Xiang Lisa Li


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Contrastive Decoding: Open-ended Text Generation as Optimization
Xiang Lisa Li | Ari Holtzman | Daniel Fried | Percy Liang | Jason Eisner | Tatsunori Hashimoto | Luke Zettlemoyer | Mike Lewis
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Given a language model (LM), maximum probability is a poor decoding objective for open-ended generation, because it produces short and repetitive text. On the other hand, sampling can often produce incoherent text that drifts from the original topics. We propose contrastive decoding (CD), a reliable decoding approach that optimizes a contrastive objective subject to a plausibility constraint. The contrastive objective returns the difference between the likelihood under a large LM (called the expert, e.g. OPT-13B) and a small LM (called the amateur, e.g. OPT-125M), and the constraint ensures that the outputs are plausible. CD is inspired by the fact that the failures of larger LMs (e.g., repetition, inco- herence) are even more prevalent in smaller LMs, and that this difference signals which texts should be preferred. CD requires zero additional training, and produces higher quality text than decoding from the larger LM alone. It also works across model scales (OPT-13B and GPT2-1.5B) and significantly outperforms four strong decoding algorithms (e.g., nucleus, top-k) in automatic and human evaluations across wikipedia, news and story domains.

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TempLM: Distilling Language Models into Template-Based Generators
Tianyi Zhang | Mina Lee | Xiang Lisa Li | Ende Shen | Tatsunori Hashimoto
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2023

While pretrained language models (PLMs) have greatly improved text generation, they have also been known to produce unfaithful or inappropriate content. In contrast, classic template-based systems provide strong guarantees of faithfulness at the cost of fluency. We propose TempLM, which achieves the best of both worlds by distilling a PLM into a template-based generator. On the E2E and SynthBio data-to-text datasets, we show that TempLM is more faithful than the original PLM and is more fluent than prior template systems. Notably, on an out-of-domain evaluation, TempLM reduces a finetuned BART model’s unfaithfulness rate from 83% to 0%. In a human study, we find that TempLM’s templates substantially improve upon human-written ones in BERTScore.


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Prefix-Tuning: Optimizing Continuous Prompts for Generation
Xiang Lisa Li | Percy Liang
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)

Fine-tuning is the de facto way of leveraging large pretrained language models for downstream tasks. However, fine-tuning modifies all the language model parameters and therefore necessitates storing a full copy for each task. In this paper, we propose prefix-tuning, a lightweight alternative to fine-tuning for natural language generation tasks, which keeps language model parameters frozen and instead optimizes a sequence of continuous task-specific vectors, which we call the prefix. Prefix-tuning draws inspiration from prompting for language models, allowing subsequent tokens to attend to this prefix as if it were “virtual tokens”. We apply prefix-tuning to GPT-2 for table-to-text generation and to BART for summarization. We show that by learning only 0.1% of the parameters, prefix-tuning obtains comparable performance in the full data setting, outperforms fine-tuning in low-data settings, and extrapolates better to examples with topics that are unseen during training.

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Decoding Methods for Neural Narrative Generation
Alexandra DeLucia | Aaron Mueller | Xiang Lisa Li | João Sedoc
Proceedings of the 1st Workshop on Natural Language Generation, Evaluation, and Metrics (GEM 2021)

Narrative generation is an open-ended NLP task in which a model generates a story given a prompt. The task is similar to neural response generation for chatbots; however, innovations in response generation are often not applied to narrative generation, despite the similarity between these tasks. We aim to bridge this gap by applying and evaluating advances in decoding methods for neural response generation to neural narrative generation. In particular, we employ GPT-2 and perform ablations across nucleus sampling thresholds and diverse decoding hyperparameters—specifically, maximum mutual information—analyzing results over multiple criteria with automatic and human evaluation. We find that (1) nucleus sampling is generally best with thresholds between 0.7 and 0.9; (2) a maximum mutual information objective can improve the quality of generated stories; and (3) established automatic metrics do not correlate well with human judgments of narrative quality on any qualitative metric.


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Posterior Control of Blackbox Generation
Xiang Lisa Li | Alexander Rush
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Text generation often requires high-precision output that obeys task-specific rules. This fine-grained control is difficult to enforce with off-the-shelf deep learning models. In this work, we consider augmenting neural generation models with discrete control states learned through a structured latent-variable approach. Under this formulation, task-specific knowledge can be encoded through a range of rich, posterior constraints that are effectively trained into the model. This approach allows users to ground internal model decisions based on prior knowledge, without sacrificing the representational power of neural generative models. Experiments consider applications of this approach for text generation. We find that this method improves over standard benchmarks, while also providing fine-grained control.


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Specializing Word Embeddings (for Parsing) by Information Bottleneck
Xiang Lisa Li | Jason Eisner
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

Pre-trained word embeddings like ELMo and BERT contain rich syntactic and semantic information, resulting in state-of-the-art performance on various tasks. We propose a very fast variational information bottleneck (VIB) method to nonlinearly compress these embeddings, keeping only the information that helps a discriminative parser. We compress each word embedding to either a discrete tag or a continuous vector. In the discrete version, our automatically compressed tags form an alternative tag set: we show experimentally that our tags capture most of the information in traditional POS tag annotations, but our tag sequences can be parsed more accurately at the same level of tag granularity. In the continuous version, we show experimentally that moderately compressing the word embeddings by our method yields a more accurate parser in 8 of 9 languages, unlike simple dimensionality reduction.

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A Generative Model for Punctuation in Dependency Trees
Xiang Lisa Li | Dingquan Wang | Jason Eisner
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 7

Treebanks traditionally treat punctuation marks as ordinary words, but linguists have suggested that a tree’s “true” punctuation marks are not observed (Nunberg, 1990). These latent “underlying” marks serve to delimit or separate constituents in the syntax tree. When the tree’s yield is rendered as a written sentence, a string rewriting mechanism transduces the underlying marks into “surface” marks, which are part of the observed (surface) string but should not be regarded as part of the tree. We formalize this idea in a generative model of punctuation that admits efficient dynamic programming. We train it without observing the underlying marks, by locally maximizing the incomplete data likelihood (similarly to the EM algorithm). When we use the trained model to reconstruct the tree’s underlying punctuation, the results appear plausible across 5 languages, and in particular are consistent with Nunberg’s analysis of English. We show that our generative model can be used to beat baselines on punctuation restoration. Also, our reconstruction of a sentence’s underlying punctuation lets us appropriately render the surface punctuation (via our trained underlying-to-surface mechanism) when we syntactically transform the sentence.