Weicheng Ma


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Improving Syntactic Probing Correctness and Robustness with Control Tasks
Weicheng Ma | Brian Wang | Hefan Zhang | Lili Wang | Rolando Coto-Solano | Saeed Hassanpour | Soroush Vosoughi
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

Syntactic probing methods have been used to examine whether and how pre-trained language models (PLMs) encode syntactic features. However, the probing methods are usually biased by the PLMs’ memorization of common word co-occurrences, even if they do not form syntactic relations. This paper presents a random-word-substitution and random-label-matching control task to reduce these biases and improve the robustness of syntactic probing methods. Our control tasks are also shown to notably improve the consistency of probing results between different probing methods and make the methods more robust with respect to the text attributes of the probing instances. Our control tasks make syntactic probing methods better at reconstructing syntactic features and more generalizable to unseen text domains. Our experiments show that our proposed control tasks are effective on different PLMs, probing methods, and syntactic features.


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Dartmouth at SemEval-2022 Task 6: Detection of Sarcasm
Rishik Lad | Weicheng Ma | Soroush Vosoughi
Proceedings of the 16th International Workshop on Semantic Evaluation (SemEval-2022)

This paper introduces the result of Team Dartmouth’s experiments on each of the five subtasks for the detection of sarcasm in English and Arabic tweets. This detection was framed as a classification problem, and our contributions are threefold: we developed an English binary classifier system with RoBERTa, an Arabic binary classifier with XLM-RoBERTa, and an English multilabel classifier with BERT. Preprocessing steps are taken with labeled input data prior to tokenization, such as extracting and appending verbs/adjectives or representative/significant keywords to the end of an input tweet to help the models better understand and generalize sarcasm detection. We also discuss the results of simple data augmentation techniques to improve the quality of the given training dataset as well as an alternative approach to the question of multilabel sequence classification. Ultimately, our systems place us in the top 14 participants for each of the five subtasks.

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DartmouthCS at SemEval-2022 Task 8: Predicting Multilingual News Article Similarity with Meta-Information and Translation
Joseph Hajjar | Weicheng Ma | Soroush Vosoughi
Proceedings of the 16th International Workshop on Semantic Evaluation (SemEval-2022)

This paper presents our approach for tackling SemEval-2022 Task 8: Multilingual News Article Similarity. Our experiments show that even by using multi-lingual pre-trained language models (LMs), translating the text into the same language yields the best evaluation performance. We also find that stylometric features of the text and meta-information of the news articles can be predicted based on the text with low error rates, and these predictions could be used to improve the predictions of the overall similarity scores. These findings suggest substantial correlations between authorship information and topical similarity estimation, which sheds light on future stylometric and topic modeling research.

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EnCBP: A New Benchmark Dataset for Finer-Grained Cultural Background Prediction in English
Weicheng Ma | Samiha Datta | Lili Wang | Soroush Vosoughi
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2022

While cultural backgrounds have been shown to affect linguistic expressions, existing natural language processing (NLP) research on culture modeling is overly coarse-grained and does not examine cultural differences among speakers of the same language. To address this problem and augment NLP models with cultural background features, we collect, annotate, manually validate, and benchmark EnCBP, a finer-grained news-based cultural background prediction dataset in English. Through language modeling (LM) evaluations and manual analyses, we confirm that there are noticeable differences in linguistic expressions among five English-speaking countries and across four states in the US. Additionally, our evaluations on nine syntactic (CoNLL-2003), semantic (PAWS-Wiki, QNLI, STS-B, and RTE), and psycholinguistic tasks (SST-5, SST-2, Emotion, and Go-Emotions) show that, while introducing cultural background information does not benefit the Go-Emotions task due to text domain conflicts, it noticeably improves deep learning (DL) model performance on other tasks. Our findings strongly support the importance of cultural background modeling to a wide variety of NLP tasks and demonstrate the applicability of EnCBP in culture-related research.

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Capturing Topic Framing via Masked Language Modeling
Xiaobo Guo | Weicheng Ma | Soroush Vosoughi
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

Differential framing of issues can lead to divergent world views on important issues. This is especially true in domains where the information presented can reach a large audience, such as traditional and social media. Scalable and reliable measurement of such differential framing is an important first step in addressing them. In this work, based on the intuition that framing affects the tone and word choices in written language, we propose a framework for modeling the differential framing of issues through masked token prediction via large-scale fine-tuned language models (LMs). Specifically, we explore three key factors for our framework: 1) prompt generation methods for the masked token prediction; 2) methods for normalizing the output of fine-tuned LMs; 3) robustness to the choice of pre-trained LMs used for fine-tuning. Through experiments on a dataset of articles from traditional media outlets covering five diverse and politically polarized topics, we show that our framework can capture differential framing of these topics with high reliability.


