Ignacio Iacobacci


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Proceedings of the 1st Workshop on Simulating Conversational Intelligence in Chat (SCI-CHAT 2024)
Yvette Graham | Qun Liu | Gerasimos Lampouras | Ignacio Iacobacci | Sinead Madden | Haider Khalid | Rameez Qureshi
Proceedings of the 1st Workshop on Simulating Conversational Intelligence in Chat (SCI-CHAT 2024)

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Findings of the First Workshop on Simulating Conversational Intelligence in Chat
Yvette Graham | Mohammed Rameez Qureshi | Haider Khalid | Gerasimos Lampouras | Ignacio Iacobacci | Qun Liu
Proceedings of the 1st Workshop on Simulating Conversational Intelligence in Chat (SCI-CHAT 2024)

The aim of this workshop is to bring together experts working on open-domain dialogue research. In this speedily advancing research area many challenges still exist, such as learning information from conversations, engaging in realistic and convincing simulation of human intelligence and reasoning. SCI-CHAT follows previous workshops on open domain dialogue but with a focus on the simulation of intelligent conversation as judged in a live human evaluation. Models aim to include the ability to follow a challenging topic over a multi-turn conversation, while positing, refuting and reasoning over arguments. The workshop included both a research track and shared task. The main goal of this paper is to provide an overview of the shared task and a link to an additional paper that will include an in depth analysis of the shared task results following presentation at the workshop.


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Multi 3 WOZ: A Multilingual, Multi-Domain, Multi-Parallel Dataset for Training and Evaluating Culturally Adapted Task-Oriented Dialog Systems
Songbo Hu | Han Zhou | Mete Hergul | Milan Gritta | Guchun Zhang | Ignacio Iacobacci | Ivan Vulić | Anna Korhonen
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 11

Creating high-quality annotated data for task-oriented dialog (ToD) is known to be notoriously difficult, and the challenges are amplified when the goal is to create equitable, culturally adapted, and large-scale ToD datasets for multiple languages. Therefore, the current datasets are still very scarce and suffer from limitations such as translation-based non-native dialogs with translation artefacts, small scale, or lack of cultural adaptation, among others. In this work, we first take stock of the current landscape of multilingual ToD datasets, offering a systematic overview of their properties and limitations. Aiming to reduce all the detected limitations, we then introduce Multi3WOZ, a novel multilingual, multi-domain, multi-parallel ToD dataset. It is large-scale and offers culturally adapted dialogs in 4 languages to enable training and evaluation of multilingual and cross-lingual ToD systems. We describe a complex bottom–up data collection process that yielded the final dataset, and offer the first sets of baseline scores across different ToD-related tasks for future reference, also highlighting its challenging nature.

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A Systematic Study of Performance Disparities in Multilingual Task-Oriented Dialogue Systems
Songbo Hu | Han Zhou | Moy Yuan | Milan Gritta | Guchun Zhang | Ignacio Iacobacci | Anna Korhonen | Ivan Vulić
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Achieving robust language technologies that can perform well across the world’s many languages is a central goal of multilingual NLP. In this work, we take stock of and empirically analyse task performance disparities that exist between multilingual task-oriented dialogue (ToD) systems. We first define new quantitative measures of absolute and relative equivalence in system performance, capturing disparities across languages and within individual languages. Through a series of controlled experiments, we demonstrate that performance disparities depend on a number of factors: the nature of the ToD task at hand, the underlying pretrained language model, the target language, and the amount of ToD annotated data. We empirically prove the existence of the adaptation and intrinsic biases in current ToD systems: e.g., ToD systems trained for Arabic or Turkish using annotated ToD data fully parallel to English ToD data still exhibit diminished ToD task performance. Beyond providing a series of insights into the performance disparities of ToD systems in different languages, our analyses offer practical tips on how to approach ToD data collection and system development for new languages.

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XQA-DST: Multi-Domain and Multi-Lingual Dialogue State Tracking
Han Zhou | Ignacio Iacobacci | Pasquale Minervini
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EACL 2023

Dialogue State Tracking (DST), a crucial component of task-oriented dialogue (ToD) systems, keeps track of all important information pertaining to dialogue history: filling slots with the most probable values throughout the conversation. Existing methods generally rely on a predefined set of values and struggle to generalise to previously unseen slots in new domains. To overcome these challenges, we propose a domain-agnostic extractive question answering (QA) approach with shared weights across domains. To disentangle the complex domain information in ToDs, we train our DST with a novel domain filtering strategy by excluding out-of-domain question samples. With an independent classifier that predicts the presence of multiple domains given the context, our model tackles DST by extracting spans in active domains. Empirical results demonstrate that our model can efficiently leverage domain-agnostic QA datasets by two-stage fine-tuning while being both domain-scalable and open vocabulary in DST. It shows strong transferability by achieving zero-shot domain-adaptation results on MultiWOZ 2.1 with an average JGA of 36.7%. It further achieves cross-lingual transfer with state-of-the-art zero-shot results, 66.2% JGA from English to German and 75.7% JGA from English to Italian on WOZ 2.0.

