Besnik Fetahu


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SemEval-2023 Task 2: Fine-grained Multilingual Named Entity Recognition (MultiCoNER 2)
Besnik Fetahu | Sudipta Kar | Zhiyu Chen | Oleg Rokhlenko | Shervin Malmasi
Proceedings of the 17th International Workshop on Semantic Evaluation (SemEval-2023)

We present the findings of SemEval-2023 Task 2 on Fine-grained Multilingual Named Entity Recognition (MultiCoNER 2). Divided into 13 tracks, the task focused on methods to identify complex fine-grained named entities (like WRITTENWORK, VEHICLE, MUSICALGRP) across 12 languages, in both monolingual and multilingual scenarios, as well as noisy settings. The task used the MultiCoNER V2 dataset, composed of 2.2 million instances in Bangla, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, German, Hindi, Italian., Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, and Ukrainian. MultiCoNER 2 was one of the most popular tasks of SemEval-2023. It attracted 842 submissions from 47 teams, and 34 teams submitted system papers. Results showed that complex entity types such as media titles and product names were the most challenging. Methods fusing external knowledge into transformer models achieved the best performance, and the largest gains were on the Creative Work and Group classes, which are still challenging even with external knowledge. Some fine-grained classes proved to be more challenging than others, such as SCIENTIST, ARTWORK, and PRIVATECORP. We also observed that noisy data has a significant impact on model performance, with an average drop of 10% on the noisy subset. The task highlights the need for future research on improving NER robustness on noisy data containing complex entities.

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Answering Unanswered Questions through Semantic Reformulations in Spoken QA
Pedro Faustini | Zhiyu Chen | Besnik Fetahu | Oleg Rokhlenko | Shervin Malmasi
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 5: Industry Track)

Spoken Question Answering (QA) is a key feature of voice assistants, usually backed by multiple QA systems. Users ask questions via spontaneous speech that can contain disfluencies, errors, and informal syntax or phrasing. This is a major challenge in QA, causing unanswered questions or irrelevant answers, leading to bad user experiences. We analyze failed QA requests to identify core challenges: lexical gaps, proposition types, complex syntactic structure, and high specificity. We propose a Semantic Question Reformulation (SURF) model offering three linguistically-grounded operations (repair, syntactic reshaping, generalization) to rewrite questions to facilitate answering. Offline evaluation on 1M unanswered questions from a leading voice assistant shows that SURF significantly improves answer rates: up to 24% of previously unanswered questions obtain relevant answers (75%). Live deployment shows positive impact for millions of customers with unanswered questions; explicit relevance feedback shows high user satisfaction.

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Generate-then-Retrieve: Intent-Aware FAQ Retrieval in Product Search
Zhiyu Chen | Jason Choi | Besnik Fetahu | Oleg Rokhlenko | Shervin Malmasi
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 5: Industry Track)

Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) retrieval aims at retrieving question-answer pairs for a given a user query. Integrating FAQ retrieval with product search can not only empower users to make more informed purchase decisions, but also enhance user retention through efficient post-purchase support. Providing FAQ content without disrupting user’s shopping experience poses challenges on deciding when and how to show FAQ results. Our proposed intent-aware FAQ retrieval consists of (1) an intent classifier that predicts whether the query is looking for an FAQ; (2) a reformulation model that rewrites query into a natural question. Offline evaluation demonstrates that our approach improves 12% in Hit@1 on retrieving ground-truth FAQs, while reducing latency by 95% compared to baseline systems. These improvements are further validated by real user feedback, where more than 99% of users consider FAQs displayed on top of product search results is helpful. Overall, our findings show promising directions for integrating FAQ retrieval into product search at scale.


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Dynamic Gazetteer Integration in Multilingual Models for Cross-Lingual and Cross-Domain Named Entity Recognition
Besnik Fetahu | Anjie Fang | Oleg Rokhlenko | Shervin Malmasi
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Named entity recognition (NER) in a real-world setting remains challenging and is impacted by factors like text genre, corpus quality, and data availability. NER models trained on CoNLL do not transfer well to other domains, even within the same language. This is especially the case for multi-lingual models when applied to low-resource languages, and is mainly due to missing entity information. We propose an approach that with limited effort and data, addresses the NER knowledge gap across languages and domains. Our novel approach uses a token-level gating layer to augment pre-trained multilingual transformers with gazetteers containing named entities (NE) from a target language or domain. This approach provides the flexibility to jointly integrate both textual and gazetteer information dynamically: entity knowledge from gazetteers is used only when a token’s textual representation is insufficient for the NER task. Evaluation on several languages and domains demonstrates: (i) a high mismatch of reported NER performance on CoNLL vs. domain specific datasets, (ii) gazetteers significantly improve NER performance across languages and domains, and (iii) gazetteers can be flexibly incorporated to guide knowledge transfer. On cross-lingual transfer we achieve an improvement over the baseline with F1=+17.6%, and with F1=+21.3% for cross-domain transfer.

