Dongmei Zhang


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HiTab: A Hierarchical Table Dataset for Question Answering and Natural Language Generation
Zhoujun Cheng | Haoyu Dong | Zhiruo Wang | Ran Jia | Jiaqi Guo | Yan Gao | Shi Han | Jian-Guang Lou | Dongmei Zhang
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Tables are often created with hierarchies, but existing works on table reasoning mainly focus on flat tables and neglect hierarchical tables. Hierarchical tables challenge numerical reasoning by complex hierarchical indexing, as well as implicit relationships of calculation and semantics. We present a new dataset, HiTab, to study question answering (QA) and natural language generation (NLG) over hierarchical tables. HiTab is a cross-domain dataset constructed from a wealth of statistical reports and Wikipedia pages, and has unique characteristics: (1) nearly all tables are hierarchical, and (2) QA pairs are not proposed by annotators from scratch, but are revised from real and meaningful sentences authored by analysts. (3) to reveal complex numerical reasoning in statistical reports, we provide fine-grained annotations of quantity and entity alignment. Experiments suggest that this HiTab presents a strong challenge for existing baselines and a valuable benchmark for future research. Targeting hierarchical structure, we devise a hierarchy-aware logical form for symbolic reasoning over tables, which shows high effectiveness. Targeting table reasoning, we leverage entity and quantity alignment to explore partially supervised training in QA and conditional generation in NLG, and largely reduce spurious predictions in QA and produce better descriptions in NLG.

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FORTAP: Using Formulas for Numerical-Reasoning-Aware Table Pretraining
Zhoujun Cheng | Haoyu Dong | Ran Jia | Pengfei Wu | Shi Han | Fan Cheng | Dongmei Zhang
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Tables store rich numerical data, but numerical reasoning over tables is still a challenge. In this paper, we find that the spreadsheet formula, a commonly used language to perform computations on numerical values in spreadsheets, is a valuable supervision for numerical reasoning in tables. Considering large amounts of spreadsheets available on the web, we propose FORTAP, the first exploration to leverage spreadsheet formulas for table pretraining. Two novel self-supervised pretraining objectives are derived from formulas, numerical reference prediction (NRP) and numerical calculation prediction (NCP). While our proposed objectives are generic for encoders, to better capture spreadsheet table layouts and structures, FORTAP is built upon TUTA, the first transformer-based method for spreadsheet table pretraining with tree attention. FORTAP outperforms state-of-the-art methods by large margins on three representative datasets of formula prediction, question answering, and cell type classification, showing the great potential of leveraging formulas for table pretraining.

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Accelerating Code Search with Deep Hashing and Code Classification
Wenchao Gu | Yanlin Wang | Lun Du | Hongyu Zhang | Shi Han | Dongmei Zhang | Michael Lyu
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Code search is to search reusable code snippets from source code corpus based on natural languages queries. Deep learning-based methods on code search have shown promising results. However, previous methods focus on retrieval accuracy, but lacked attention to the efficiency of the retrieval process. We propose a novel method CoSHC to accelerate code search with deep hashing and code classification, aiming to perform efficient code search without sacrificing too much accuracy. To evaluate the effectiveness of CoSHC, we apply our methodon five code search models. Extensive experimental results indicate that compared with previous code search baselines, CoSHC can save more than 90% of retrieval time meanwhile preserving at least 99% of retrieval accuracy.


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CAST: Enhancing Code Summarization with Hierarchical Splitting and Reconstruction of Abstract Syntax Trees
Ensheng Shi | Yanlin Wang | Lun Du | Hongyu Zhang | Shi Han | Dongmei Zhang | Hongbin Sun
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Code summarization aims to generate concise natural language descriptions of source code, which can help improve program comprehension and maintenance. Recent studies show that syntactic and structural information extracted from abstract syntax trees (ASTs) is conducive to summary generation. However, existing approaches fail to fully capture the rich information in ASTs because of the large size/depth of ASTs. In this paper, we propose a novel model CAST that hierarchically splits and reconstructs ASTs. First, we hierarchically split a large AST into a set of subtrees and utilize a recursive neural network to encode the subtrees. Then, we aggregate the embeddings of subtrees by reconstructing the split ASTs to get the representation of the complete AST. Finally, AST representation, together with source code embedding obtained by a vanilla code token encoder, is used for code summarization. Extensive experiments, including the ablation study and the human evaluation, on benchmarks have demonstrated the power of CAST. To facilitate reproducibility, our code and data are available at