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Improvements and Extensions on Metaphor Detection
Weicheng Ma | Ruibo Liu | Lili Wang | Soroush Vosoughi
Proceedings of the 1st Workshop on Understanding Implicit and Underspecified Language

Metaphors are ubiquitous in human language. The metaphor detection task (MD) aims at detecting and interpreting metaphors from written language, which is crucial in natural language understanding (NLU) research. In this paper, we introduce a pre-trained Transformer-based model into MD. Our model outperforms the previous state-of-the-art models by large margins in our evaluations, with relative improvements on the F-1 score from 5.33% to 28.39%. Second, we extend MD to a classification task about the metaphoricity of an entire piece of text to make MD applicable in more general NLU scenes. Finally, we clean up the improper or outdated annotations in one of the MD benchmark datasets and re-benchmark it with our Transformer-based model. This approach could be applied to other existing MD datasets as well, since the metaphoricity annotations in these benchmark datasets may be outdated. Future research efforts are also necessary to build an up-to-date and well-annotated dataset consisting of longer and more complex texts.

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GradTS: A Gradient-Based Automatic Auxiliary Task Selection Method Based on Transformer Networks
Weicheng Ma | Renze Lou | Kai Zhang | Lili Wang | Soroush Vosoughi
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

A key problem in multi-task learning (MTL) research is how to select high-quality auxiliary tasks automatically. This paper presents GradTS, an automatic auxiliary task selection method based on gradient calculation in Transformer-based models. Compared to AUTOSEM, a strong baseline method, GradTS improves the performance of MT-DNN with a bert-base-cased backend model, from 0.33% to 17.93% on 8 natural language understanding (NLU) tasks in the GLUE benchmarks. GradTS is also time-saving since (1) its gradient calculations are based on single-task experiments and (2) the gradients are re-used without additional experiments when the candidate task set changes. On the 8 GLUE classification tasks, for example, GradTS costs on average 21.32% less time than AUTOSEM with comparable GPU consumption. Further, we show the robustness of GradTS across various task settings and model selections, e.g. mixed objectives among candidate tasks. The efficiency and efficacy of GradTS in these case studies illustrate its general applicability in MTL research without requiring manual task filtering or costly parameter tuning.

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BigGreen at SemEval-2021 Task 1: Lexical Complexity Prediction with Assembly Models
Aadil Islam | Weicheng Ma | Soroush Vosoughi
Proceedings of the 15th International Workshop on Semantic Evaluation (SemEval-2021)

This paper describes a system submitted by team BigGreen to LCP 2021 for predicting the lexical complexity of English words in a given context. We assemble a feature engineering-based model with a deep neural network model founded on BERT. While BERT itself performs competitively, our feature engineering-based model helps in extreme cases, eg. separating instances of easy and neutral difficulty. Our handcrafted features comprise a breadth of lexical, semantic, syntactic, and novel phonological measures. Visualizations of BERT attention maps offer insight into potential features that Transformers models may learn when fine-tuned for lexical complexity prediction. Our ensembled predictions score reasonably well for the single word subtask, and we demonstrate how they can be harnessed to perform well on the multi word expression subtask too.

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Lone Pine at SemEval-2021 Task 5: Fine-Grained Detection of Hate Speech Using BERToxic
Yakoob Khan | Weicheng Ma | Soroush Vosoughi
Proceedings of the 15th International Workshop on Semantic Evaluation (SemEval-2021)

This paper describes our approach to the Toxic Spans Detection problem (SemEval-2021 Task 5). We propose BERToxic, a system that fine-tunes a pre-trained BERT model to locate toxic text spans in a given text and utilizes additional post-processing steps to refine the boundaries. The post-processing steps involve (1) labeling character offsets between consecutive toxic tokens as toxic and (2) assigning a toxic label to words that have at least one token labeled as toxic. Through experiments, we show that these two post-processing steps improve the performance of our model by 4.16% on the test set. We also studied the effects of data augmentation and ensemble modeling strategies on our system. Our system significantly outperformed the provided baseline and achieved an F1-score of 0.683, placing Lone Pine in the 17th place out of 91 teams in the competition. Our code is made available at https://github.com/Yakoob-Khan/Toxic-Spans-Detection

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Contributions of Transformer Attention Heads in Multi- and Cross-lingual Tasks
Weicheng Ma | Kai Zhang | Renze Lou | Lili Wang | Soroush Vosoughi
Proceedings of the 59th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 11th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Volume 1: Long Papers)

