Jian Guan


2022

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LOT: A Story-Centric Benchmark for Evaluating Chinese Long Text Understanding and Generation
Jian Guan | Zhuoer Feng | Yamei Chen | Ruilin He | Xiaoxi Mao | Changjie Fan | Minlie Huang
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 10

Standard multi-task benchmarks are essential for developing pretraining models that can generalize to various downstream tasks. Existing benchmarks for natural language processing (NLP) usually focus only on understanding or generating short texts. However, long text modeling requires many distinct abilities in contrast to short texts, such as the modeling of long-range discourse and commonsense relations, and the coherence and controllability of generation. The lack of standardized benchmarks makes it difficult to assess these abilities of a model and fairly compare different models, especially Chinese models. Therefore, we propose a story-centric benchmark named LOT for evaluating Chinese long text modeling, which aggregates two understanding tasks and two generation tasks. We construct new datasets for these tasks based on human-written Chinese stories with hundreds of words. Furthermore, we release an encoder-decoder-based Chinese long text pretraining model named LongLM with up to 1 billion parameters. We pretrain LongLM on 120G Chinese novels with two generative tasks including text infilling and conditional continuation. Extensive experiments show that LongLM outperforms similar-sized pretraining models substantially on both the understanding and generation tasks in LOT.

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Persona-Guided Planning for Controlling the Protagonist’s Persona in Story Generation
Zhexin Zhang | Jiaxin Wen | Jian Guan | Minlie Huang
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Endowing the protagonist with a specific personality is essential for writing an engaging story. In this paper, we aim to control the protagonist’s persona in story generation, i.e., generating a story from a leading context and a persona description, where the protagonist should exhibit the specified personality through a coherent event sequence. Considering that personas are usually embodied implicitly and sparsely in stories, we propose a planning-based generation model named ConPer to explicitly model the relationship between personas and events. ConPer first plans events of the protagonist’s behavior which are motivated by the specified persona through predicting one target sentence, then plans the plot as a sequence of keywords with the guidance of the predicted persona-related events and commonsense knowledge, and finally generates the whole story. Both automatic and manual evaluation results demonstrate that ConPer outperforms state-of-the-art baselines for generating more coherent and persona-controllable stories. Our code is available at https://github.com/thu-coai/ConPer.

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A Corpus for Understanding and Generating Moral Stories
Jian Guan | Ziqi Liu | Minlie Huang
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Teaching morals is one of the most important purposes of storytelling. An essential ability for understanding and writing moral stories is bridging story plots and implied morals. Its challenges mainly lie in: (1) grasping knowledge about abstract concepts in morals, (2) capturing inter-event discourse relations in stories, and (3) aligning value preferences of stories and morals concerning good or bad behavior. In this paper, we propose two understanding tasks and two generation tasks to assess these abilities of machines. We present STORAL, a new dataset of Chinese and English human-written moral stories. We show the difficulty of the proposed tasks by testing various models with automatic and manual evaluation on STORAL. Furthermore, we present a retrieval-augmented algorithm that effectively exploits related concepts or events in training sets as additional guidance to improve performance on these tasks.

2021

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Long Text Generation by Modeling Sentence-Level and Discourse-Level Coherence
Jian Guan | Xiaoxi Mao | Changjie Fan | Zitao Liu | Wenbiao Ding | Minlie Huang
Proceedings of the 59th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 11th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Generating long and coherent text is an important but challenging task, particularly for open-ended language generation tasks such as story generation. Despite the success in modeling intra-sentence coherence, existing generation models (e.g., BART) still struggle to maintain a coherent event sequence throughout the generated text. We conjecture that this is because of the difficulty for the decoder to capture the high-level semantics and discourse structures in the context beyond token-level co-occurrence. In this paper, we propose a long text generation model, which can represent the prefix sentences at sentence level and discourse level in the decoding process. To this end, we propose two pretraining objectives to learn the representations by predicting inter-sentence semantic similarity and distinguishing between normal and shuffled sentence orders. Extensive experiments show that our model can generate more coherent texts than state-of-the-art baselines.

