Wenlin Yao


2023

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Bridging Continuous and Discrete Spaces: Interpretable Sentence Representation Learning via Compositional Operations
James Y. Huang | Wenlin Yao | Kaiqiang Song | Hongming Zhang | Muhao Chen | Dong Yu
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Traditional sentence embedding models encode sentences into vector representations to capture useful properties such as the semantic similarity between sentences. However, in addition to similarity, sentence semantics can also be interpreted via compositional operations such as sentence fusion or difference. It is unclear whether the compositional semantics of sentences can be directly reflected as compositional operations in the embedding space. To more effectively bridge the continuous embedding and discrete text spaces, we explore the plausibility of incorporating various compositional properties into the sentence embedding space that allows us to interpret embedding transformations as compositional sentence operations. We propose InterSent, an end-to-end framework for learning interpretable sentence embeddings that supports compositional sentence operations in the embedding space. Our method optimizes operator networks and a bottleneck encoder-decoder model to produce meaningful and interpretable sentence embeddings. Experimental results demonstrate that our method significantly improves the interpretability of sentence embeddings on four textual generation tasks over existing approaches while maintaining strong performance on traditional semantic similarity tasks.

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How do Words Contribute to Sentence Semantics? Revisiting Sentence Embeddings with a Perturbation Method
Wenlin Yao | Lifeng Jin | Hongming Zhang | Xiaoman Pan | Kaiqiang Song | Dian Yu | Dong Yu | Jianshu Chen
Proceedings of the 17th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Understanding sentence semantics requires an interpretation of the main information from a concrete context. To investigate how individual word contributes to sentence semantics, we propose a perturbation method for unsupervised semantic analysis. We next re-examine SOTA sentence embedding models’ ability to capture the main semantics of a sentence by developing a new evaluation metric to adapt sentence compression datasets for automatic evaluation. Results on three datasets show that unsupervised discourse relation recognition can serve as a general inference task that can more effectively aggregate information to essential contents than several SOTA unsupervised sentence embedding models.

2022

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Learning-by-Narrating: Narrative Pre-Training for Zero-Shot Dialogue Comprehension
Chao Zhao | Wenlin Yao | Dian Yu | Kaiqiang Song | Dong Yu | Jianshu Chen
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

Comprehending a dialogue requires a model to capture diverse kinds of key information in the utterances, which are either scattered around or implicitly implied in different turns of conversations. Therefore, dialogue comprehension requires diverse capabilities such as paraphrasing, summarizing, and commonsense reasoning. Towards the objective of pre-training a zero-shot dialogue comprehension model, we develop a novel narrative-guided pre-training strategy that learns by narrating the key information from a dialogue input. However, the dialogue-narrative parallel corpus for such a pre-training strategy is currently unavailable. For this reason, we first construct a dialogue-narrative parallel corpus by automatically aligning movie subtitles and their synopses. We then pre-train a BART model on the data and evaluate its performance on four dialogue-based tasks that require comprehension. Experimental results show that our model not only achieves superior zero-shot performance but also exhibits stronger fine-grained dialogue comprehension capabilities. The data and code are available at https://github.com/zhaochaocs/Diana.

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C-MORE: Pretraining to Answer Open-Domain Questions by Consulting Millions of References
Xiang Yue | Xiaoman Pan | Wenlin Yao | Dian Yu | Dong Yu | Jianshu Chen
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

We consider the problem of pretraining a two-stage open-domain question answering (QA) system (retriever + reader) with strong transfer capabilities. The key challenge is how to construct a large amount of high-quality question-answer-context triplets without task-specific annotations. Specifically, the triplets should align well with downstream tasks by: (i) covering a wide range of domains (for open-domain applications), (ii) linking a question to its semantically relevant context with supporting evidence (for training the retriever), and (iii) identifying the correct answer in the context (for training the reader). Previous pretraining approaches generally fall short of one or more of these requirements. In this work, we automatically construct a large-scale corpus that meets all three criteria by consulting millions of references cited within Wikipedia. The well-aligned pretraining signals benefit both the retriever and the reader significantly. Our pretrained retriever leads to 2%-10% absolute gains in top-20 accuracy. And with our pretrained reader, the entire system improves by up to 4% in exact match.

