Arabella Sinclair


2023

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Attribution and Alignment: Effects of Local Context Repetition on Utterance Production and Comprehension in Dialogue
Aron Molnar | Jaap Jumelet | Mario Giulianelli | Arabella Sinclair
Proceedings of the 27th Conference on Computational Natural Language Learning (CoNLL)

Language models are often used as the backbone of modern dialogue systems. These models are pre-trained on large amounts of written fluent language. Repetition is typically penalised when evaluating language model generations. However, it is a key component of dialogue. Humans use local and partner specific repetitions; these are preferred by human users and lead to more successful communication in dialogue. In this study, we evaluate (a) whether language models produce human-like levels of repetition in dialogue, and (b) what are the processing mechanisms related to lexical re-use they use during comprehension. We believe that such joint analysis of model production and comprehension behaviour can inform the development of cognitively inspired dialogue generation systems.

2022

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AnaLog: Testing Analytical and Deductive Logic Learnability in Language Models
Samuel Ryb | Mario Giulianelli | Arabella Sinclair | Raquel Fernández
Proceedings of the 11th Joint Conference on Lexical and Computational Semantics

We investigate the extent to which pre-trained language models acquire analytical and deductive logical reasoning capabilities as a side effect of learning word prediction. We present AnaLog, a natural language inference task designed to probe models for these capabilities, controlling for different invalid heuristics the models may adopt instead of learning the desired generalisations. We test four languagemodels on AnaLog, finding that they have all learned, to a different extent, to encode information that is predictive of entailment beyond shallow heuristics such as lexical overlap and grammaticality. We closely analyse the best performing language model and show that while it performs more consistently than other language models across logical connectives and reasoning domains, it still is sensitive to lexical and syntactic variations in the realisation of logical statements.

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Construction Repetition Reduces Information Rate in Dialogue
Mario Giulianelli | Arabella Sinclair | Raquel Fernández
Proceedings of the 2nd Conference of the Asia-Pacific Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 12th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Speakers repeat constructions frequently in dialogue. Due to their peculiar information-theoretic properties, repetitions can be thought of as a strategy for cost-effective communication. In this study, we focus on the repetition of lexicalised constructions—i.e., recurring multi-word units—in English open-domain spoken dialogues. We hypothesise that speakers use construction repetition to mitigate information rate, leading to an overall decrease in utterance information content over the course of a dialogue. We conduct a quantitative analysis, measuring the information content of constructions and that of their containing utterances, estimating information content with an adaptive neural language model. We observe that construction usage lowers the information content of utterances. This facilitating effect (i) increases throughout dialogues, (ii) is boosted by repetition, (iii) grows as a function of repetition frequency and density, and (iv) is stronger for repetitions of referential constructions.

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Structural Persistence in Language Models: Priming as a Window into Abstract Language Representations
Arabella Sinclair | Jaap Jumelet | Willem Zuidema | Raquel Fernández
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 10

We investigate the extent to which modern neural language models are susceptible to structural priming, the phenomenon whereby the structure of a sentence makes the same structure more probable in a follow-up sentence. We explore how priming can be used to study the potential of these models to learn abstract structural information, which is a prerequisite for good performance on tasks that require natural language understanding skills. We introduce a novel metric and release Prime-LM, a large corpus where we control for various linguistic factors that interact with priming strength. We find that Transformer models indeed show evidence of structural priming, but also that the generalizations they learned are to some extent modulated by semantic information. Our experiments also show that the representations acquired by the models may not only encode abstract sequential structure but involve certain level of hierarchical syntactic information. More generally, our study shows that the priming paradigm is a useful, additional tool for gaining insights into the capacities of language models and opens the door to future priming-based investigations that probe the model’s internal states.1

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Controllable Text Generation for All Ages: Evaluating a Plug-and-Play Approach to Age-Adapted Dialogue
Lennert Jansen | Štěpán Lars Laichter | Arabella Sinclair | Margot van der Goot | Raquel Fernandez | Sandro Pezzelle
Proceedings of the 2nd Workshop on Natural Language Generation, Evaluation, and Metrics (GEM)

To be trusted and perceived as natural and coherent, conversational systems must adapt to the language of their users. While personalized dialogue is a promising direction, controlling generation for fine-grained language features remains a challenge in this approach. A recent line of research showed the effectiveness of leveraging pre-trained language models toward adapting to a text’s topic or sentiment. In this study, we build on these approaches and focus on a higher-level dimension of language variation: speakers’ age. We frame the task as a dialogue response generation, and test methods based on bag-of-words (BoW) and neural discriminators (Disc) to condition the output of GPT-2 and DialoGPT without altering the parameters of the language models. We show that Disc models achieve a higher degree of detectable control than BoW models based on automatic evaluation. In contrast, humans can partially detect age differences in BoW but not Disc responses. Since BoW responses are deemed better than Disc ones by humans, simple controllable methods thus appear to be a better tradeoff between adaptation and language quality. Our work confirms the challenges of adapting to higher-level dimensions of language variation. Moreover, it highlights the need to evaluate natural language generation thoroughly.

2021

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Is Information Density Uniform in Task-Oriented Dialogues?
Mario Giulianelli | Arabella Sinclair | Raquel Fernández
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

The Uniform Information Density principle states that speakers plan their utterances to reduce fluctuations in the density of the information transmitted. In this paper, we test whether, and within which contextual units this principle holds in task-oriented dialogues. We show that there is evidence supporting the principle in written dialogues where participants play a cooperative reference game as well as in spoken dialogues involving instruction giving and following. Our study underlines the importance of identifying the relevant contextual components, showing that information content increases particularly within topically and referentially related contextual units.

2020

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Refer, Reuse, Reduce: Generating Subsequent References in Visual and Conversational Contexts
Ece Takmaz | Mario Giulianelli | Sandro Pezzelle | Arabella Sinclair | Raquel Fernández
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

Dialogue participants often refer to entities or situations repeatedly within a conversation, which contributes to its cohesiveness. Subsequent references exploit the common ground accumulated by the interlocutors and hence have several interesting properties, namely, they tend to be shorter and reuse expressions that were effective in previous mentions. In this paper, we tackle the generation of first and subsequent references in visually grounded dialogue. We propose a generation model that produces referring utterances grounded in both the visual and the conversational context. To assess the referring effectiveness of its output, we also implement a reference resolution system. Our experiments and analyses show that the model produces better, more effective referring utterances than a model not grounded in the dialogue context, and generates subsequent references that exhibit linguistic patterns akin to humans.

2018

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Does Ability Affect Alignment in Second Language Tutorial Dialogue?
Arabella Sinclair | Adam Lopez | C. G. Lucas | Dragan Gasevic
Proceedings of the 19th Annual SIGdial Meeting on Discourse and Dialogue

The role of alignment between interlocutors in second language learning is different to that in fluent conversational dialogue. Learners gain linguistic skill through increased alignment, yet the extent to which they can align will be constrained by their ability. Tutors may use alignment to teach and encourage the student, yet still must push the student and correct their errors, decreasing alignment. To understand how learner ability interacts with alignment, we measure the influence of ability on lexical priming, an indicator of alignment. We find that lexical priming in learner-tutor dialogues differs from that in conversational and task-based dialogues, and we find evidence that alignment increases with ability and with word complexity.