Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Natural Language Generation

Brian Davis, Yvette Graham, John Kelleher, Yaji Sripada (Editors)

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Dublin, Ireland
Association for Computational Linguistics
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Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Natural Language Generation
Brian Davis | Yvette Graham | John Kelleher | Yaji Sripada

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Memory Attentive Fusion: External Language Model Integration for Transformer-based Sequence-to-Sequence Model
Mana Ihori | Ryo Masumura | Naoki Makishima | Tomohiro Tanaka | Akihiko Takashima | Shota Orihashi

This paper presents a novel fusion method for integrating an external language model (LM) into the Transformer based sequence-to-sequence (seq2seq) model. While paired data are basically required to train the seq2seq model, the external LM can be trained with only unpaired data. Thus, it is important to leverage memorized knowledge in the external LM for building the seq2seq model, since it is hard to prepare a large amount of paired data. However, the existing fusion methods assume that the LM is integrated with recurrent neural network-based seq2seq models instead of the Transformer. Therefore, this paper proposes a fusion method that can explicitly utilize network structures in the Transformer. The proposed method, called memory attentive fusion, leverages the Transformer-style attention mechanism that repeats source-target attention in a multi-hop manner for reading the memorized knowledge in the LM. Our experiments on two text-style conversion tasks demonstrate that the proposed method performs better than conventional fusion methods.

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Arabic NLG Language Functions
Wael Abed | Ehud Reiter

The Arabic language has very limited supports from NLG researchers. In this paper, we explain the challenges of the core grammar, provide a lexical resource, and implement the first language functions for the Arabic language. We did a human evaluation to evaluate our functions in generating sentences from the NADA Corpus.

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Generating Intelligible Plumitifs Descriptions: Use Case Application with Ethical Considerations
David Beauchemin | Nicolas Garneau | Eve Gaumond | Pierre-Luc Déziel | Richard Khoury | Luc Lamontagne

Plumitifs (dockets) were initially a tool for law clerks. Nowadays, they are used as summaries presenting all the steps of a judicial case. Information concerning parties’ identity, jurisdiction in charge of administering the case, and some information relating to the nature and the course of the preceding are available through plumitifs. They are publicly accessible but barely understandable; they are written using abbreviations and referring to provisions from the Criminal Code of Canada, which makes them hard to reason about. In this paper, we propose a simple yet efficient multi-source language generation architecture that leverages both the plumitif and the Criminal Code’s content to generate intelligible plumitifs descriptions. It goes without saying that ethical considerations rise with these sensitive documents made readable and available at scale, legitimate concerns that we address in this paper. This is, to the best of our knowledge, the first application of plumitifs descriptions generation made available for French speakers along with an ethical discussion about the topic.

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RecipeNLG: A Cooking Recipes Dataset for Semi-Structured Text Generation
Michał Bień | Michał Gilski | Martyna Maciejewska | Wojciech Taisner | Dawid Wisniewski | Agnieszka Lawrynowicz

Semi-structured text generation is a non-trivial problem. Although last years have brought lots of improvements in natural language generation, thanks to the development of neural models trained on large scale datasets, these approaches still struggle with producing structured, context- and commonsense-aware texts. Moreover, it is not clear how to evaluate the quality of generated texts. To address these problems, we introduce RecipeNLG – a novel dataset of cooking recipes. We discuss the data collection process and the relation between the semi-structured texts and cooking recipes. We use the dataset to approach the problem of generating recipes. Finally, we make use of multiple metrics to evaluate the generated recipes.

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Controlled Text Generation with Adversarial Learning
Federico Betti | Giorgia Ramponi | Massimo Piccardi

In recent years, generative adversarial networks (GANs) have started to attain promising results also in natural language generation. However, the existing models have paid limited attention to the semantic coherence of the generated sentences. For this reason, in this paper we propose a novel network – the Controlled TExt generation Relational Memory GAN (CTERM-GAN) – that uses an external input to influence the coherence of sentence generation. The network is composed of three main components: a generator based on a Relational Memory conditioned on the external input; a syntactic discriminator which learns to discriminate between real and generated sentences; and a semantic discriminator which assesses the coherence with the external conditioning. Our experiments on six probing datasets have showed that the model has been able to achieve interesting results, retaining or improving the syntactic quality of the generated sentences while significantly improving their semantic coherence with the given input.

