Vilém Zouhar


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A Formal Perspective on Byte-Pair Encoding
Vilém Zouhar | Clara Meister | Juan Gastaldi | Li Du | Tim Vieira | Mrinmaya Sachan | Ryan Cotterell
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2023

Byte-Pair Encoding (BPE) is a popular algorithm used for tokenizing data in NLP, despite being devised initially as a compression method.BPE appears to be a greedy algorithm at face value, but the underlying optimization problem that BPE seeks to solve has not yet been laid down. We formalize BPE as a combinatorial optimization problem. Via submodular functions, we prove that the iterative greedy version is a 1/sigma*(1-e(-sigma))-approximation of an optimal merge sequence, where sigma is the total backward curvature with respect to the optimal merge sequence. Empirically the lower bound of the approximation is approx0.37.We provide a faster implementation of BPE which improves the runtime complexity from O(NM) to O(N log M), where N is the sequence length and M is the merge count. Finally, we optimize the brute-force algorithm for optimal BPE using memoization.

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A Diachronic Perspective on User Trust in AI under Uncertainty
Shehzaad Dhuliawala | Vilém Zouhar | Mennatallah El-Assady | Mrinmaya Sachan
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

In human-AI collaboration, users typically form a mental model of the AI system, which captures the user’s beliefs about when the system performs well and when it does not. The construction of this mental model is guided by both the system’s veracity as well as the system output presented to the user e.g., the system’s confidence and an explanation for the prediction. However, modern NLP systems are seldom calibrated and are often confidently incorrect about their predictions, which violates users’ mental model and erodes their trust. In this work, we design a study where users bet on the correctness of an NLP system, and use it to study the evolution of user trust as a response to these trust-eroding events and how the user trust is rebuilt as a function of time after these events. We find that even a few highly inaccurate confidence estimation instances are enough to damage users’ trust in the system and performance, which does not easily recover over time. We further find that users are more forgiving to the NLP system if it is unconfidently correct rather than confidently incorrect, even though, from a game-theoretic perspective, their payoff is equivalent. Finally, we find that each user can entertain multiple mental models of the system based on the type of the question. These results highlight the importance of confidence calibration in developing user-centered NLP applications to avoid damaging user trust and compromising the collaboration performance.

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Revisiting Automated Topic Model Evaluation with Large Language Models
Dominik Stammbach | Vilém Zouhar | Alexander Hoyle | Mrinmaya Sachan | Elliott Ash
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Topic models help us make sense of large text collections. Automatically evaluating their output and determining the optimal number of topics are both longstanding challenges, with no effective automated solutions to date. This paper proposes using large language models (LLMs) for these tasks. We find that LLMs appropriately assess the resulting topics, correlating more strongly with human judgments than existing automated metrics. However, the setup of the evaluation task is crucial — LLMs perform better on coherence ratings of word sets than on intrustion detection. We find that LLMs can also assist us in guiding us towards a reasonable number of topics. In actual applications, topic models are typically used to answer a research question related to a collection of texts. We can incorporate this research question in the prompt to the LLM, which helps estimating the optimal number of topics.

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Enhancing Textbooks with Visuals from the Web for Improved Learning
Janvijay Singh | Vilém Zouhar | Mrinmaya Sachan
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Textbooks are one of the main mediums for delivering high-quality education to students. In particular, explanatory and illustrative visuals play a key role in retention, comprehension and general transfer of knowledge. However, many textbooks lack these interesting visuals to support student learning. In this paper, we investigate the effectiveness of vision-language models to automatically enhance textbooks with images from the web. We collect a dataset of e-textbooks in the math, science, social science and business domains. We then set up a text-image matching task that involves retrieving and appropriately assigning web images to textbooks, which we frame as a matching optimization problem. Through a crowd-sourced evaluation, we verify that (1) while the original textbook images are rated higher, automatically assigned ones are not far behind, and (2) the precise formulation of the optimization problem matters. We release the dataset of textbooks with an associated image bank to inspire further research in this intersectional area of computer vision and NLP for education.

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Tokenization and the Noiseless Channel
Vilém Zouhar | Clara Meister | Juan Gastaldi | Li Du | Mrinmaya Sachan | Ryan Cotterell
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Subword tokenization is a key part of most NLP pipelines. However, little is known about why some tokenizer and hyperparameter combinations lead to improved downstream model performance over others. We propose that good tokenizers lead to efficient channel usage, where the channel is the means by which some input is conveyed to the model and efficiency can be quantified in information-theoretic terms as the ratio of the Shannon entropy to the maximum entropy of the subword distribution. Nevertheless, an optimal encoding according to Shannon entropy assigns extremely long codes to low-frequency subwords and very short codes to high-frequency subwords.Defining efficiency in terms of Rényi entropy, on the other hand, penalizes distributions with either very high or very low-frequency subwords.We posit that (1) extremely high-frequency subwords are problematic because their meaning is not distinct and (2) that low-frequency subwords may not appear frequently enough for their meaning to be learned properly; encodings that induce unigram distributions with either can harm model performance. In machine translation, we find that across multiple tokenizers, the Rényi entropy has a very strong correlation with BLEU: 0.82 in comparison to just -0.30 for compressed length.

