Tom McCoy


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Probing What Different NLP Tasks Teach Machines about Function Word Comprehension
Najoung Kim | Roma Patel | Adam Poliak | Patrick Xia | Alex Wang | Tom McCoy | Ian Tenney | Alexis Ross | Tal Linzen | Benjamin Van Durme | Samuel R. Bowman | Ellie Pavlick
Proceedings of the Eighth Joint Conference on Lexical and Computational Semantics (*SEM 2019)

We introduce a set of nine challenge tasks that test for the understanding of function words. These tasks are created by structurally mutating sentences from existing datasets to target the comprehension of specific types of function words (e.g., prepositions, wh-words). Using these probing tasks, we explore the effects of various pretraining objectives for sentence encoders (e.g., language modeling, CCG supertagging and natural language inference (NLI)) on the learned representations. Our results show that pretraining on CCG—our most syntactic objective—performs the best on average across our probing tasks, suggesting that syntactic knowledge helps function word comprehension. Language modeling also shows strong performance, supporting its widespread use for pretraining state-of-the-art NLP models. Overall, no pretraining objective dominates across the board, and our function word probing tasks highlight several intuitive differences between pretraining objectives, e.g., that NLI helps the comprehension of negation.

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Right for the Wrong Reasons: Diagnosing Syntactic Heuristics in Natural Language Inference
Tom McCoy | Ellie Pavlick | Tal Linzen
Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

A machine learning system can score well on a given test set by relying on heuristics that are effective for frequent example types but break down in more challenging cases. We study this issue within natural language inference (NLI), the task of determining whether one sentence entails another. We hypothesize that statistical NLI models may adopt three fallible syntactic heuristics: the lexical overlap heuristic, the subsequence heuristic, and the constituent heuristic. To determine whether models have adopted these heuristics, we introduce a controlled evaluation set called HANS (Heuristic Analysis for NLI Systems), which contains many examples where the heuristics fail. We find that models trained on MNLI, including BERT, a state-of-the-art model, perform very poorly on HANS, suggesting that they have indeed adopted these heuristics. We conclude that there is substantial room for improvement in NLI systems, and that the HANS dataset can motivate and measure progress in this area.


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Parser combinators for Tigrinya and Oromo morphology
Patrick Littell | Tom McCoy | Na-Rae Han | Shruti Rijhwani | Zaid Sheikh | David Mortensen | Teruko Mitamura | Lori Levin
Proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC 2018)


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TAG Parsing with Neural Networks and Vector Representations of Supertags
Jungo Kasai | Bob Frank | Tom McCoy | Owen Rambow | Alexis Nasr
Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

We present supertagging-based models for Tree Adjoining Grammar parsing that use neural network architectures and dense vector representation of supertags (elementary trees) to achieve state-of-the-art performance in unlabeled and labeled attachment scores. The shift-reduce parsing model eschews lexical information entirely, and uses only the 1-best supertags to parse a sentence, providing further support for the claim that supertagging is “almost parsing.” We demonstrate that the embedding vector representations the parser induces for supertags possess linguistically interpretable structure, supporting analogies between grammatical structures like those familiar from recent work in distributional semantics. This dense representation of supertags overcomes the drawbacks for statistical models of TAG as compared to CCG parsing, raising the possibility that TAG is a viable alternative for NLP tasks that require the assignment of richer structural descriptions to sentences.