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Learning Algebraic Recombination for Compositional Generalization
Chenyao Liu | Shengnan An | Zeqi Lin | Qian Liu | Bei Chen | Jian-Guang Lou | Lijie Wen | Nanning Zheng | Dongmei Zhang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL-IJCNLP 2021

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Weakly Supervised Semantic Parsing by Learning from Mistakes
Jiaqi Guo | Jian-Guang Lou | Ting Liu | Dongmei Zhang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2021

Weakly supervised semantic parsing (WSP) aims at training a parser via utterance-denotation pairs. This task is challenging because it requires (1) searching consistent logical forms in a huge space; and (2) dealing with spurious logical forms. In this work, we propose Learning from Mistakes (LFM), a simple yet effective learning framework for WSP. LFM utilizes the mistakes made by a parser during searching, i.e., generating logical forms that do not execute to correct denotations, for tackling the two challenges. In a nutshell, LFM additionally trains a parser using utterance-logical form pairs created from mistakes, which can quickly bootstrap the parser to search consistent logical forms. Also, it can motivate the parser to learn the correct mapping between utterances and logical forms, thus dealing with the spuriousness of logical forms. We evaluate LFM on WikiTableQuestions, WikiSQL, and TabFact in the WSP setting. The parser trained with LFM outperforms the previous state-of-the-art semantic parsing approaches on the three datasets. Also, we find that LFM can substantially reduce the need for labeled data. Using only 10% of utterance-denotation pairs, the parser achieves 84.2 denotation accuracy on WikiSQL, which is competitive with the previous state-of-the-art approaches using 100% labeled data.


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You Impress Me: Dialogue Generation via Mutual Persona Perception
Qian Liu | Yihong Chen | Bei Chen | Jian-Guang Lou | Zixuan Chen | Bin Zhou | Dongmei Zhang
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Despite the continuing efforts to improve the engagingness and consistency of chit-chat dialogue systems, the majority of current work simply focus on mimicking human-like responses, leaving understudied the aspects of modeling understanding between interlocutors. The research in cognitive science, instead, suggests that understanding is an essential signal for a high-quality chit-chat conversation. Motivated by this, we propose Pˆ2 Bot, a transmitter-receiver based framework with the aim of explicitly modeling understanding. Specifically, Pˆ2 Bot incorporates mutual persona perception to enhance the quality of personalized dialogue generation. Experiments on a large public dataset, Persona-Chat, demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach, with a considerable boost over the state-of-the-art baselines across both automatic metrics and human evaluations.

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Incomplete Utterance Rewriting as Semantic Segmentation
Qian Liu | Bei Chen | Jian-Guang Lou | Bin Zhou | Dongmei Zhang
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

Recent years the task of incomplete utterance rewriting has raised a large attention. Previous works usually shape it as a machine translation task and employ sequence to sequence based architecture with copy mechanism. In this paper, we present a novel and extensive approach, which formulates it as a semantic segmentation task. Instead of generating from scratch, such a formulation introduces edit operations and shapes the problem as prediction of a word-level edit matrix. Benefiting from being able to capture both local and global information, our approach achieves state-of-the-art performance on several public datasets. Furthermore, our approach is four times faster than the standard approach in inference.

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“What Do You Mean by That?” A Parser-Independent Interactive Approach for Enhancing Text-to-SQL
Yuntao Li | Bei Chen | Qian Liu | Yan Gao | Jian-Guang Lou | Yan Zhang | Dongmei Zhang
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

In Natural Language Interfaces to Databases systems, the text-to-SQL technique allows users to query databases by using natural language questions. Though significant progress in this area has been made recently, most parsers may fall short when they are deployed in real systems. One main reason stems from the difficulty of fully understanding the users’ natural language questions. In this paper, we include human in the loop and present a novel parser-independent interactive approach (PIIA) that interacts with users using multi-choice questions and can easily work with arbitrary parsers. Experiments were conducted on two cross-domain datasets, the WikiSQL and the more complex Spider, with five state-of-the-art parsers. These demonstrated that PIIA is capable of enhancing the text-to-SQL performance with limited interaction turns by using both simulation and human evaluation.


