Erin Bennett


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Learning to Explain: Answering Why-Questions via Rephrasing
Allen Nie | Erin Bennett | Noah Goodman
Proceedings of the First Workshop on NLP for Conversational AI

Providing plausible responses to why questions is a challenging but critical goal for language based human-machine interaction. Explanations are challenging in that they require many different forms of abstract knowledge and reasoning. Previous work has either relied on human-curated structured knowledge bases or detailed domain representation to generate satisfactory explanations. They are also often limited to ranking pre-existing explanation choices. In our work, we contribute to the under-explored area of generating natural language explanations for general phenomena. We automatically collect large datasets of explanation-phenomenon pairs which allow us to train sequence-to-sequence models to generate natural language explanations. We compare different training strategies and evaluate their performance using both automatic scores and human ratings. We demonstrate that our strategy is sufficient to generate highly plausible explanations for general open-domain phenomena compared to other models trained on different datasets.

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DisSent: Learning Sentence Representations from Explicit Discourse Relations
Allen Nie | Erin Bennett | Noah Goodman
Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Learning effective representations of sentences is one of the core missions of natural language understanding. Existing models either train on a vast amount of text, or require costly, manually curated sentence relation datasets. We show that with dependency parsing and rule-based rubrics, we can curate a high quality sentence relation task by leveraging explicit discourse relations. We show that our curated dataset provides an excellent signal for learning vector representations of sentence meaning, representing relations that can only be determined when the meanings of two sentences are combined. We demonstrate that the automatically curated corpus allows a bidirectional LSTM sentence encoder to yield high quality sentence embeddings and can serve as a supervised fine-tuning dataset for larger models such as BERT. Our fixed sentence embeddings achieve high performance on a variety of transfer tasks, including SentEval, and we achieve state-of-the-art results on Penn Discourse Treebank’s implicit relation prediction task.