Zhengxiang Shi


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Rethinking Semi-supervised Learning with Language Models
Zhengxiang Shi | Francesco Tonolini | Nikolaos Aletras | Emine Yilmaz | Gabriella Kazai | Yunlong Jiao
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2023

Semi-supervised learning (SSL) is a popular setting aiming to effectively utilize unlabelled data to improve model performance in downstream natural language processing (NLP) tasks. Currently, there are two popular approaches to make use of the unlabelled data: Self-training (ST) and Task-adaptive pre-training (TAPT). ST uses a teacher model to assign pseudo-labels to the unlabelled data, while TAPT continues pre-training on the unlabelled data before fine-tuning. To the best of our knowledge, the effectiveness of TAPT in SSL tasks has not been systematically studied, and no previous work has directly compared TAPT and ST in terms of their ability to utilize the pool of unlabelled data. In this paper, we provide an extensive empirical study comparing five state-of-the-art ST approaches and TAPT across various NLP tasks and data sizes, including in- and out-of domain settings. Surprisingly, we find that TAPT is a strong and more robust SSL learner, even when using just a few hundred unlabelled samples or in the presence of domain shifts, compared to more sophisticated ST approaches, and tends to bring greater improvements in SSL than in fully-supervised settings. Our further analysis demonstrates the risks of using ST approaches when the size of labelled or unlabelled data is small or when domain shifts exist, and highlights TAPT as a potential solution.

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Lexical Entrainment for Conversational Systems
Zhengxiang Shi | Procheta Sen | Aldo Lipani
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023

Conversational agents have become ubiquitous in assisting with daily tasks, and are expected to possess human-like features. One such feature is lexical entrainment (LE), a phenomenon in which speakers in human-human conversations tend to naturally and subconsciously align their lexical choices with those of their interlocutors, leading to more successful and engaging conversations. As an example, if a digital assistant replies “Your appointment for Jinling Noodle Pub is at 7 pm” to the question “When is my reservation for Jinling Noodle Bar today?”, it may feel as though the assistant is trying to correct the speaker, whereas a response of “Your reservation for Jinling Noodle Baris at 7 pm” would likely be perceived as more positive. This highlights the importance of LE in establishing a shared terminology for maximum clarity and reducing ambiguity in conversations. However, we demonstrate in this work that current response generation models do not adequately address this crucial human-like phenomenon. To address this, we propose a new dataset, named MultiWOZ-ENTR, and a measure for LE for conversational systems. Additionally, we suggest a way to explicitly integrate LE into conversational systems with two new tasks, a LE extraction task and a LE generation task. We also present two baseline approaches for the LE extraction task, which aim to detect LE expressions from dialogue contexts


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Learning to Execute Actions or Ask Clarification Questions
Zhengxiang Shi | Yue Feng | Aldo Lipani
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: NAACL 2022

Collaborative tasks are ubiquitous activities where a form of communication is required in order to reach a joint goal. Collaborative building is one of such tasks. We wish to develop an intelligent builder agent in a simulated building environment (Minecraft) that can build whatever users wish to build by just talking to the agent. In order to achieve this goal, such agents need to be able to take the initiative by asking clarification questions when further information is needed. Existing works on Minecraft Corpus Dataset only learn to execute instructions neglecting the importance of asking for clarifications. In this paper, we extend the Minecraft Corpus Dataset by annotating all builder utterances into eight types, including clarification questions, and propose a new builder agent model capable of determining when to ask or execute instructions. Experimental results show that our model achieves state-of-the-art performance on the collaborative building task with a substantial improvement. We also define two new tasks, the learning to ask task and the joint learning task. The latter consists of solving both collaborating building and learning to ask tasks jointly.