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Automatic Unit Test Data Generation and Actor-Critic Reinforcement Learning for Code Synthesis
Philip Gorinski | Matthieu Zimmer | Gerasimos Lampouras | Derrick Goh Xin Deik | Ignacio Iacobacci
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023

The advent of large pre-trained language models in the domain of Code Synthesis has shown remarkable performance on various benchmarks, treating the problem of Code Generation in a fashion similar to Natural Language Generation, trained with a Language Modelling (LM) objective. In addition, the property of programming language code being precisely evaluable with respect to its semantics – through the use of Unit Tests to check its functional correctness – lends itself to using Reinforcement Learning (RL) as a further training paradigm. Previous work has shown that RL can be applied as such to improve models’ coding capabilities; however, such RL-based methods rely on a reward signal based on defined Unit Tests, which are much harder to obtain compared to the huge crawled code datasets used in LM objectives. In this work, we present a novel approach to automatically obtain data consisting of function signatures and associated Unit Tests, suitable for RL training of Code Synthesis models. We also introduce a straightforward, simple yet effective Actor-Critic RL training scheme and show that it, in conjunction with automatically generated training data, leads to improvement of a pre-trained code language model’s performance by up to 9.9% improvement over the original underlying code synthesis LM, and up to 4.3% over RL-based models trained with standard PPO or CodeRL.


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Training Dynamics for Curriculum Learning: A Study on Monolingual and Cross-lingual NLU
Fenia Christopoulou | Gerasimos Lampouras | Ignacio Iacobacci
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Curriculum Learning (CL) is a technique of training models via ranking examples in a typically increasing difficulty trend with the aim of accelerating convergence and improving generalisability. Current approaches for Natural Language Understanding (NLU) tasks use CL to improve in-distribution data performance often via heuristic-oriented or task-agnostic difficulties. In this work, instead, we employ CL for NLU by taking advantage of training dynamics as difficulty metrics, i.e., statistics that measure the behavior of the model at hand on specific task-data instances during training and propose modifications of existing CL schedulers based on these statistics. Differently from existing works, we focus on evaluating models on in-distribution (ID), out-of-distribution (OOD) as well as zero-shot (ZS) cross-lingual transfer datasets. We show across several NLU tasks that CL with training dynamics can result in better performance mostly on zero-shot cross-lingual transfer and OOD settings with improvements up by 8.5% in certain cases. Overall, experiments indicate that training dynamics can lead to better performing models with smoother training compared to other difficulty metrics while being 20% faster on average. In addition, through analysis we shed light on the correlations of task-specific versus task-agnostic metrics.

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Hierarchical Recurrent Aggregative Generation for Few-Shot NLG
Giulio Zhou | Gerasimos Lampouras | Ignacio Iacobacci
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2022

Large pretrained models enable transfer learning to low-resource domains for language generation tasks. However, previous end-to-end approaches do not account for the fact that some generation sub-tasks, specifically aggregation and lexicalisation, can benefit from transfer learning in different extents. To exploit these varying potentials for transfer learning, we propose a new hierarchical approach for few-shot and zero-shot generation. Our approach consists of a three-moduled jointly trained architecture: the first module independently lexicalises the distinct units of information in the input as sentence sub-units (e.g. phrases), the second module recurrently aggregates these sub-units to generate a unified intermediate output, while the third module subsequently post-edits it to generate a coherent and fluent final text. We perform extensive empirical analysis and ablation studies on few-shot and zero-shot settings across 4 datasets. Automatic and human evaluation shows that the proposed hierarchical approach is consistently capable of achieving state-of-the-art results when compared to previous work.