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Poor Man’s Quality Estimation: Predicting Reference-Based MT Metrics Without the Reference
Vilém Zouhar | Shehzaad Dhuliawala | Wangchunshu Zhou | Nico Daheim | Tom Kocmi | Yuchen Eleanor Jiang | Mrinmaya Sachan
Proceedings of the 17th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Machine translation quality estimation (QE) predicts human judgements of a translation hypothesis without seeing the reference. State-of-the-art QE systems based on pretrained language models have been achieving remarkable correlations with human judgements yet they are computationally heavy and require human annotations, which are slow and expensive to create. To address these limitations, we define the problem of metric estimation (ME) where one predicts the automated metric scores also without the reference. We show that even without access to the reference, our model can estimate automated metrics (ρ = 60% for BLEU, ρ = 51% for other metrics) at the sentence-level. Because automated metrics correlate with human judgements, we can leverage the ME task for pre-training a QE model. For the QE task, we find that pre-training on TER is better (ρ = 23%) than training for scratch (ρ = 20%).

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Findings of the WMT 2023 Shared Task on Machine Translation with Terminologies
Kirill Semenov | Vilém Zouhar | Tom Kocmi | Dongdong Zhang | Wangchunshu Zhou | Yuchen Eleanor Jiang
Proceedings of the Eighth Conference on Machine Translation

The WMT 2023 Terminology Shared Task investigates progress in machine translation of texts with specialized vocabulary. The participants were given the source text and segment-level terminology dictionaries for three language pairs: Chinese→English, English→Czech, and German→English. We evaluate 21 submissions from 7 teams on two main criteria: general translation quality and the effectiveness of translating specialized terminology. Systems took varied approaches — incorporating terminology at inference time or weakly supervised training that uses terminology access. While incorporating terminology dictionaries leads to improvement in the translation quality, incorporating an equal amount of information from the reference leads to similar results. This challenges the position of terminologies being the crux of meaning in translation, it can also be explained by inadequate metrics which are not terminology-centric.


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Knowledge Base Index Compression via Dimensionality and Precision Reduction
Vilém Zouhar | Marius Mosbach | Miaoran Zhang | Dietrich Klakow
Proceedings of the 1st Workshop on Semiparametric Methods in NLP: Decoupling Logic from Knowledge

Recently neural network based approaches to knowledge-intensive NLP tasks, such as question answering, started to rely heavily on the combination of neural retrievers and readers. Retrieval is typically performed over a large textual knowledge base (KB) which requires significant memory and compute resources, especially when scaled up. On HotpotQA we systematically investigate reducing the size of the KB index by means of dimensionality (sparse random projections, PCA, autoencoders) and numerical precision reduction. Our results show that PCA is an easy solution that requires very little data and is only slightly worse than autoencoders, which are less stable. All methods are sensitive to pre- and post-processing and data should always be centered and normalized both before and after dimension reduction. Finally, we show that it is possible to combine PCA with using 1bit per dimension. Overall we achieve (1) 100× compression with 75%, and (2) 24× compression with 92% original retrieval performance.

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Proceedings of the First Workshop on Commonsense Representation and Reasoning (CSRR 2022)
Antoine Bosselut | Xiang Li | Bill Yuchen Lin | Vered Shwartz | Bodhisattwa Prasad Majumder | Yash Kumar Lal | Rachel Rudinger | Xiang Ren | Niket Tandon | Vilém Zouhar
Proceedings of the First Workshop on Commonsense Representation and Reasoning (CSRR 2022)

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Sentence Ambiguity, Grammaticality and Complexity Probes
Sunit Bhattacharya | Vilém Zouhar | Ondrej Bojar
Proceedings of the Fifth BlackboxNLP Workshop on Analyzing and Interpreting Neural Networks for NLP

It is unclear whether, how and where large pre-trained language models capture subtle linguistic traits like ambiguity, grammaticality and sentence complexity. We present results of automatic classification of these traits and compare their viability and patterns across representation types. We demonstrate that template-based datasets with surface-level artifacts should not be used for probing, careful comparisons with baselines should be done and that t-SNE plots should not be used to determine the presence of a feature among dense vectors representations. We also show how features might be highly localized in the layers for these models and get lost in the upper layers.