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Studying the Impact of Filling Information Gaps on the Output Quality of Neural Data-to-Text
Craig Thomson | Zhijie Zhao | Somayajulu Sripada

It is unfair to expect neural data-to-text to produce high quality output when there are gaps between system input data and information contained in the training text. Thomson et al. (2020) identify and narrow information gaps in Rotowire, a popular data-to-text dataset. In this paper, we describe a study which finds that a state-of-the-art neural data-to-text system produces higher quality output, according to the information extraction (IE) based metrics, when additional input data is carefully selected from this newly available source. It remains to be shown, however, whether IE metrics used in this study correlate well with humans in judging text quality.

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Improving the Naturalness and Diversity of Referring Expression Generation models using Minimum Risk Training
Nikolaos Panagiaris | Emma Hart | Dimitra Gkatzia

In this paper we consider the problem of optimizing neural Referring Expression Generation (REG) models with sequence level objectives. Recently reinforcement learning (RL) techniques have been adopted to train deep end-to-end systems to directly optimize sequence-level objectives. However, there are two issues associated with RL training: (1) effectively applying RL is challenging, and (2) the generated sentences lack in diversity and naturalness due to deficiencies in the generated word distribution, smaller vocabulary size, and repetitiveness of frequent words and phrases. To alleviate these issues, we propose a novel strategy for training REG models, using minimum risk training (MRT) with maximum likelihood estimation (MLE) and we show that our approach outperforms RL w.r.t naturalness and diversity of the output. Specifically, our approach achieves an increase in CIDEr scores between 23%-57% in two datasets. We further demonstrate the robustness of the proposed method through a detailed comparison with different REG models.

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Assessing Discourse Relations in Language Generation from GPT-2
Wei-Jen Ko | Junyi Jessy Li

Recent advances in NLP have been attributed to the emergence of large-scale pre-trained language models. GPT-2, in particular, is suited for generation tasks given its left-to-right language modeling objective, yet the linguistic quality of its generated text has largely remain unexplored. Our work takes a step in understanding GPT-2’s outputs in terms of discourse coherence. We perform a comprehensive study on the validity of explicit discourse relations in GPT-2’s outputs under both organic generation and fine-tuned scenarios. Results show GPT-2 does not always generate text containing valid discourse relations; nevertheless, its text is more aligned with human expectation in the fine-tuned scenario. We propose a decoupled strategy to mitigate these problems and highlight the importance of explicitly modeling discourse information.

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Data-to-Text Generation with Iterative Text Editing
Zdeněk Kasner | Ondřej Dušek

We present a novel approach to data-to-text generation based on iterative text editing. Our approach maximizes the completeness and semantic accuracy of the output text while leveraging the abilities of recent pre-trained models for text editing (LaserTagger) and language modeling (GPT-2) to improve the text fluency. To this end, we first transform data items to text using trivial templates, and then we iteratively improve the resulting text by a neural model trained for the sentence fusion task. The output of the model is filtered by a simple heuristic and reranked with an off-the-shelf pre-trained language model. We evaluate our approach on two major data-to-text datasets (WebNLG, Cleaned E2E) and analyze its caveats and benefits. Furthermore, we show that our formulation of data-to-text generation opens up the possibility for zero-shot domain adaptation using a general-domain dataset for sentence fusion.

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The CACAPO Dataset: A Multilingual, Multi-Domain Dataset for Neural Pipeline and End-to-End Data-to-Text Generation
Chris van der Lee | Chris Emmery | Sander Wubben | Emiel Krahmer

This paper describes the CACAPO dataset, built for training both neural pipeline and end-to-end data-to-text language generation systems. The dataset is multilingual (Dutch and English), and contains almost 10,000 sentences from human-written news texts in the sports, weather, stocks, and incidents domain, together with aligned attribute-value paired data. The dataset is unique in that the linguistic variation and indirect ways of expressing data in these texts reflect the challenges of real world NLG tasks.