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CrossAligner & Co: Zero-Shot Transfer Methods for Task-Oriented Cross-lingual Natural Language Understanding
Milan Gritta | Ruoyu Hu | Ignacio Iacobacci
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2022

Task-oriented personal assistants enable people to interact with a host of devices and services using natural language. One of the challenges of making neural dialogue systems available to more users is the lack of training data for all but a few languages. Zero-shot methods try to solve this issue by acquiring task knowledge in a high-resource language such as English with the aim of transferring it to the low-resource language(s). To this end, we introduce CrossAligner, the principal method of a variety of effective approaches for zero-shot cross-lingual transfer based on learning alignment from unlabelled parallel data. We present a quantitative analysis of individual methods as well as their weighted combinations, several of which exceed state-of-the-art (SOTA) scores as evaluated across nine languages, fifteen test sets and three benchmark multilingual datasets. A detailed qualitative error analysis of the best methods shows that our fine-tuned language models can zero-shot transfer the task knowledge better than anticipated.

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EntityCS: Improving Zero-Shot Cross-lingual Transfer with Entity-Centric Code Switching
Chenxi Whitehouse | Fenia Christopoulou | Ignacio Iacobacci
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

Accurate alignment between languages is fundamental for improving cross-lingual pre-trained language models (XLMs). Motivated by the natural phenomenon of code-switching (CS) in multilingual speakers, CS has been used as an effective data augmentation method that offers language alignment at word- or phrase-level, in contrast to sentence-level via parallel instances. Existing approaches either use dictionaries or parallel sentences with word-alignment to generate CS data by randomly switching words in a sentence. However, such methods can be suboptimal as dictionaries disregard semantics, and syntax might become invalid after random word switching. In this work, we propose EntityCS, a method that focuses on Entity-level Code-Switching to capture fine-grained cross-lingual semantics without corrupting syntax. We use Wikidata and the English Wikipedia to construct an entity-centric CS corpus by switching entities to their counterparts in other languages. We further propose entity-oriented masking strategies during intermediate model training on the EntityCS corpus for improving entity prediction. Evaluation of the trained models on four entity-centric downstream tasks shows consistent improvements over the baseline with a notable increase of 10% in Fact Retrieval. We release the corpus and models to assist research on code-switching and enriching XLMs with external knowledge.

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Topic-Aware Response Generation in Task-Oriented Dialogue with Unstructured Knowledge Access
Yue Feng | Gerasimos Lampouras | Ignacio Iacobacci
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

To alleviate the problem of structured databases’ limited coverage, recent task-oriented dialogue systems incorporate external unstructured knowledge to guide the generation of system responses. However, these usually use word or sentence level similarities to detect the relevant knowledge context, which only partially capture the topical level relevance. In this paper, we examine how to better integrate topical information in knowledge grounded task-oriented dialogue and propose “Topic-Aware Response Generation” (TARG), an end-to-end response generation model. TARG incorporates multiple topic-aware attention mechanisms to derive the importance weighting scheme over dialogue utterances and external knowledge sources towards a better understanding of the dialogue history. Experimental results indicate that TARG achieves state-of-the-art performance in knowledge selection and response generation, outperforming previous state-of-the-art by 3.2, 3.6, and 4.2 points in EM, F1 and BLEU-4 respectively on Doc2Dial, and performing comparably with previous work on DSTC9; both being knowledge-grounded task-oriented dialogue datasets.


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Enhancing Transformers with Gradient Boosted Decision Trees for NLI Fine-Tuning
Benjamin Minixhofer | Milan Gritta | Ignacio Iacobacci
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL-IJCNLP 2021

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XeroAlign: Zero-shot cross-lingual transformer alignment
Milan Gritta | Ignacio Iacobacci
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL-IJCNLP 2021

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Conversation Graph: Data Augmentation, Training, and Evaluation for Non-Deterministic Dialogue Management
Milan Gritta | Gerasimos Lampouras | Ignacio Iacobacci
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 9

Task-oriented dialogue systems typically rely on large amounts of high-quality training data or require complex handcrafted rules. However, existing datasets are often limited in size con- sidering the complexity of the dialogues. Additionally, conventional training signal in- ference is not suitable for non-deterministic agent behavior, namely, considering multiple actions as valid in identical dialogue states. We propose the Conversation Graph (ConvGraph), a graph-based representation of dialogues that can be exploited for data augmentation, multi- reference training and evaluation of non- deterministic agents. ConvGraph generates novel dialogue paths to augment data volume and diversity. Intrinsic and extrinsic evaluation across three datasets shows that data augmentation and/or multi-reference training with ConvGraph can improve dialogue success rates by up to 6.4%.