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Z-LaVI: Zero-Shot Language Solver Fueled by Visual Imagination
Yue Yang | Wenlin Yao | Hongming Zhang | Xiaoyang Wang | Dong Yu | Jianshu Chen
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Large-scale pretrained language models have made significant advances in solving downstream language understanding tasks. However, they generally suffer from reporting bias, the phenomenon describing the lack of explicit commonsense knowledge in written text, e.g., ”an orange is orange”. To overcome this limitation, we develop a novel approach, Z-LaVI, to endow language models with visual imagination capabilities. Specifically, we leverage two complementary types of ”imaginations”: (i) recalling existing images through retrieval and (ii) synthesizing nonexistent images via text-to-image generation. Jointly exploiting the language inputs and the imagination, a pretrained vision-language model (e.g., CLIP) eventually composes a zero-shot solution to the original language tasks. Notably, fueling language models with imagination can effectively leverage visual knowledge to solve plain language tasks. In consequence, Z-LaVI consistently improves the zero-shot performance of existing language models across a diverse set of language tasks.

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Salience Allocation as Guidance for Abstractive Summarization
Fei Wang | Kaiqiang Song | Hongming Zhang | Lifeng Jin | Sangwoo Cho | Wenlin Yao | Xiaoyang Wang | Muhao Chen | Dong Yu
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Abstractive summarization models typically learn to capture the salient information from scratch implicitly. Recent literature adds extractive summaries as guidance for abstractive summarization models to provide hints of salient content and achieves better performance. However, extractive summaries as guidance could be over strict, leading to information loss or noisy signals. Furthermore, it cannot easily adapt to documents with various abstractiveness. As the number and allocation of salience content pieces varies, it is hard to find a fixed threshold deciding which content should be included in the guidance. In this paper, we propose a novel summarization approach with a flexible and reliable salience guidance, namely SEASON (SaliencE Allocation as Guidance for Abstractive SummarizatiON).SEASON utilizes the allocation of salience expectation to guide abstractive summarization and adapts well to articles in different abstractiveness. Automatic and human evaluations on two benchmark datasets show that the proposed method is effective and reliable. Empirical results on more than one million news articles demonstrate a natural fifteen-fifty salience split for news article sentences, providing a useful insight for composing news articles.

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NarraSum: A Large-Scale Dataset for Abstractive Narrative Summarization
Chao Zhao | Faeze Brahman | Kaiqiang Song | Wenlin Yao | Dian Yu | Snigdha Chaturvedi
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

Narrative summarization aims to produce a distilled version of a narrative to describe its most salient events and characters. Writing a summary for a narrative is challenging as it requires an understanding of event causality and character behaviors. To encourage research in this direction, we propose NarraSum, a large-scale narrative summarization dataset. It contains 122K narratives, which are collected from the synopses of movies and TV episodes with diverse genres, and their corresponding abstractive summaries. Experiments show that there is a large performance gap between humans and the state-of-the-art summarization models on NarraSum. We hope that this dataset will promote future research in summarization, as well as broader studies of natural language understanding and generation. The dataset is available at https://github.com/zhaochaocs/narrasum.

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Efficient Zero-shot Event Extraction with Context-Definition Alignment
Hongming Zhang | Wenlin Yao | Dong Yu
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

Event extraction (EE) is the task of identifying interested event mentions from text. Conventional efforts mainly focus on the supervised setting. However, these supervised models cannot generalize to event types out of the pre-defined ontology. To fill this gap, many efforts have been devoted to the zero-shot EE problem. This paper follows the trend of modeling event-type semantics but moves one step further. We argue that using the static embedding of the event type name might not be enough because a single word could be ambiguous, and we need a sentence to define the type semantics accurately. To model the definition semantics, we use two separate transformer models to project the contextualized event mentions and corresponding definitions into the same embedding space and then minimize their embedding distance via contrastive learning. On top of that, we also propose a warming phase to help the model learn the minor difference between similar definitions. We name our approach Zero-shot Event extraction with Definition (ZED). Experiments on the MAVEN dataset show that our model significantly outperforms all previous zero-shot EE methods with fast inference speed due to the disjoint design. Further experiments also show that can be easily applied to the few-shot setting when the annotation is available and consistently outperforms baseline supervised methods.

2021

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Connect-the-Dots: Bridging Semantics between Words and Definitions via Aligning Word Sense Inventories
Wenlin Yao | Xiaoman Pan | Lifeng Jin | Jianshu Chen | Dian Yu | Dong Yu
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Word Sense Disambiguation (WSD) aims to automatically identify the exact meaning of one word according to its context. Existing supervised models struggle to make correct predictions on rare word senses due to limited training data and can only select the best definition sentence from one predefined word sense inventory (e.g., WordNet). To address the data sparsity problem and generalize the model to be independent of one predefined inventory, we propose a gloss alignment algorithm that can align definition sentences (glosses) with the same meaning from different sense inventories to collect rich lexical knowledge. We then train a model to identify semantic equivalence between a target word in context and one of its glosses using these aligned inventories, which exhibits strong transfer capability to many WSD tasks. Experiments on benchmark datasets show that the proposed method improves predictions on both frequent and rare word senses, outperforming prior work by 1.2% on the All-Words WSD Task and 4.3% on the Low-Shot WSD Task. Evaluation on WiC Task also indicates that our method can better capture word meanings in context.