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Towards Generating Query to Perform Query Focused Abstractive Summarization using Pre-trained Model
Deen Mohammad Abdullah | Yllias Chali

Query Focused Abstractive Summarization (QFAS) represents an abstractive summary from the source document based on a given query. To measure the performance of abstractive summarization tasks, different datasets have been broadly used. However, for QFAS tasks, only a limited number of datasets have been used, which are comparatively small and provide single sentence summaries. This paper presents a query generation approach, where we considered most similar words between documents and summaries for generating queries. By implementing our query generation approach, we prepared two relatively large datasets, namely CNN/DailyMail and Newsroom which contain multiple sentence summaries and can be used for future QFAS tasks. We also implemented a pre-processing approach to perform QFAS tasks using a pretrained language model, BERTSUM. In our pre-processing approach, we sorted the sentences of the documents from the most query-related sentences to the less query-related sentences. Then, we fine-tuned the BERTSUM model for generating the abstractive summaries. We also experimented on one of the largely used datasets, Debatepedia, to compare our QFAS approach with other models. The experimental results show that our approach outperforms the state-of-the-art models on three ROUGE scores.

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SimpleNLG-TI: Adapting SimpleNLG to Tibetan
Zewang Kuanzhuo | Li Lin | Zhao Weina

Surface realisation is the last but not the least phase of Natural Language Generation, which aims to produce high-quality natural language text based on meaning representations. In this article, we present our work on SimpleNLG-TI, a Tibetan surface realiser, which follows the design paradigm of SimpleNLG-EN. SimpleNLG-TI is built up by our investigation of the core features of Tibetan morphology and syntax. Through this work, we provide a robust and flexible surface realiser for Tibetan generation systems.

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Machine Translation Pre-training for Data-to-Text Generation - A Case Study in Czech
Mihir Kale | Scott Roy

While there is a large body of research studying deep learning methods for text generation from structured data, almost all of it focuses purely on English. In this paper, we study the effectiveness of machine translation based pre-training for data-to-text generation in non-English languages. Since the structured data is generally expressed in English, text generation into other languages involves elements of translation, transliteration and copying - elements already encoded in neural machine translation systems. Moreover, since data-to-text corpora are typically small, this task can benefit greatly from pre-training. We conduct experiments on Czech, a morphologically complex language. Results show that machine translation pre-training lets us train endto-end models that significantly improve upon unsupervised pre-training and linguistically informed pipelined neural systems, as judged by automatic metrics and human evaluation. We also show that this approach enjoys several desirable properties, including improved performance in low data scenarios and applicability to low resource languages.

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Text-to-Text Pre-Training for Data-to-Text Tasks
Mihir Kale | Abhinav Rastogi

We study the pre-train + fine-tune strategy for data-to-text tasks. Our experiments indicate that text-to-text pre-training in the form of T5 (Raffel et al., 2019), enables simple, end-to-end transformer based models to outperform pipelined neural architectures tailored for data-to-text generation, as well as alternatives such as BERT and GPT-2. Importantly, T5 pre-training leads to better generalization, as evidenced by large improvements on out-ofdomain test sets. We hope our work serves as a useful baseline for future research, as transfer learning becomes ever more prevalent for data-to-text tasks.

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DaMata: A Robot-Journalist Covering the Brazilian Amazon Deforestation
André Luiz Rosa Teixeira | João Campos | Rossana Cunha | Thiago Castro Ferreira | Adriana Pagano | Fabio Cozman

This demo paper introduces DaMata, a robot-journalist covering deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. The robot-journalist is based on a pipeline architecture of Natural Language Generation, which yields multilingual daily and monthly reports based on the public data provided by DETER, a real-time deforestation satellite monitor developed and maintained by the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE). DaMata automatically generates reports in Brazilian Portuguese and English and publishes them on the Twitter platform. Corpus and code are publicly available.

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Generating Quantified Referring Expressions through Attention-Driven Incremental Perception
Gordon Briggs

We model the production of quantified referring expressions (QREs) that identity collections of visual items. A previous approach, called Perceptual Cost Pruning, modeled human QRE production using a preference-based referring expression generation algorithm, first removing facts from the input knowledge base based on a model of perceptual cost. In this paper, we present an alternative model that incrementally constructs a symbolic knowledge base through simulating human visual attention/perception from raw images. We demonstrate that this model produces the same output as Perceptual Cost Pruning. We argue that this is a more extensible approach and a step toward developing a wider range of process-level models of human visual description.

