We propose a novel framework to train models to classify acceptability of responses generated by natural language generation (NLG) models, improving upon existing sentence transformation and model-based approaches. An NLG response is considered acceptable if it is both semantically correct and grammatical. We don’t make use of any human references making the classifiers suitable for runtime deployment. Training data for the classifiers is obtained using a 2-stage approach of first generating synthetic data using a combination of existing and new model-based approaches followed by a novel validation framework to filter and sort the synthetic data into acceptable and unacceptable classes. Our 2-stage approach adapts to a wide range of data representations and does not require additional data beyond what the NLG models are trained on. It is also independent of the underlying NLG model architecture, and is able to generate more realistic samples close to the distribution of the NLG model-generated responses. We present results on 5 datasets (WebNLG, Cleaned E2E, ViGGO, Alarm, and Weather) with varying data representations. We compare our framework with existing techniques that involve synthetic data generation using simple sentence transformations and/or model-based techniques, and show that building acceptability classifiers using data that resembles the generation model outputs followed by a validation framework outperforms the existing techniques, achieving state-of-the-art results. We also show that our techniques can be used in few-shot settings using self-training.
In this paper, we study the utilization of pre-trained language models to enable few-shotNatural Language Generation (NLG) in task-oriented dialog systems. We introduce a system consisting of iterative self-training and an extensible mini-template framework that textualizes the structured input data into semi-natural text to fully take advantage of pre-trained language models. We compare var-ious representations of NLG models’ input and output and show that transforming the input and output to be similar to what the language model has seen before during pre-training improves the model’s few-shot performance substantially. We show that neural mod-els can be trained with as few as 300 annotated examples while providing high fidelity, considerably lowering the resource requirements for standing up a new domain or language. This level of data efficiency removes the need for crowd-sourced data collection resulting in higher quality data annotated by expert linguists. In addition, model maintenance and debugging processes will improve in this few-shot setting. Finally, we explore distillation and using a caching system to satisfy latency requirements of real-world systems.
We explore the use of self-training and acceptability classifiers with pre-trained models for natural language generation in structure-to-text settings using three GEM datasets (E2E, WebNLG-en, Schema-Guided Dialog). With the Schema-Guided Dialog dataset, we also experiment with including multiple turns of context in the input. We find that self-training with reconstruction matching along with acceptability classifier filtering can improve semantic correctness, though gains are limited in the full-data setting. With context-conditioning, we find that including multiple turns in the context encourages the model to align with the user’s word and phrasing choices as well as to generate more self-consistent responses. In future versions of the GEM challenge, we encourage the inclusion of few-shot tracks to encourage research on data efficiency.
Natural language generation (NLG) is a critical component in conversational systems, owing to its role of formulating a correct and natural text response. Traditionally, NLG components have been deployed using template-based solutions. Although neural network solutions recently developed in the research community have been shown to provide several benefits, deployment of such model-based solutions has been challenging due to high latency, correctness issues, and high data needs. In this paper, we present approaches that have helped us deploy data-efficient neural solutions for NLG in conversational systems to production. We describe a family of sampling and modeling techniques to attain production quality with light-weight neural network models using only a fraction of the data that would be necessary otherwise, and show a thorough comparison between each. Our results show that domain complexity dictates the appropriate approach to achieve high data efficiency. Finally, we distill the lessons from our experimental findings into a list of best practices for production-level NLG model development, and present them in a brief runbook. Importantly, the end products of all of the techniques are small sequence-to-sequence models (~2Mb) that we can reliably deploy in production. These models achieve the same quality as large pretrained models (~1Gb) as judged by human raters.