2020

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Weakly Supervised Subevent Knowledge Acquisition
Wenlin Yao | Zeyu Dai | Maitreyi Ramaswamy | Bonan Min | Ruihong Huang
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

Subevents elaborate an event and widely exist in event descriptions. Subevent knowledge is useful for discourse analysis and event-centric applications. Acknowledging the scarcity of subevent knowledge, we propose a weakly supervised approach to extract subevent relation tuples from text and build the first large scale subevent knowledge base. We first obtain the initial set of event pairs that are likely to have the subevent relation, by exploiting two observations that 1) subevents are temporally contained by the parent event, and 2) the definitions of the parent event can be used to further guide the identification of subevents. Then, we collect rich weak supervision using the initial seed subevent pairs to train a contextual classifier using BERT and apply the classifier to identify new subevent pairs. The evaluation showed that the acquired subevent tuples (239K) are of high quality (90.1% accuracy) and cover a wide range of event types. The acquired subevent knowledge has been shown useful for discourse analysis and identifying a range of event-event relations.

2018

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Temporal Event Knowledge Acquisition via Identifying Narratives
Wenlin Yao | Ruihong Huang
Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Inspired by the double temporality characteristic of narrative texts, we propose a novel approach for acquiring rich temporal “before/after” event knowledge across sentences in narrative stories. The double temporality states that a narrative story often describes a sequence of events following the chronological order and therefore, the temporal order of events matches with their textual order. We explored narratology principles and built a weakly supervised approach that identifies 287k narrative paragraphs from three large corpora. We then extracted rich temporal event knowledge from these narrative paragraphs. Such event knowledge is shown useful to improve temporal relation classification and outperforms several recent neural network models on the narrative cloze task.

2017

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Using Context Events in Neural Network Models for Event Temporal Status Identification
Zeyu Dai | Wenlin Yao | Ruihong Huang
Proceedings of the Eighth International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Volume 2: Short Papers)

Focusing on the task of identifying event temporal status, we find that events directly or indirectly governing the target event in a dependency tree are most important contexts. Therefore, we extract dependency chains containing context events and use them as input in neural network models, which consistently outperform previous models using local context words as input. Visualization verifies that the dependency chain representation can effectively capture the context events which are closely related to the target event and play key roles in predicting event temporal status.

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Online Deception Detection Refueled by Real World Data Collection
Wenlin Yao | Zeyu Dai | Ruihong Huang | James Caverlee
Proceedings of the International Conference Recent Advances in Natural Language Processing, RANLP 2017

The lack of large realistic datasets presents a bottleneck in online deception detection studies. In this paper, we apply a data collection method based on social network analysis to quickly identify high quality deceptive and truthful online reviews1 from Amazon. The dataset contains more than 10,000 deceptive reviews and is diverse in product domains and reviewers. Using this dataset, we explore effective general features for online deception detection that perform well across domains. We demonstrate that with generalized features – advertising speak and writing complexity scores – deception detection performance can be further improved by adding additional deceptive reviews from assorted domains in training. Finally, reviewer level evaluation gives an interesting insight into different deceptive reviewers’ writing styles.

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A Weakly Supervised Approach to Train Temporal Relation Classifiers and Acquire Regular Event Pairs Simultaneously
Wenlin Yao | Saipravallika Nettyam | Ruihong Huang
Proceedings of the International Conference Recent Advances in Natural Language Processing, RANLP 2017

Capabilities of detecting temporal and causal relations between two events can benefit many applications. Most of existing temporal relation classifiers were trained in a supervised manner. Instead, we explore the observation that regular event pairs show a consistent temporal relation despite of their various contexts and these rich contexts can be used to train a contextual temporal relation classifier, which can further recognize new temporal relation contexts and identify new regular event pairs. We focus on detecting after and before temporal relations and design a weakly supervised learning approach that extracts thousands of regular event pairs and learns a contextual temporal relation classifier simultaneously. Evaluation shows that the acquired regular event pairs are of high quality and contain rich commonsense knowledge and domain specific knowledge. In addition, the weakly supervised trained temporal relation classifier achieves comparable performance with the state-of-the-art supervised systems.