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MultiCoNER: A Large-scale Multilingual Dataset for Complex Named Entity Recognition
Shervin Malmasi | Anjie Fang | Besnik Fetahu | Sudipta Kar | Oleg Rokhlenko
Proceedings of the 29th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

We present AnonData, a large multilingual dataset for Named Entity Recognition that covers 3 domains (Wiki sentences, questions, and search queries) across 11 languages, as well as multilingual and code-mixing subsets. This dataset is designed to represent contemporary challenges in NER, including low-context scenarios (short and uncased text), syntactically complex entities like movie titles, and long-tail entity distributions. The 26M token dataset is compiled from public resources using techniques such as heuristic-based sentence sampling, template extraction and slotting, and machine translation. We tested the performance of two NER models on our dataset: a baseline XLM-RoBERTa model, and a state-of-the-art NER GEMNET model that leverages gazetteers. The baseline achieves moderate performance (macro-F1=54%). GEMNET, which uses gazetteers, improvement significantly (average improvement of macro-F1=+30%) and demonstrates the difficulty of our dataset. AnonData poses challenges even for large pre-trained language models, and we believe that it can help further research in building robust NER systems.

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SDR: Efficient Neural Re-ranking using Succinct Document Representation
Nachshon Cohen | Amit Portnoy | Besnik Fetahu | Amir Ingber
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

BERT based ranking models have achieved superior performance on various information retrieval tasks. However, the large number of parameters and complex self-attention operations come at a significant latency overhead. To remedy this, recent works propose late-interaction architectures, which allow pre-computation of intermediate document representations, thus reducing latency. Nonetheless, having solved the immediate latency issue, these methods now introduce storage costs and network fetching latency, which limit their adoption in real-life production systems. In this work, we propose the Succinct Document Representation (SDR) scheme that computes highly compressed intermediate document representations, mitigating the storage/network issue. Our approach first reduces the dimension of token representations by encoding them using a novel autoencoder architecture that uses the document’s textual content in both the encoding and decoding phases. After this token encoding step, we further reduce the size of the document representations using modern quantization techniques. Evaluation on MSMARCO’s passage re-reranking task show that compared to existing approaches using compressed document representations, our method is highly efficient, achieving 4x–11.6x higher compression rates for the same ranking quality. Similarly, on the TREC CAR dataset, we achieve 7.7x higher compression rate for the same ranking quality.

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CycleKQR: Unsupervised Bidirectional Keyword-Question Rewriting
Andrea Iovine | Anjie Fang | Besnik Fetahu | Jie Zhao | Oleg Rokhlenko | Shervin Malmasi
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Users expect their queries to be answered by search systems, regardless of the query’s surface form, which include keyword queries and natural questions. Natural Language Understanding (NLU) components of Search and QA systems may fail to correctly interpret semantically equivalent inputs if this deviates from how the system was trained, leading to suboptimal understanding capabilities. We propose the keyword-question rewriting task to improve query understanding capabilities of NLU systems for all surface forms. To achieve this, we present CycleKQR, an unsupervised approach, enabling effective rewriting between keyword and question queries using non-parallel data. Empirically we show the impact on QA performance of unfamiliar query forms for open domain and Knowledge Base QA systems (trained on either keywords or natural language questions). We demonstrate how CycleKQR significantly improves QA performance by rewriting queries into the appropriate form, while at the same time retaining the original semantic meaning of input queries, allowing CycleKQR to improve performance by up to 3% over supervised baselines. Finally, we release a datasetof 66k keyword-question pairs.

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Reinforced Question Rewriting for Conversational Question Answering
Zhiyu Chen | Jie Zhao | Anjie Fang | Besnik Fetahu | Oleg Rokhlenko | Shervin Malmasi
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing: Industry Track

Conversational Question Answering (CQA) aims to answer questions contained within dialogues, which are not easily interpretable without context. Developing a model to rewrite conversational questions into self-contained ones is an emerging solution in industry settings as it allows using existing single-turn QA systems to avoid training a CQA model from scratch. Previous work trains rewriting models using human rewrites as supervision. However, such objectives are disconnected with QA models and therefore more human-like rewrites do not guarantee better QA performance. In this paper we propose using QA feedback to supervise the rewriting model with reinforcement learning. Experiments show that our approach can effectively improve QA performance over baselines for both extractive and retrieval QA. Furthermore, human evaluation shows that our method can generate more accurate and detailed rewrites when compared to human annotations.

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Distilling Multilingual Transformers into CNNs for Scalable Intent Classification
Besnik Fetahu | Akash Veeragouni | Oleg Rokhlenko | Shervin Malmasi
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing: Industry Track

We describe an application of Knowledge Distillation used to distill and deploy multilingual Transformer models for voice assistants, enabling text classification for customers globally. Transformers have set new state-of-the-art results for tasks like intent classification, and multilingual models exploit cross-lingual transfer to allow serving requests across 100+ languages. However, their prohibitive inference time makes them impractical to deploy in real-world scenarios with low latency requirements, such as is the case of voice assistants. We address the problem of cross-architecture distillation of multilingual Transformers to simpler models, while maintaining multilinguality without performance degradation. Training multilingual student models has received little attention, and is our main focus. We show that a teacher-student framework, where the teacher’s unscaled activations (logits) on unlabelled data are used to supervise student model training, enables distillation of Transformers into efficient multilingual CNN models. Our student model achieves equivalent performance as the teacher, and outperforms a similar model trained on the labelled data used to train the teacher model. This approach has enabled us to accurately serve global customer requests at speed (18x improvement), scale, and low cost.

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SemEval-2022 Task 11: Multilingual Complex Named Entity Recognition (MultiCoNER)
Shervin Malmasi | Anjie Fang | Besnik Fetahu | Sudipta Kar | Oleg Rokhlenko
Proceedings of the 16th International Workshop on Semantic Evaluation (SemEval-2022)

We present the findings of SemEval-2022 Task 11 on Multilingual Complex Named Entity Recognition MULTICONER. Divided into 13 tracks, the task focused on methods to identify complex named entities (like names of movies, products and groups) in 11 languages in both monolingual and multi-lingual scenarios. Eleven tracks required building monolingual NER models for individual languages, one track focused on multilingual models able to work on all languages, and the last track featured code-mixed texts within any of these languages. The task is based on the MULTICONER dataset comprising of 2.3 millions instances in Bangla, Chinese, Dutch, English, Farsi, German, Hindi, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish. Results showed that methods fusing external knowledge into transformer models achieved the best results. However, identifying entities like creative works is still challenging even with external knowledge. MULTICONER was one of the most popular tasks in SemEval-2022 and it attracted 377 participants during the practice phase. 236 participants signed up for the final test phase and 55 teams submitted their systems.


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Neural OCR Post-Hoc Correction of Historical Corpora
Lijun Lyu | Maria Koutraki | Martin Krickl | Besnik Fetahu
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 9

Optical character recognition (OCR) is crucial for a deeper access to historical collections. OCR needs to account for orthographic variations, typefaces, or language evolution (i.e., new letters, word spellings), as the main source of character, word, or word segmentation transcription errors. For digital corpora of historical prints, the errors are further exacerbated due to low scan quality and lack of language standardization. For the task of OCR post-hoc correction, we propose a neural approach based on a combination of recurrent (RNN) and deep convolutional network (ConvNet) to correct OCR transcription errors. At character level we flexibly capture errors, and decode the corrected output based on a novel attention mechanism. Accounting for the input and output similarity, we propose a new loss function that rewards the model’s correcting behavior. Evaluation on a historical book corpus in German language shows that our models are robust in capturing diverse OCR transcription errors and reduce the word error rate of 32.3% by more than 89%.


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Fine Grained Citation Span for References in Wikipedia
Besnik Fetahu | Katja Markert | Avishek Anand
Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Verifiability is one of the core editing principles in Wikipedia, where editors are encouraged to provide citations for the added content. For a Wikipedia article determining what content is covered by a citation or the citation span is not trivial, an important aspect for automated citation finding for uncovered content, or fact assessments. We address the problem of determining the citation span in Wikipedia articles. We approach this problem by classifying which textual fragments in an article are covered or hold true given a citation. We propose a sequence classification approach where for a paragraph and a citation, we determine the citation span at a fine-grained level. We provide a thorough experimental evaluation and compare our approach against baselines adopted from the scientific domain, where we show improvement for all evaluation metrics.