Chao Zhao


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“What do others think?”: Task-Oriented Conversational Modeling with Subjective Knowledge
Chao Zhao | Spandana Gella | Seokhwan Kim | Di Jin | Devamanyu Hazarika | Alexandros Papangelis | Behnam Hedayatnia | Mahdi Namazifar | Yang Liu | Dilek Hakkani-Tur
Proceedings of the 24th Annual Meeting of the Special Interest Group on Discourse and Dialogue

Task-oriented Dialogue (TOD) Systems aim to build dialogue systems that assist users in accomplishing specific goals, such as booking a hotel or a restaurant. Traditional TODs rely on domain-specific APIs/DBs or external factual knowledge to generate responses, which cannot accommodate subjective user requests (e.g.,”Is the WIFI reliable?” or “Does the restaurant have a good atmosphere?”). To address this issue, we propose a novel task of subjective-knowledge-based TOD (SK-TOD). We also propose the first corresponding dataset, which contains subjective knowledge-seeking dialogue contexts and manually annotated responses grounded in subjective knowledge sources. When evaluated with existing TOD approaches, we find that this task poses new challenges such as aggregating diverse opinions from multiple knowledge snippets. We hope this task and dataset can promote further research on TOD and subjective content understanding. The code and the dataset are available at

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Task-Oriented Conversational Modeling with Subjective Knowledge Track in DSTC11
Seokhwan Kim | Spandana Gella | Chao Zhao | Di Jin | Alexandros Papangelis | Behnam Hedayatnia | Yang Liu | Dilek Z Hakkani-Tur
Proceedings of The Eleventh Dialog System Technology Challenge

Conventional Task-oriented Dialogue (TOD) Systems rely on domain-specific APIs/DBs or external factual knowledge to create responses. In DSTC11 track 5, we aims to provide a new challenging task to accommodate subjective user requests (e.g.,”Is the WIFI reliable?” or “Does the restaurant have a good atmosphere?” into TOD. We release a benchmark dataset, which contains subjective knowledge-seeking dialogue contexts and manually annotated responses that are grounded in subjective knowledge sources. The challenge track received a total of 48 entries from 14 participating teams.

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PARROT: Zero-Shot Narrative Reading Comprehension via Parallel Reading
Chao Zhao | Anvesh Vijjini | Snigdha Chaturvedi
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023

Narrative comprehension is a challenging task that requires a deep understanding of the foundational elements of narratives. Acquiring this skill requires extensive annotated data. To mitigate the burden of data annotation, we present Parrot, a zero-shot approach for narrative reading comprehension through parallel reading, which involves two parallel narratives that tell the same story. By leveraging one narrative as a source of supervision signal to guide the understanding of the other, Parrot abstracts the textual content and develops genuine narrative understanding. Evaluation conducted on two narrative comprehension benchmarks demonstrates that Parrot surpasses previous zero-shot approaches and achieves comparable performance to fully supervised models. The code will be available at


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Unsupervised Extractive Opinion Summarization Using Sparse Coding
Somnath Basu Roy Chowdhury | Chao Zhao | Snigdha Chaturvedi
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Opinion summarization is the task of automatically generating summaries that encapsulate information expressed in multiple user reviews. We present Semantic Autoencoder (SemAE) to perform extractive opinion summarization in an unsupervised manner. SemAE uses dictionary learning to implicitly capture semantic information from the review text and learns a latent representation of each sentence over semantic units. Our extractive summarization algorithm leverages the representations to identify representative opinions among hundreds of reviews. SemAE is also able to perform controllable summarization to generate aspect-specific summaries using only a few samples. We report strong performance on SPACE and AMAZON datasets and perform experiments to investigate the functioning of our model.

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Learning-by-Narrating: Narrative Pre-Training for Zero-Shot Dialogue Comprehension
Chao Zhao | Wenlin Yao | Dian Yu | Kaiqiang Song | Dong Yu | Jianshu Chen
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

Comprehending a dialogue requires a model to capture diverse kinds of key information in the utterances, which are either scattered around or implicitly implied in different turns of conversations. Therefore, dialogue comprehension requires diverse capabilities such as paraphrasing, summarizing, and commonsense reasoning. Towards the objective of pre-training a zero-shot dialogue comprehension model, we develop a novel narrative-guided pre-training strategy that learns by narrating the key information from a dialogue input. However, the dialogue-narrative parallel corpus for such a pre-training strategy is currently unavailable. For this reason, we first construct a dialogue-narrative parallel corpus by automatically aligning movie subtitles and their synopses. We then pre-train a BART model on the data and evaluate its performance on four dialogue-based tasks that require comprehension. Experimental results show that our model not only achieves superior zero-shot performance but also exhibits stronger fine-grained dialogue comprehension capabilities. The data and code are available at