Machine Translate: Open resources and community
Cecilia OL Yalangozian | Vilém Zouhar | Adam Bittlingmayer
Proceedings of the 15th Biennial Conference of the Association for Machine Translation in the Americas (Volume 2: Users and Providers Track and Government Track)

Machine Translate is a non-profit organization on a mission to make machine translation more accessible to more people. As the field of machine translation continues to grow, the project builds open resources and a community for developers, buyers and translators. The project is ruled by three values: quality, openness and accessibility. Content is open-source and welcomes open-contribution. It is kept up-to-date, and its information is presented in a clear and well-organized format. Machine Translate aims to be accessible to people from many backgrounds and, ultimately, also non-English speakers. The project covers everything about machine translation, from products to research, from development to theory, and from history to news. The topics are very diverse, and the writing is focused on concepts rather than on mathematical details.


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Backtranslation Feedback Improves User Confidence in MT, Not Quality
Vilém Zouhar | Michal Novák | Matúš Žilinec | Ondřej Bojar | Mateo Obregón | Robin L. Hill | Frédéric Blain | Marina Fomicheva | Lucia Specia | Lisa Yankovskaya
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Translating text into a language unknown to the text’s author, dubbed outbound translation, is a modern need for which the user experience has significant room for improvement, beyond the basic machine translation facility. We demonstrate this by showing three ways in which user confidence in the outbound translation, as well as its overall final quality, can be affected: backward translation, quality estimation (with alignment) and source paraphrasing. In this paper, we describe an experiment on outbound translation from English to Czech and Estonian. We examine the effects of each proposed feedback module and further focus on how the quality of machine translation systems influence these findings and the user perception of success. We show that backward translation feedback has a mixed effect on the whole process: it increases user confidence in the produced translation, but not the objective quality.

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Sampling and Filtering of Neural Machine Translation Distillation Data
Vilém Zouhar
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Student Research Workshop

In most of neural machine translation distillation or stealing scenarios, the highest-scoring hypothesis of the target model (teacher) is used to train a new model (student). If reference translations are also available, then better hypotheses (with respect to the references) can be oversampled and poor hypotheses either removed or undersampled. This paper explores the sampling method landscape (pruning, hypothesis oversampling and undersampling, deduplication and their combination) with English to Czech and English to German MT models using standard MT evaluation metrics. We show that careful oversampling and combination with the original data leads to better performance when compared to training only on the original or synthesized data or their direct combination.

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Neural Machine Translation Quality and Post-Editing Performance
Vilém Zouhar | Martin Popel | Ondřej Bojar | Aleš Tamchyna
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

We test the natural expectation that using MT in professional translation saves human processing time. The last such study was carried out by Sanchez-Torron and Koehn (2016) with phrase-based MT, artificially reducing the translation quality. In contrast, we focus on neural MT (NMT) of high quality, which has become the state-of-the-art approach since then and also got adopted by most translation companies. Through an experimental study involving over 30 professional translators for English -> Czech translation, we examine the relationship between NMT performance and post-editing time and quality. Across all models, we found that better MT systems indeed lead to fewer changes in the sentences in this industry setting. The relation between system quality and post-editing time is however not straightforward and, contrary to the results on phrase-based MT, BLEU is definitely not a stable predictor of the time or final output quality.


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WMT20 Document-Level Markable Error Exploration
Vilém Zouhar | Tereza Vojtěchová | Ondřej Bojar
Proceedings of the Fifth Conference on Machine Translation

Even though sentence-centric metrics are used widely in machine translation evaluation, document-level performance is at least equally important for professional usage. In this paper, we bring attention to detailed document-level evaluation focused on markables (expressions bearing most of the document meaning) and the negative impact of various markable error phenomena on the translation. For an annotation experiment of two phases, we chose Czech and English documents translated by systems submitted to WMT20 News Translation Task. These documents are from the News, Audit and Lease domains. We show that the quality and also the kind of errors varies significantly among the domains. This systematic variance is in contrast to the automatic evaluation results. We inspect which specific markables are problematic for MT systems and conclude with an analysis of the effect of markable error types on the MT performance measured by humans and automatic evaluation tools.

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Outbound Translation User Interface Ptakopět: A Pilot Study
Vilém Zouhar | Ondřej Bojar
Proceedings of the Twelfth Language Resources and Evaluation Conference

It is not uncommon for Internet users to have to produce a text in a foreign language they have very little knowledge of and are unable to verify the translation quality. We call the task “outbound translation” and explore it by introducing an open-source modular system Ptakopět. Its main purpose is to inspect human interaction with MT systems enhanced with additional subsystems, such as backward translation and quality estimation. We follow up with an experiment on (Czech) human annotators tasked to produce questions in a language they do not speak (German), with the help of Ptakopět. We focus on three real-world use cases (communication with IT support, describing administrative issues and asking encyclopedic questions) from which we gain insight into different strategies users take when faced with outbound translation tasks. Round trip translation is known to be unreliable for evaluating MT systems but our experimental evaluation documents that it works very well for users, at least on MT systems of mid-range quality.