Mahdi Namazifar


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“What do others think?”: Task-Oriented Conversational Modeling with Subjective Knowledge
Chao Zhao | Spandana Gella | Seokhwan Kim | Di Jin | Devamanyu Hazarika | Alexandros Papangelis | Behnam Hedayatnia | Mahdi Namazifar | Yang Liu | Dilek Hakkani-Tur
Proceedings of the 24th Annual Meeting of the Special Interest Group on Discourse and Dialogue

Task-oriented Dialogue (TOD) Systems aim to build dialogue systems that assist users in accomplishing specific goals, such as booking a hotel or a restaurant. Traditional TODs rely on domain-specific APIs/DBs or external factual knowledge to generate responses, which cannot accommodate subjective user requests (e.g.,”Is the WIFI reliable?” or “Does the restaurant have a good atmosphere?”). To address this issue, we propose a novel task of subjective-knowledge-based TOD (SK-TOD). We also propose the first corresponding dataset, which contains subjective knowledge-seeking dialogue contexts and manually annotated responses grounded in subjective knowledge sources. When evaluated with existing TOD approaches, we find that this task poses new challenges such as aggregating diverse opinions from multiple knowledge snippets. We hope this task and dataset can promote further research on TOD and subjective content understanding. The code and the dataset are available at

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CESAR: Automatic Induction of Compositional Instructions for Multi-turn Dialogs
Taha Aksu | Devamanyu Hazarika | Shikib Mehri | Seokhwan Kim | Dilek Hakkani-Tur | Yang Liu | Mahdi Namazifar
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Instruction-based multitasking has played a critical role in the success of large language models (LLMs) in multi-turn dialog applications. While publicly available LLMs have shown promising performance, when exposed to complex instructions with multiple constraints, they lag against state-of-the-art models like ChatGPT. In this work, we hypothesize that the availability of large-scale complex demonstrations is crucial in bridging this gap. Focusing on dialog applications, we propose a novel framework, CESAR, that unifies a large number of dialog tasks in the same format and allows programmatic induction of complex instructions without any manual effort. We apply CESAR on InstructDial, a benchmark for instruction-based dialog tasks. We further enhance InstructDial with new datasets and tasks and utilize CESAR to induce complex tasks with compositional instructions. This results in a new benchmark called InstructDial++, which includes 63 datasets with 86 basic tasks and 68 composite tasks. Through rigorous experiments, we demonstrate the scalability of CESAR in providing rich instructions. Models trained on InstructDial++ can follow compositional prompts, such as prompts that ask for multiple stylistic constraints.

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KILM: Knowledge Injection into Encoder-Decoder Language Models
Yan Xu | Mahdi Namazifar | Devamanyu Hazarika | Aishwarya Padmakumar | Yang Liu | Dilek Hakkani-Tur
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Large pre-trained language models (PLMs) have been shown to retain implicit knowledge within their parameters. To enhance this implicit knowledge, we propose Knowledge Injection into Language Models (KILM), a novel approach that injects entity-related knowledge into encoder-decoder PLMs, via a generative knowledge infilling objective through continued pre-training. This is done without architectural modifications to the PLMs or adding additional parameters. Experimental results over a suite of knowledge-intensive tasks spanning numerous datasets show that KILM enables models to retain more knowledge and hallucinate less while preserving their original performance on general NLU and NLG tasks. KILM also demonstrates improved zero-shot performances on tasks such as entity disambiguation, outperforming state-of-the-art models having 30x more parameters.

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Selective In-Context Data Augmentation for Intent Detection using Pointwise V-Information
Yen-Ting Lin | Alexandros Papangelis | Seokhwan Kim | Sungjin Lee | Devamanyu Hazarika | Mahdi Namazifar | Di Jin | Yang Liu | Dilek Hakkani-Tur
Proceedings of the 17th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics

This work focuses on in-context data augmentation for intent detection. Having found that augmentation via in-context prompting of large pre-trained language models (PLMs) alone does not improve performance, we introduce a novel approach based on PLMs and pointwise V-information (PVI), a metric that can measure the usefulness of a datapoint for training a model. Our method first fine-tunes a PLM on a small seed of training data and then synthesizes new datapoints - utterances that correspond to given intents. It then employs intent-aware filtering, based on PVI, to remove datapoints that are not helpful to the downstream intent classifier. Our method is thus able to leverage the expressive power of large language models to produce diverse training data. Empirical results demonstrate that our method can produce synthetic training data that achieve state-of-the-art performance on three challenging intent detection datasets under few-shot settings (1.28% absolute improvement in 5-shot and 1.18% absolute in 10-shot, on average) and perform on par with the state-of-the-art in full-shot settings (within 0.01% absolute, on average).


