL model that extracts the instances of the ontology from sentences in the corpus. FrameIt exploits data that is obtained in the ontology discovery phase as weak supervision data to bootstrap the SRL model and then enables the user to refine the model with active learning. We present empirical results and qualitative analysis of the performance of FrameIt on three corpora of noisy user-generated text.

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HappyDB: A Corpus of 100,000 Crowdsourced Happy Moments
Akari Asai | Sara Evensen | Behzad Golshan | Alon Halevy | Vivian Li | Andrei Lopatenko | Daniela Stepanov | Yoshihiko Suhara | Wang-Chiew Tan | Yinzhan Xu
Proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC 2018)


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ReNoun: Fact Extraction for Nominal Attributes
Mohamed Yahya | Steven Whang | Rahul Gupta | Alon Halevy
Proceedings of the 2014 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)