This paper studies the relative importance of attention heads in Transformer-based models to aid their interpretability in cross-lingual and multi-lingual tasks. Prior research has found that only a few attention heads are important in each mono-lingual Natural Language Processing (NLP) task and pruning the remaining heads leads to comparable or improved performance of the model. However, the impact of pruning attention heads is not yet clear in cross-lingual and multi-lingual tasks. Through extensive experiments, we show that (1) pruning a number of attention heads in a multi-lingual Transformer-based model has, in general, positive effects on its performance in cross-lingual and multi-lingual tasks and (2) the attention heads to be pruned can be ranked using gradients and identified with a few trial experiments. Our experiments focus on sequence labeling tasks, with potential applicability on other cross-lingual and multi-lingual tasks. For comprehensiveness, we examine two pre-trained multi-lingual models, namely multi-lingual BERT (mBERT) and XLM-R, on three tasks across 9 languages each. We also discuss the validity of our findings and their extensibility to truly resource-scarce languages and other task settings.


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An Empirical Survey of Unsupervised Text Representation Methods on Twitter Data
Lili Wang | Chongyang Gao | Jason Wei | Weicheng Ma | Ruibo Liu | Soroush Vosoughi
Proceedings of the Sixth Workshop on Noisy User-generated Text (W-NUT 2020)

The field of NLP has seen unprecedented achievements in recent years. Most notably, with the advent of large-scale pre-trained Transformer-based language models, such as BERT, there has been a noticeable improvement in text representation. It is, however, unclear whether these improvements translate to noisy user-generated text, such as tweets. In this paper, we present an experimental survey of a wide range of well-known text representation techniques for the task of text clustering on noisy Twitter data. Our results indicate that the more advanced models do not necessarily work best on tweets and that more exploration in this area is needed.

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Multi-resolution Annotations for Emoji Prediction
Weicheng Ma | Ruibo Liu | Lili Wang | Soroush Vosoughi
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

Emojis are able to express various linguistic components, including emotions, sentiments, events, etc. Predicting the proper emojis associated with text provides a way to summarize the text accurately, and it has been proven to be a good auxiliary task to many Natural Language Understanding (NLU) tasks. Labels in existing emoji prediction datasets are all passage-based and are usually under the multi-class classification setting. However, in many cases, one single emoji cannot fully cover the theme of a piece of text. It is thus useful to infer the part of text related to each emoji. The lack of multi-label and aspect-level emoji prediction datasets is one of the bottlenecks for this task. This paper annotates an emoji prediction dataset with passage-level multi-class/multi-label, and aspect-level multi-class annotations. We also present a novel annotation method with which we generate the aspect-level annotations. The annotations are generated heuristically, taking advantage of the self-attention mechanism in Transformer networks. We validate the annotations both automatically and manually to ensure their quality. We also benchmark the dataset with a pre-trained BERT model.

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Data Boost: Text Data Augmentation Through Reinforcement Learning Guided Conditional Generation
Ruibo Liu | Guangxuan Xu | Chenyan Jia | Weicheng Ma | Lili Wang | Soroush Vosoughi
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

Data augmentation is proven to be effective in many NLU tasks, especially for those suffering from data scarcity. In this paper, we present a powerful and easy to deploy text augmentation framework, Data Boost, which augments data through reinforcement learning guided conditional generation. We evaluate Data Boost on three diverse text classification tasks under five different classifier architectures. The result shows that Data Boost can boost the performance of classifiers especially in low-resource data scenarios. For instance, Data Boost improves F1 for the three tasks by 8.7% on average when given only 10% of the whole data for training. We also compare Data Boost with six prior text augmentation methods. Through human evaluations (N=178), we confirm that Data Boost augmentation has comparable quality as the original data with respect to readability and class consistency.


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ChiMed: A Chinese Medical Corpus for Question Answering
Yuanhe Tian | Weicheng Ma | Fei Xia | Yan Song
Proceedings of the 18th BioNLP Workshop and Shared Task

Question answering (QA) is a challenging task in natural language processing (NLP), especially when it is applied to specific domains. While models trained in the general domain can be adapted to a new target domain, their performance often degrades significantly due to domain mismatch. Alternatively, one can require a large amount of domain-specific QA data, but such data are rare, especially for the medical domain. In this study, we first collect a large-scale Chinese medical QA corpus called ChiMed; second we annotate a small fraction of the corpus to check the quality of the answers; third, we extract two datasets from the corpus and use them for the relevancy prediction task and the adoption prediction task. Several benchmark models are applied to the datasets, producing good results for both tasks.


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Sound Signal Processing with Seq2Tree Network
Weicheng Ma | Kai Cao | Zhaoheng Ni | Peter Chin | Xiang Li
Proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC 2018)