Raghavendra Pappagari


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What Helps Transformers Recognize Conversational Structure? Importance of Context, Punctuation, and Labels in Dialog Act Recognition
Piotr Żelasko | Raghavendra Pappagari | Najim Dehak
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 9

Dialog acts can be interpreted as the atomic units of a conversation, more fine-grained than utterances, characterized by a specific communicative function. The ability to structure a conversational transcript as a sequence of dialog acts—dialog act recognition, including the segmentation—is critical for understanding dialog. We apply two pre-trained transformer models, XLNet and Longformer, to this task in English and achieve strong results on Switchboard Dialog Act and Meeting Recorder Dialog Act corpora with dialog act segmentation error rates (DSER) of 8.4% and 14.2%. To understand the key factors affecting dialog act recognition, we perform a comparative analysis of models trained under different conditions. We find that the inclusion of a broader conversational context helps disambiguate many dialog act classes, especially those infrequent in the training data. The presence of punctuation in the transcripts has a massive effect on the models’ performance, and a detailed analysis reveals specific segmentation patterns observed in its absence. Finally, we find that the label set specificity does not affect dialog act segmentation performance. These findings have significant practical implications for spoken language understanding applications that depend heavily on a good-quality segmentation being available.


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Can You Tell Me How to Get Past Sesame Street? Sentence-Level Pretraining Beyond Language Modeling
Alex Wang | Jan Hula | Patrick Xia | Raghavendra Pappagari | R. Thomas McCoy | Roma Patel | Najoung Kim | Ian Tenney | Yinghui Huang | Katherin Yu | Shuning Jin | Berlin Chen | Benjamin Van Durme | Edouard Grave | Ellie Pavlick | Samuel R. Bowman
Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Natural language understanding has recently seen a surge of progress with the use of sentence encoders like ELMo (Peters et al., 2018a) and BERT (Devlin et al., 2019) which are pretrained on variants of language modeling. We conduct the first large-scale systematic study of candidate pretraining tasks, comparing 19 different tasks both as alternatives and complements to language modeling. Our primary results support the use language modeling, especially when combined with pretraining on additional labeled-data tasks. However, our results are mixed across pretraining tasks and show some concerning trends: In ELMo’s pretrain-then-freeze paradigm, random baselines are worryingly strong and results vary strikingly across target tasks. In addition, fine-tuning BERT on an intermediate task often negatively impacts downstream transfer. In a more positive trend, we see modest gains from multitask training, suggesting the development of more sophisticated multitask and transfer learning techniques as an avenue for further research.