Xinran Zhao


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Towards Reference-free Text Simplification Evaluation with a BERT Siamese Network Architecture
Xinran Zhao | Esin Durmus | Dit-Yan Yeung
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2023

Text simplification (TS) aims to modify sentences to make their both content and structure easier to understand. Traditional n-gram matching-based TS evaluation metrics heavily rely on the exact token match and human-annotated simplified sentences. In this paper, we present a novel neural-network-based reference-free TS metric BETS that leverages pre-trained contextualized language representation models and large-scale paraphrasing datasets to evaluate simplicity and meaning preservation. We show that our metric, without collecting any costly human simplification reference, correlates better than existing metrics with human judgments for the quality of both overall simplification (+7.7%) and its key aspects, i.e., comparative simplicity (+11.2%) and meaning preservation (+9.2%).


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On Measuring the Intrinsic Few-Shot Hardness of Datasets
Xinran Zhao | Shikhar Murty | Christopher Manning
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

While advances in pre-training have led to dramatic improvements in few-shot learning of NLP tasks, there is limited understanding of what drives successful few-shot adaptation in datasets. In particular, given a new dataset and a pre-trained model, what properties of the dataset make it few-shot learnable, and are these properties independent of the specific adaptation techniques used? We consider an extensive set of recent few-shot learning methods and show that their performance across a large number of datasets is highly correlated, showing that few-shot hardness may be intrinsic to datasets, for a given pre-trained model. To estimate intrinsic few-shot hardness, we then propose a simple and lightweight metric called Spread that captures the intuition that few-shot learning is made possible by exploiting feature-space invariances between training and test samples. Our metric better accounts for few-shot hardness compared to existing notions of hardness and is ~8-100x faster to compute.

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Weakly Supervised Text Classification using Supervision Signals from a Language Model
Ziqian Zeng | Weimin Ni | Tianqing Fang | Xiang Li | Xinran Zhao | Yangqiu Song
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: NAACL 2022

Solving text classification in a weakly supervised manner is important for real-world applications where human annotations are scarce. In this paper, we propose to query a masked language model with cloze style prompts to obtain supervision signals. We design a prompt which combines the document itself and “this article is talking about [MASK].” A masked language model can generate words for the [MASK] token. The generated words which summarize the content of a document can be utilized as supervision signals. We propose a latent variable model to learn a word distribution learner which associates generated words to pre-defined categories and a document classifier simultaneously without using any annotated data. Evaluation on three datasets, AGNews, 20Newsgroups, and UCINews, shows that our method can outperform baselines by 2%, 4%, and 3%.

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PCR4ALL: A Comprehensive Evaluation Benchmark for Pronoun Coreference Resolution in English
Xinran Zhao | Hongming Zhang | Yangqiu Song
Proceedings of the Thirteenth Language Resources and Evaluation Conference

Pronoun Coreference Resolution (PCR) is the task of resolving pronominal expressions to all mentions they refer to. The correct resolution of pronouns typically involves the complex inference over both linguistic knowledge and general world knowledge. Recently, with the help of pre-trained language representation models, the community has made significant progress on various PCR tasks. However, as most existing works focus on developing PCR models for specific datasets and measuring the accuracy or F1 alone, it is still unclear whether current PCR systems are reliable in real applications. Motivated by this, we propose PCR4ALL, a new benchmark and a toolbox that evaluates and analyzes the performance of PCR systems from different perspectives (i.e., knowledge source, domain, data size, frequency, relevance, and polarity). Experiments demonstrate notable performance differences when the models are examined from different angles. We hope that PCR4ALL can motivate the community to pay more attention to solving the overall PCR problem and understand the performance comprehensively. All data and codes are available at:


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Leveraging Topic Relatedness for Argument Persuasion
Xinran Zhao | Esin Durmus | Hongming Zhang | Claire Cardie
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL-IJCNLP 2021

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A Brief Survey and Comparative Study of Recent Development of Pronoun Coreference Resolution in English
Hongming Zhang | Xinran Zhao | Yangqiu Song
Proceedings of the Fourth Workshop on Computational Models of Reference, Anaphora and Coreference

Pronoun Coreference Resolution (PCR) is the task of resolving pronominal expressions to all mentions they refer to. Compared with the general coreference resolution task, the main challenge of PCR is the coreference relation prediction rather than the mention detection. As one important natural language understanding (NLU) component, pronoun resolution is crucial for many downstream tasks and still challenging for existing models, which motivates us to survey existing approaches and think about how to do better. In this survey, we first introduce representative datasets and models for the ordinary pronoun coreference resolution task. Then we focus on recent progress on hard pronoun coreference resolution problems (e.g., Winograd Schema Challenge) to analyze how well current models can understand commonsense. We conduct extensive experiments to show that even though current models are achieving good performance on the standard evaluation set, they are still not ready to be used in real applications (e.g., all SOTA models struggle on correctly resolving pronouns to infrequent objects). All experiment codes will be available upon acceptance.

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Probing Toxic Content in Large Pre-Trained Language Models
Nedjma Ousidhoum | Xinran Zhao | Tianqing Fang | Yangqiu Song | Dit-Yan Yeung
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)

Large pre-trained language models (PTLMs) have been shown to carry biases towards different social groups which leads to the reproduction of stereotypical and toxic content by major NLP systems. We propose a method based on logistic regression classifiers to probe English, French, and Arabic PTLMs and quantify the potentially harmful content that they convey with respect to a set of templates. The templates are prompted by a name of a social group followed by a cause-effect relation. We use PTLMs to predict masked tokens at the end of a sentence in order to examine how likely they enable toxicity towards specific communities. We shed the light on how such negative content can be triggered within unrelated and benign contexts based on evidence from a large-scale study, then we explain how to take advantage of our methodology to assess and mitigate the toxicity transmitted by PTLMs.


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WinoWhy: A Deep Diagnosis of Essential Commonsense Knowledge for Answering Winograd Schema Challenge
Hongming Zhang | Xinran Zhao | Yangqiu Song
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

In this paper, we present the first comprehensive categorization of essential commonsense knowledge for answering the Winograd Schema Challenge (WSC). For each of the questions, we invite annotators to first provide reasons for making correct decisions and then categorize them into six major knowledge categories. By doing so, we better understand the limitation of existing methods (i.e., what kind of knowledge cannot be effectively represented or inferred with existing methods) and shed some light on the commonsense knowledge that we need to acquire in the future for better commonsense reasoning. Moreover, to investigate whether current WSC models can understand the commonsense or they simply solve the WSC questions based on the statistical bias of the dataset, we leverage the collected reasons to develop a new task called WinoWhy, which requires models to distinguish plausible reasons from very similar but wrong reasons for all WSC questions. Experimental results prove that even though pre-trained language representation models have achieved promising progress on the original WSC dataset, they are still struggling at WinoWhy. Further experiments show that even though supervised models can achieve better performance, the performance of these models can be sensitive to the dataset distribution. WinoWhy and all codes are available at: