Lav Varshney


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Mind Your Inflections! Improving NLP for Non-Standard Englishes with Base-Inflection Encoding
Samson Tan | Shafiq Joty | Lav Varshney | Min-Yen Kan
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

Inflectional variation is a common feature of World Englishes such as Colloquial Singapore English and African American Vernacular English. Although comprehension by human readers is usually unimpaired by non-standard inflections, current NLP systems are not yet robust. We propose Base-Inflection Encoding (BITE), a method to tokenize English text by reducing inflected words to their base forms before reinjecting the grammatical information as special symbols. Fine-tuning pretrained NLP models for downstream tasks using our encoding defends against inflectional adversaries while maintaining performance on clean data. Models using BITE generalize better to dialects with non-standard inflections without explicit training and translation models converge faster when trained with BITE. Finally, we show that our encoding improves the vocabulary efficiency of popular data-driven subword tokenizers. Since there has been no prior work on quantitatively evaluating vocabulary efficiency, we propose metrics to do so.


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Clustering-based Phonetic Projection in Mismatched Crowdsourcing Channels for Low-resourced ASR
Wenda Chen | Mark Hasegawa-Johnson | Nancy Chen | Preethi Jyothi | Lav Varshney
Proceedings of the 6th Workshop on South and Southeast Asian Natural Language Processing (WSSANLP2016)

Acquiring labeled speech for low-resource languages is a difficult task in the absence of native speakers of the language. One solution to this problem involves collecting speech transcriptions from crowd workers who are foreign or non-native speakers of a given target language. From these mismatched transcriptions, one can derive probabilistic phone transcriptions that are defined over the set of all target language phones using a noisy channel model. This paper extends prior work on deriving probabilistic transcriptions (PTs) from mismatched transcriptions by 1) modelling multilingual channels and 2) introducing a clustering-based phonetic mapping technique to improve the quality of PTs. Mismatched crowdsourcing for multilingual channels has certain properties of projection mapping, e.g., it can be interpreted as a clustering based on singular value decomposition of the segment alignments. To this end, we explore the use of distinctive feature weights, lexical tone confusions, and a two-step clustering algorithm to learn projections of phoneme segments from mismatched multilingual transcriber languages to the target language. We evaluate our techniques using mismatched transcriptions for Cantonese speech acquired from native English and Mandarin speakers. We observe a 5-9% relative reduction in phone error rate for the predicted Cantonese phone transcriptions using our proposed techniques compared with the previous PT method.