Yilin Niu


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Bridging the Gap between Synthetic and Natural Questions via Sentence Decomposition for Semantic Parsing
Yilin Niu | Fei Huang | Wei Liu | Jianwei Cui | Bin Wang | Minlie Huang
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 11

Semantic parsing maps natural language questions into logical forms, which can be executed against a knowledge base for answers. In real-world applications, the performance of a parser is often limited by the lack of training data. To facilitate zero-shot learning, data synthesis has been widely studied to automatically generate paired questions and logical forms. However, data synthesis methods can hardly cover the diverse structures in natural languages, leading to a large gap in sentence structure between synthetic and natural questions. In this paper, we propose a decomposition-based method to unify the sentence structures of questions, which benefits the generalization to natural questions. Experiments demonstrate that our method significantly improves the semantic parser trained on synthetic data (+7.9% on KQA and +8.9% on ComplexWebQuestions in terms of exact match accuracy). Extensive analysis demonstrates that our method can better generalize to natural questions with novel text expressions compared with baselines. Besides semantic parsing, our idea potentially benefits other semantic understanding tasks by mitigating the distracting structure features. To illustrate this, we extend our method to the task of sentence embedding learning, and observe substantial improvements on sentence retrieval (+13.1% for Hit@1).


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A Semantic-based Method for Unsupervised Commonsense Question Answering
Yilin Niu | Fei Huang | Jiaming Liang | Wenkai Chen | Xiaoyan Zhu | Minlie Huang
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)

Unsupervised commonsense question answering is appealing since it does not rely on any labeled task data. Among existing work, a popular solution is to use pre-trained language models to score candidate choices directly conditioned on the question or context. However, such scores from language models can be easily affected by irrelevant factors, such as word frequencies, sentence structures, etc. These distracting factors may not only mislead the model to choose a wrong answer but also make it oversensitive to lexical perturbations in candidate answers. In this paper, we present a novel SEmantic-based Question Answering method (SEQA) for unsupervised commonsense question answering. Instead of directly scoring each answer choice, our method first generates a set of plausible answers with generative models (e.g., GPT-2), and then uses these plausible answers to select the correct choice by considering the semantic similarity between each plausible answer and each choice. We devise a simple, yet sound formalism for this idea and verify its effectiveness and robustness with extensive experiments. We evaluate the proposed method on four benchmark datasets, and our method achieves the best results in unsupervised settings. Moreover, when attacked by TextFooler with synonym replacement, SEQA demonstrates much less performance drops than baselines, thereby indicating stronger robustness.

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REPT: Bridging Language Models and Machine Reading Comprehension via Retrieval-Based Pre-training
Fangkai Jiao | Yangyang Guo | Yilin Niu | Feng Ji | Feng-Lin Li | Liqiang Nie
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL-IJCNLP 2021


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A Self-Training Method for Machine Reading Comprehension with Soft Evidence Extraction
Yilin Niu | Fangkai Jiao | Mantong Zhou | Ting Yao | Jingfang Xu | Minlie Huang
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Neural models have achieved great success on machine reading comprehension (MRC), many of which typically consist of two components: an evidence extractor and an answer predictor. The former seeks the most relevant information from a reference text, while the latter is to locate or generate answers from the extracted evidence. Despite the importance of evidence labels for training the evidence extractor, they are not cheaply accessible, particularly in many non-extractive MRC tasks such as YES/NO question answering and multi-choice MRC. To address this problem, we present a Self-Training method (STM), which supervises the evidence extractor with auto-generated evidence labels in an iterative process. At each iteration, a base MRC model is trained with golden answers and noisy evidence labels. The trained model will predict pseudo evidence labels as extra supervision in the next iteration. We evaluate STM on seven datasets over three MRC tasks. Experimental results demonstrate the improvement on existing MRC models, and we also analyze how and why such a self-training method works in MRC.


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Improved Word Representation Learning with Sememes
Yilin Niu | Ruobing Xie | Zhiyuan Liu | Maosong Sun
Proceedings of the 55th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Sememes are minimum semantic units of word meanings, and the meaning of each word sense is typically composed by several sememes. Since sememes are not explicit for each word, people manually annotate word sememes and form linguistic common-sense knowledge bases. In this paper, we present that, word sememe information can improve word representation learning (WRL), which maps words into a low-dimensional semantic space and serves as a fundamental step for many NLP tasks. The key idea is to utilize word sememes to capture exact meanings of a word within specific contexts accurately. More specifically, we follow the framework of Skip-gram and present three sememe-encoded models to learn representations of sememes, senses and words, where we apply the attention scheme to detect word senses in various contexts. We conduct experiments on two tasks including word similarity and word analogy, and our models significantly outperform baselines. The results indicate that WRL can benefit from sememes via the attention scheme, and also confirm our models being capable of correctly modeling sememe information.