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Read Top News First: A Document Reordering Approach for Multi-Document News Summarization
Chao Zhao | Tenghao Huang | Somnath Basu Roy Chowdhury | Muthu Kumar Chandrasekaran | Kathleen McKeown | Snigdha Chaturvedi
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2022

A common method for extractive multi-document news summarization is to re-formulate it as a single-document summarization problem by concatenating all documents as a single meta-document. However, this method neglects the relative importance of documents. We propose a simple approach to reorder the documents according to their relative importance before concatenating and summarizing them. The reordering makes the salient content easier to learn by the summarization model. Experiments show that our approach outperforms previous state-of-the-art methods with more complex architectures.

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Revisiting Generative Commonsense Reasoning: A Pre-Ordering Approach
Chao Zhao | Faeze Brahman | Tenghao Huang | Snigdha Chaturvedi
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: NAACL 2022

Pre-trained models (PTMs) have lead to great improvements in natural language generation (NLG). However, it is still unclear how much commonsense knowledge they possess. With the goal of evaluating commonsense knowledge of NLG models, recent work has proposed the problem of generative commonsense reasoning, e.g., to compose a logical sentence given a set of unordered concepts. Existing approaches to this problem hypothesize that PTMs lack sufficient parametric knowledge for this task, which can be overcome by introducing external knowledge or task-specific pre-training objectives. Different from this trend, we argue that PTM’s inherent ability for generative commonsense reasoning is underestimated due to the order-agnostic property of its input. In particular, we hypothesize that the order of the input concepts can affect the PTM’s ability to utilize its commonsense knowledge. To this end, we propose a pre-ordering approach to elaborately manipulate the order of the given concepts before generation. Experiments show that our approach can outperform the more sophisticated models that have access to a lot of external data and resources.

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NarraSum: A Large-Scale Dataset for Abstractive Narrative Summarization
Chao Zhao | Faeze Brahman | Kaiqiang Song | Wenlin Yao | Dian Yu | Snigdha Chaturvedi
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

Narrative summarization aims to produce a distilled version of a narrative to describe its most salient events and characters. Writing a summary for a narrative is challenging as it requires an understanding of event causality and character behaviors. To encourage research in this direction, we propose NarraSum, a large-scale narrative summarization dataset. It contains 122K narratives, which are collected from the synopses of movies and TV episodes with diverse genres, and their corresponding abstractive summaries. Experiments show that there is a large performance gap between humans and the state-of-the-art summarization models on NarraSum. We hope that this dataset will promote future research in summarization, as well as broader studies of natural language understanding and generation. The dataset is available at


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“Let Your Characters Tell Their Story”: A Dataset for Character-Centric Narrative Understanding
Faeze Brahman | Meng Huang | Oyvind Tafjord | Chao Zhao | Mrinmaya Sachan | Snigdha Chaturvedi
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2021

When reading a literary piece, readers often make inferences about various characters’ roles, personalities, relationships, intents, actions, etc. While humans can readily draw upon their past experiences to build such a character-centric view of the narrative, understanding characters in narratives can be a challenging task for machines. To encourage research in this field of character-centric narrative understanding, we present LiSCU – a new dataset of literary pieces and their summaries paired with descriptions of characters that appear in them. We also introduce two new tasks on LiSCU: Character Identification and Character Description Generation. Our experiments with several pre-trained language models adapted for these tasks demonstrate that there is a need for better models of narrative comprehension.


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Bridging the Structural Gap Between Encoding and Decoding for Data-To-Text Generation
Chao Zhao | Marilyn Walker | Snigdha Chaturvedi
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Generating sequential natural language descriptions from graph-structured data (e.g., knowledge graph) is challenging, partly because of the structural differences between the input graph and the output text. Hence, popular sequence-to-sequence models, which require serialized input, are not a natural fit for this task. Graph neural networks, on the other hand, can better encode the input graph but broaden the structural gap between the encoder and decoder, making faithful generation difficult. To narrow this gap, we propose DualEnc, a dual encoding model that can not only incorporate the graph structure, but can also cater to the linear structure of the output text. Empirical comparisons with strong single-encoder baselines demonstrate that dual encoding can significantly improve the quality of the generated text.