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OpenMEVA: A Benchmark for Evaluating Open-ended Story Generation Metrics
Jian Guan | Zhexin Zhang | Zhuoer Feng | Zitao Liu | Wenbiao Ding | Xiaoxi Mao | Changjie Fan | Minlie Huang
Proceedings of the 59th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 11th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Automatic metrics are essential for developing natural language generation (NLG) models, particularly for open-ended language generation tasks such as story generation. However, existing automatic metrics are observed to correlate poorly with human evaluation. The lack of standardized benchmark datasets makes it difficult to fully evaluate the capabilities of a metric and fairly compare different metrics. Therefore, we propose OpenMEVA, a benchmark for evaluating open-ended story generation metrics. OpenMEVA provides a comprehensive test suite to assess the capabilities of metrics, including (a) the correlation with human judgments, (b) the generalization to different model outputs and datasets, (c) the ability to judge story coherence, and (d) the robustness to perturbations. To this end, OpenMEVA includes both manually annotated stories and auto-constructed test examples. We evaluate existing metrics on OpenMEVA and observe that they have poor correlation with human judgments, fail to recognize discourse-level incoherence, and lack inferential knowledge (e.g., causal order between events), the generalization ability and robustness. Our study presents insights for developing NLG models and metrics in further research.

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Stylized Story Generation with Style-Guided Planning
Xiangzhe Kong | Jialiang Huang | Ziquan Tung | Jian Guan | Minlie Huang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL-IJCNLP 2021

2020

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UNION: An Unreferenced Metric for Evaluating Open-ended Story Generation
Jian Guan | Minlie Huang
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

Despite the success of existing referenced metrics (e.g., BLEU and MoverScore), they correlate poorly with human judgments for open-ended text generation including story or dialog generation because of the notorious one-to-many issue: there are many plausible outputs for the same input, which may differ substantially in literal or semantics from the limited number of given references. To alleviate this issue, we propose UNION, a learnable UNreferenced metrIc for evaluating Open-eNded story generation, which measures the quality of a generated story without any reference. Built on top of BERT, UNION is trained to distinguish human-written stories from negative samples and recover the perturbation in negative stories. We propose an approach of constructing negative samples by mimicking the errors commonly observed in existing NLG models, including repeated plots, conflicting logic, and long-range incoherence. Experiments on two story datasets demonstrate that UNION is a reliable measure for evaluating the quality of generated stories, which correlates better with human judgments and is more generalizable than existing state-of-the-art metrics.

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A Knowledge-Enhanced Pretraining Model for Commonsense Story Generation
Jian Guan | Fei Huang | Zhihao Zhao | Xiaoyan Zhu | Minlie Huang
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 8

Story generation, namely, generating a reasonable story from a leading context, is an important but challenging task. In spite of the success in modeling fluency and local coherence, existing neural language generation models (e.g., GPT-2) still suffer from repetition, logic conflicts, and lack of long-range coherence in generated stories. We conjecture that this is because of the difficulty of associating relevant commonsense knowledge, understanding the causal relationships, and planning entities and events with proper temporal order. In this paper, we devise a knowledge-enhanced pretraining model for commonsense story generation. We propose to utilize commonsense knowledge from external knowledge bases to generate reasonable stories. To further capture the causal and temporal dependencies between the sentences in a reasonable story, we use multi-task learning, which combines a discriminative objective to distinguish true and fake stories during fine-tuning. Automatic and manual evaluation shows that our model can generate more reasonable stories than state-of-the-art baselines, particularly in terms of logic and global coherence.

2018

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Generating Informative Responses with Controlled Sentence Function
Pei Ke | Jian Guan | Minlie Huang | Xiaoyan Zhu
Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Sentence function is a significant factor to achieve the purpose of the speaker, which, however, has not been touched in large-scale conversation generation so far. In this paper, we present a model to generate informative responses with controlled sentence function. Our model utilizes a continuous latent variable to capture various word patterns that realize the expected sentence function, and introduces a type controller to deal with the compatibility of controlling sentence function and generating informative content. Conditioned on the latent variable, the type controller determines the type (i.e., function-related, topic, and ordinary word) of a word to be generated at each decoding position. Experiments show that our model outperforms state-of-the-art baselines, and it has the ability to generate responses with both controlled sentence function and informative content.