Computational Linguistics, Volume 46, Issue 1 - March 2020

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On the Linguistic Representational Power of Neural Machine Translation Models
Yonatan Belinkov | Nadir Durrani | Fahim Dalvi | Hassan Sajjad | James Glass

Despite the recent success of deep neural networks in natural language processing and other spheres of artificial intelligence, their interpretability remains a challenge. We analyze the representations learned by neural machine translation (NMT) models at various levels of granularity and evaluate their quality through relevant extrinsic properties. In particular, we seek answers to the following questions: (i) How accurately is word structure captured within the learned representations, which is an important aspect in translating morphologically rich languages? (ii) Do the representations capture long-range dependencies, and effectively handle syntactically divergent languages? (iii) Do the representations capture lexical semantics? We conduct a thorough investigation along several parameters: (i) Which layers in the architecture capture each of these linguistic phenomena; (ii) How does the choice of translation unit (word, character, or subword unit) impact the linguistic properties captured by the underlying representations? (iii) Do the encoder and decoder learn differently and independently? (iv) Do the representations learned by multilingual NMT models capture the same amount of linguistic information as their bilingual counterparts? Our data-driven, quantitative evaluation illuminates important aspects in NMT models and their ability to capture various linguistic phenomena. We show that deep NMT models trained in an end-to-end fashion, without being provided any direct supervision during the training process, learn a non-trivial amount of linguistic information. Notable findings include the following observations: (i) Word morphology and part-of-speech information are captured at the lower layers of the model; (ii) In contrast, lexical semantics or non-local syntactic and semantic dependencies are better represented at the higher layers of the model; (iii) Representations learned using characters are more informed about word-morphology compared to those learned using subword units; and (iv) Representations learned by multilingual models are richer compared to bilingual models.

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The Design and Implementation of XiaoIce, an Empathetic Social Chatbot
Li Zhou | Jianfeng Gao | Di Li | Heung-Yeung Shum

This article describes the development of Microsoft XiaoIce, the most popular social chatbot in the world. XiaoIce is uniquely designed as an artifical intelligence companion with an emotional connection to satisfy the human need for communication, affection, and social belonging. We take into account both intelligent quotient and emotional quotient in system design, cast human–machine social chat as decision-making over Markov Decision Processes, and optimize XiaoIce for long-term user engagement, measured in expected Conversation-turns Per Session (CPS). We detail the system architecture and key components, including dialogue manager, core chat, skills, and an empathetic computing module. We show how XiaoIce dynamically recognizes human feelings and states, understands user intent, and responds to user needs throughout long conversations. Since the release in 2014, XiaoIce has communicated with over 660 million active users and succeeded in establishing long-term relationships with many of them. Analysis of large-scale online logs shows that XiaoIce has achieved an average CPS of 23, which is significantly higher than that of other chatbots and even human conversations.

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An Empirical Study on Crosslingual Transfer in Probabilistic Topic Models
Shudong Hao | Michael J. Paul

Probabilistic topic modeling is a common first step in crosslingual tasks to enable knowledge transfer and extract multilingual features. Although many multilingual topic models have been developed, their assumptions about the training corpus are quite varied, and it is not clear how well the different models can be utilized under various training conditions. In this article, the knowledge transfer mechanisms behind different multilingual topic models are systematically studied, and through a broad set of experiments with four models on ten languages, we provide empirical insights that can inform the selection and future development of multilingual topic models.

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Data-Driven Sentence Simplification: Survey and Benchmark
Fernando Alva-Manchego | Carolina Scarton | Lucia Specia

Sentence Simplification (SS) aims to modify a sentence in order to make it easier to read and understand. In order to do so, several rewriting transformations can be performed such as replacement, reordering, and splitting. Executing these transformations while keeping sentences grammatical, preserving their main idea, and generating simpler output, is a challenging and still far from solved problem. In this article, we survey research on SS, focusing on approaches that attempt to learn how to simplify using corpora of aligned original-simplified sentence pairs in English, which is the dominant paradigm nowadays. We also include a benchmark of different approaches on common data sets so as to compare them and highlight their strengths and limitations. We expect that this survey will serve as a starting point for researchers interested in the task and help spark new ideas for future developments.

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Corpora Annotated with Negation: An Overview
Salud María Jiménez-Zafra | Roser Morante | María Teresa Martín-Valdivia | L. Alfonso Ureña-López

Negation is a universal linguistic phenomenon with a great qualitative impact on natural language processing applications. The availability of corpora annotated with negation is essential to training negation processing systems. Currently, most corpora have been annotated for English, but the presence of languages other than English on the Internet, such as Chinese or Spanish, is greater every day. In this study, we present a review of the corpora annotated with negation information in several languages with the goal of evaluating what aspects of negation have been annotated and how compatible the corpora are. We conclude that it is very difficult to merge the existing corpora because we found differences in the annotation schemes used, and most importantly, in the annotation guidelines: the way in which each corpus was tokenized and the negation elements that have been annotated. Differently than for other well established tasks like semantic role labeling or parsing, for negation there is no standard annotation scheme nor guidelines, which hampers progress in its treatment.