A long-standing issue with paraphrase generation is the lack of reliable supervision signals. In this paper, we propose a new unsupervised paradigm for paraphrase generation based on the assumption that the probabilities of generating two sentences with the same meaning given the same context should be the same. Inspired by this fundamental idea, we propose a pipelined system which consists of paraphrase candidate generation based on contextual language models, candidate filtering using scoring functions, and paraphrase model training based on the selected candidates. The proposed paradigm offers merits over existing paraphrase generation methods: (1) using the context regularizer on meanings, the model is able to generate massive amounts of high-quality paraphrase pairs; (2) the combination of the huge amount of paraphrase candidates and further diversity-promoting filtering yields paraphrases with more lexical and syntactic diversity; and (3) using human-interpretable scoring functions to select paraphrase pairs from candidates, the proposed framework provides a channel for developers to intervene with the data generation process, leading to a more controllable model. Experimental results across different tasks and datasets demonstrate that the proposed paradigm significantly outperforms existing paraphrase approaches in both supervised and unsupervised setups.
The task of named entity recognition (NER) is normally divided into nested NER and flat NER depending on whether named entities are nested or not.Models are usually separately developed for the two tasks, since sequence labeling models, the most widely used backbone for flat NER, are only able to assign a single label to a particular token, which is unsuitable for nested NER where a token may be assigned several labels. In this paper, we propose a unified framework that is capable of handling both flat and nested NER tasks. Instead of treating the task of NER as a sequence labeling problem, we propose to formulate it as a machine reading comprehension (MRC) task. For example, extracting entities with the per label is formalized as extracting answer spans to the question “which person is mentioned in the text".This formulation naturally tackles the entity overlapping issue in nested NER: the extraction of two overlapping entities with different categories requires answering two independent questions. Additionally, since the query encodes informative prior knowledge, this strategy facilitates the process of entity extraction, leading to better performances for not only nested NER, but flat NER. We conduct experiments on both nested and flat NER datasets.Experiment results demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed formulation. We are able to achieve a vast amount of performance boost over current SOTA models on nested NER datasets, i.e., +1.28, +2.55, +5.44, +6.37,respectively on ACE04, ACE05, GENIA and KBP17, along with SOTA results on flat NER datasets, i.e., +0.24, +1.95, +0.21, +1.49 respectively on English CoNLL 2003, English OntoNotes 5.0, Chinese MSRA and Chinese OntoNotes 4.0.
Segmenting a chunk of text into words is usually the first step of processing Chinese text, but its necessity has rarely been explored. In this paper, we ask the fundamental question of whether Chinese word segmentation (CWS) is necessary for deep learning-based Chinese Natural Language Processing. We benchmark neural word-based models which rely on word segmentation against neural char-based models which do not involve word segmentation in four end-to-end NLP benchmark tasks: language modeling, machine translation, sentence matching/paraphrase and text classification. Through direct comparisons between these two types of models, we find that char-based models consistently outperform word-based models. Based on these observations, we conduct comprehensive experiments to study why word-based models underperform char-based models in these deep learning-based NLP tasks. We show that it is because word-based models are more vulnerable to data sparsity and the presence of out-of-vocabulary (OOV) words, and thus more prone to overfitting. We hope this paper could encourage researchers in the community to rethink the necessity of word segmentation in deep learning-based Chinese Natural Language Processing.