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Empowering parameter-efficient transfer learning by recognizing the kernel structure in self-attention
Yifan Chen | Devamanyu Hazarika | Mahdi Namazifar | Yang Liu | Di Jin | Dilek Hakkani-Tur
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: NAACL 2022

The massive amount of trainable parameters in the pre-trained language models (PLMs) makes them hard to be deployed to multiple downstream tasks. To address this issue, parameter-efficient transfer learning methods have been proposed to tune only a few parameters during fine-tuning while freezing the rest. This paper looks at existing methods along this line through the kernel lens. Motivated by the connection between self-attention in transformer-based PLMs and kernel learning, we propose kernel-wise adapters, namely Kernel-mix, that utilize the kernel structure in self-attention to guide the assignment of the tunable parameters. These adapters use guidelines found in classical kernel learning and enable separate parameter tuning for each attention head. Our empirical results, over a diverse set of natural language generation and understanding tasks, show that our proposed adapters can attain or improve the strong performance of existing baselines.

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Enhancing Knowledge Selection for Grounded Dialogues via Document Semantic Graphs
Sha Li | Mahdi Namazifar | Di Jin | Mohit Bansal | Heng Ji | Yang Liu | Dilek Hakkani-Tur
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Providing conversation models with background knowledge has been shown to make open-domain dialogues more informative and engaging. Existing models treat knowledge selection as a sentence ranking or classification problem where each sentence is handled individually, ignoring the internal semantic connection between sentences. In this work, we propose to automatically convert the background knowledge documents into document semantic graphs and then perform knowledge selection over such graphs. Our document semantic graphs preserve sentence-level information through the use of sentence nodes and provide concept connections between sentences. We apply multi-task learning to perform sentence-level knowledge selection and concept-level knowledge selection, showing that it improves sentence-level selection. Our experiments show that our semantic graph-based knowledge selection improves over sentence selection baselines for both the knowledge selection task and the end-to-end response generation task on HollE and improves generalization on unseen topics in WoW.

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Inducer-tuning: Connecting Prefix-tuning and Adapter-tuning
Yifan Chen | Devamanyu Hazarika | Mahdi Namazifar | Yang Liu | Di Jin | Dilek Hakkani-Tur
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Prefix-tuning, or more generally continuous prompt tuning, has become an essential paradigm of parameter-efficient transfer learning. Using a large pre-trained language model (PLM), prefix-tuning can obtain strong performance by training only a small portion of parameters. In this paper, we propose to understand and further develop prefix-tuning through the kernel lens. Specifically, we make an analogy between prefixes and inducing variables in kernel methods and hypothesize that prefixes serving as inducing variables would improve their overall mechanism. From the kernel estimator perspective, we suggest a new variant of prefix-tuning—inducer-tuning, which shares the exact mechanism as prefix-tuning while leveraging the residual form found in adapter-tuning. This mitigates the initialization issue in prefix-tuning. Through comprehensive empirical experiments on natural language understanding and generation tasks, we demonstrate that inducer-tuning can close the performance gap between prefix-tuning and fine-tuning.

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ALFRED-L: Investigating the Role of Language for Action Learning in Interactive Visual Environments
Arjun Akula | Spandana Gella | Aishwarya Padmakumar | Mahdi Namazifar | Mohit Bansal | Jesse Thomason | Dilek Hakkani-Tur
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Embodied Vision and Language Task Completion requires an embodied agent to interpret natural language instructions and egocentric visual observations to navigate through and interact with environments. In this work, we examine ALFRED, a challenging benchmark for embodied task completion, with the goal of gaining insight into how effectively models utilize language. We find evidence that sequence-to-sequence and transformer-based models trained on this benchmark are not sufficiently sensitive to changes in input language instructions. Next, we construct a new test split – ALFRED-L to test whether ALFRED models can generalize to task structures not seen during training that intuitively require the same types of language understanding required in ALFRED. Evaluation of existing models on ALFRED-L suggests that (a) models are overly reliant on the sequence in which objects are visited in typical ALFRED trajectories and fail to adapt to modifications of this sequence and (b) models trained with additional augmented trajectories are able to adapt relatively better to such changes in input language instructions.


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Flexibly-Structured Model for Task-Oriented Dialogues
Lei Shu | Piero Molino | Mahdi Namazifar | Hu Xu | Bing Liu | Huaixiu Zheng | Gokhan Tur
Proceedings of the 20th Annual SIGdial Meeting on Discourse and Dialogue

This paper proposes a novel end-to-end architecture for task-oriented dialogue systems. It is based on a simple and practical yet very effective sequence-to-sequence approach, where language understanding and state tracking tasks are modeled jointly with a structured copy-augmented sequential decoder and a multi-label decoder for each slot. The policy engine and language generation tasks are modeled jointly following that. The copy-augmented sequential decoder deals with new or unknown values in the conversation, while the multi-label decoder combined with the sequential decoder ensures the explicit assignment of values to slots. On the generation part, slot binary classifiers are used to improve performance. This architecture is scalable to real-world scenarios and is shown through an empirical evaluation to achieve state-of-the-art performance on both the Cambridge Restaurant dataset and the Stanford in-car assistant dataset.