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A Split-and-Recombine Approach for Follow-up Query Analysis
Qian Liu | Bei Chen | Haoyan Liu | Jian-Guang Lou | Lei Fang | Bin Zhou | Dongmei Zhang
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

Context-dependent semantic parsing has proven to be an important yet challenging task. To leverage the advances in context-independent semantic parsing, we propose to perform follow-up query analysis, aiming to restate context-dependent natural language queries with contextual information. To accomplish the task, we propose STAR, a novel approach with a well-designed two-phase process. It is parser-independent and able to handle multifarious follow-up scenarios in different domains. Experiments on the FollowUp dataset show that STAR outperforms the state-of-the-art baseline by a large margin of nearly 8%. The superiority on parsing results verifies the feasibility of follow-up query analysis. We also explore the extensibility of STAR on the SQA dataset, which is very promising.

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Data-Anonymous Encoding for Text-to-SQL Generation
Zhen Dong | Shizhao Sun | Hongzhi Liu | Jian-Guang Lou | Dongmei Zhang
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

On text-to-SQL generation, the input utterance usually contains lots of tokens that are related to column names or cells in the table, called table-related tokens. These table-related tokens are troublesome for the downstream neural semantic parser because it brings complex semantics and hinders the sharing across the training examples. However, existing approaches either ignore handling these tokens before the semantic parser or simply use deterministic approaches based on string-match or word embedding similarity. In this work, we propose a more efficient approach to handle table-related tokens before the semantic parser. First, we formulate it as a sequential tagging problem and propose a two-stage anonymization model to learn the semantic relationship between tables and input utterances. Then, we leverage the implicit supervision from SQL queries by policy gradient to guide the training. Experiments demonstrate that our approach consistently improves performances of different neural semantic parsers and significantly outperforms deterministic approaches.

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Towards Complex Text-to-SQL in Cross-Domain Database with Intermediate Representation
Jiaqi Guo | Zecheng Zhan | Yan Gao | Yan Xiao | Jian-Guang Lou | Ting Liu | Dongmei Zhang
Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

We present a neural approach called IRNet for complex and cross-domain Text-to-SQL. IRNet aims to address two challenges: 1) the mismatch between intents expressed in natural language (NL) and the implementation details in SQL; 2) the challenge in predicting columns caused by the large number of out-of-domain words. Instead of end-to-end synthesizing a SQL query, IRNet decomposes the synthesis process into three phases. In the first phase, IRNet performs a schema linking over a question and a database schema. Then, IRNet adopts a grammar-based neural model to synthesize a SemQL query which is an intermediate representation that we design to bridge NL and SQL. Finally, IRNet deterministically infers a SQL query from the synthesized SemQL query with domain knowledge. On the challenging Text-to-SQL benchmark Spider, IRNet achieves 46.7% accuracy, obtaining 19.5% absolute improvement over previous state-of-the-art approaches. At the time of writing, IRNet achieves the first position on the Spider leaderboard.


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SemRegex: A Semantics-Based Approach for Generating Regular Expressions from Natural Language Specifications
Zexuan Zhong | Jiaqi Guo | Wei Yang | Jian Peng | Tao Xie | Jian-Guang Lou | Ting Liu | Dongmei Zhang
Proceedings of the 2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Recent research proposes syntax-based approaches to address the problem of generating programs from natural language specifications. These approaches typically train a sequence-to-sequence learning model using a syntax-based objective: maximum likelihood estimation (MLE). Such syntax-based approaches do not effectively address the goal of generating semantically correct programs, because these approaches fail to handle Program Aliasing, i.e., semantically equivalent programs may have many syntactically different forms. To address this issue, in this paper, we propose a semantics-based approach named SemRegex. SemRegex provides solutions for a subtask of the program-synthesis problem: generating regular expressions from natural language. Different from the existing syntax-based approaches, SemRegex trains the model by maximizing the expected semantic correctness of the generated regular expressions. The semantic correctness is measured using the DFA-equivalence oracle, random test cases, and distinguishing test cases. The experiments on three public datasets demonstrate the superiority of SemRegex over the existing state-of-the-art approaches.