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Compositional and Lexical Semantics in RoBERTa, BERT and DistilBERT: A Case Study on CoQA
Ieva Staliūnaitė | Ignacio Iacobacci
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

Many NLP tasks have benefited from transferring knowledge from contextualized word embeddings, however the picture of what type of knowledge is transferred is incomplete. This paper studies the types of linguistic phenomena accounted for by language models in the context of a Conversational Question Answering (CoQA) task. We identify the problematic areas for the finetuned RoBERTa, BERT and DistilBERT models through systematic error analysis - basic arithmetic (counting phrases), compositional semantics (negation and Semantic Role Labeling), and lexical semantics (surprisal and antonymy). When enhanced with the relevant linguistic knowledge through multitask learning, the models improve in performance. Ensembles of the enhanced models yield a boost between 2.2 and 2.7 points in F1 score overall, and up to 42.1 points in F1 on the hardest question classes. The results show differences in ability to represent compositional and lexical information between RoBERTa, BERT and DistilBERT.


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LSTMEmbed: Learning Word and Sense Representations from a Large Semantically Annotated Corpus with Long Short-Term Memories
Ignacio Iacobacci | Roberto Navigli
Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

While word embeddings are now a de facto standard representation of words in most NLP tasks, recently the attention has been shifting towards vector representations which capture the different meanings, i.e., senses, of words. In this paper we explore the capabilities of a bidirectional LSTM model to learn representations of word senses from semantically annotated corpora. We show that the utilization of an architecture that is aware of word order, like an LSTM, enables us to create better representations. We assess our proposed model on various standard benchmarks for evaluating semantic representations, reaching state-of-the-art performance on the SemEval-2014 word-to-sense similarity task. We release the code and the resulting word and sense embeddings at http://lcl.uniroma1.it/LSTMEmbed.


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Embedding Words and Senses Together via Joint Knowledge-Enhanced Training
Massimiliano Mancini | Jose Camacho-Collados | Ignacio Iacobacci | Roberto Navigli
Proceedings of the 21st Conference on Computational Natural Language Learning (CoNLL 2017)

Word embeddings are widely used in Natural Language Processing, mainly due to their success in capturing semantic information from massive corpora. However, their creation process does not allow the different meanings of a word to be automatically separated, as it conflates them into a single vector. We address this issue by proposing a new model which learns word and sense embeddings jointly. Our model exploits large corpora and knowledge from semantic networks in order to produce a unified vector space of word and sense embeddings. We evaluate the main features of our approach both qualitatively and quantitatively in a variety of tasks, highlighting the advantages of the proposed method in comparison to state-of-the-art word- and sense-based models.


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Embeddings for Word Sense Disambiguation: An Evaluation Study
Ignacio Iacobacci | Mohammad Taher Pilehvar | Roberto Navigli
Proceedings of the 54th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Semantic Representations of Word Senses and Concepts
José Camacho-Collados | Ignacio Iacobacci | Chris Navigli | Roberto Taher Pilehvar
Proceedings of the 54th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Tutorial Abstracts

Representing the semantics of linguistic items in a machine ­interpretable form has been a major goal of Natural Language Processing since its earliest days. Among the range of different linguistic items, words have attracted the most research attention. However, word representations have an important limitation: they conflate different meanings of a word into a single vector. Representations of word senses have the potential to overcome this inherent limitation. Indeed, the representation of individual word senses and concepts has recently gained in popularity with several experimental results showing that a considerable performance improvement can be achieved across different NLP applications upon moving from word level to the deeper sense and concept levels. Another interesting point regarding the representation of concepts and word senses is that these models can be seamlessly applied to other linguistic items, such as words, phrases, sentences, etc.This tutorial will first provide a brief overview of the recent literature concerning word representation (both count based and neural network based). It will then describe the advantages of moving from the word level to the deeper level of word senses and concepts, providing an extensive review of state ­of ­the ­art systems. Approaches covered will not only include those which draw upon knowledge resources such as WordNet, Wikipedia, BabelNet or FreeBase as reference, but also the so ­called multi ­prototype approaches which learn sense distinctions by using different clustering techniques. Our tutorial will discuss the advantages and potential limitations of all approaches, showing their most successful applications to date. We will conclude by presenting current open problems and lines of future work.


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SensEmbed: Learning Sense Embeddings for Word and Relational Similarity
Ignacio Iacobacci | Mohammad Taher Pilehvar | Roberto Navigli
Proceedings of the 53rd Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 7th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Volume 1: Long Papers)