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Rich Syntactic and Semantic Information Helps Unsupervised Text Style Transfer
Hongyu Gong | Linfeng Song | Suma Bhat

Text style transfer aims to change an input sentence to an output sentence by changing its text style while preserving the content. Previous efforts on unsupervised text style transfer only use the surface features of words and sentences. As a result, the transferred sentences may either have inaccurate or missing information compared to the inputs. We address this issue by explicitly enriching the inputs via syntactic and semantic structures, from which richer features are then extracted to better capture the original information. Experiments on two text-style-transfer tasks show that our approach improves the content preservation of a strong unsupervised baseline model thereby demonstrating improved transfer performance.

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PARENTing via Model-Agnostic Reinforcement Learning to Correct Pathological Behaviors in Data-to-Text Generation
Clement Rebuffel | Laure Soulier | Geoffrey Scoutheeten | Patrick Gallinari

In language generation models conditioned by structured data, the classical training via maximum likelihood almost always leads models to pick up on dataset divergence (i.e., hallucinations or omissions), and to incorporate them erroneously in their own generations at inference. In this work, we build on top of previous Reinforcement Learning based approaches and show that a model-agnostic framework relying on the recently introduced PARENT metric is efficient at reducing both hallucinations and omissions. Evaluations on the widely used WikiBIO and WebNLG benchmarks demonstrate the effectiveness of this framework compared to state-of-the-art models.

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Evaluating Semantic Accuracy of Data-to-Text Generation with Natural Language Inference
Ondřej Dušek | Zdeněk Kasner

A major challenge in evaluating data-to-text (D2T) generation is measuring the semantic accuracy of the generated text, i.e. checking if the output text contains all and only facts supported by the input data. We propose a new metric for evaluating the semantic accuracy of D2T generation based on a neural model pretrained for natural language inference (NLI). We use the NLI model to check textual entailment between the input data and the output text in both directions, allowing us to reveal omissions or hallucinations. Input data are converted to text for NLI using trivial templates. Our experiments on two recent D2T datasets show that our metric can achieve high accuracy in identifying erroneous system outputs.

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Chart-to-Text: Generating Natural Language Descriptions for Charts by Adapting the Transformer Model
Jason Obeid | Enamul Hoque

Information visualizations such as bar charts and line charts are very popular for exploring data and communicating insights. Interpreting and making sense of such visualizations can be challenging for some people, such as those who are visually impaired or have low visualization literacy. In this work, we introduce a new dataset and present a neural model for automatically generating natural language summaries for charts. The generated summaries provide an interpretation of the chart and convey the key insights found within that chart. Our neural model is developed by extending the state-of-the-art model for the data-to-text generation task, which utilizes a transformer-based encoder-decoder architecture. We found that our approach outperforms the base model on a content selection metric by a wide margin (55.42% vs. 8.49%) and generates more informative, concise, and coherent summaries.

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Market Comment Generation from Data with Noisy Alignments
Yumi Hamazono | Yui Uehara | Hiroshi Noji | Yusuke Miyao | Hiroya Takamura | Ichiro Kobayashi

End-to-end models on data-to-text learn the mapping of data and text from the aligned pairs in the dataset. However, these alignments are not always obtained reliably, especially for the time-series data, for which real time comments are given to some situation and there might be a delay in the comment delivery time compared to the actual event time. To handle this issue of possible noisy alignments in the dataset, we propose a neural network model with multi-timestep data and a copy mechanism, which allows the models to learn the correspondences between data and text from the dataset with noisier alignments. We focus on generating market comments in Japanese that are delivered each time an event occurs in the market. The core idea of our approach is to utilize multi-timestep data, which is not only the latest market price data when the comment is delivered, but also the data obtained at several timesteps earlier. On top of this, we employ a copy mechanism that is suitable for referring to the content of data records in the market price data. We confirm the superiority of our proposal by two evaluation metrics and show the accuracy improvement of the sentence generation using the time series data by our proposed method.

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A Gold Standard Methodology for Evaluating Accuracy in Data-To-Text Systems
Craig Thomson | Ehud Reiter

Most Natural Language Generation systems need to produce accurate texts. We propose a methodology for high-quality human evaluation of the accuracy of generated texts, which is intended to serve as a gold-standard for accuracy evaluations of data-to-text systems. We use our methodology to evaluate the accuracy of computer generated basketball summaries. We then show how our gold standard evaluation can be used to validate automated metrics.

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Twenty Years of Confusion in Human Evaluation: NLG Needs Evaluation Sheets and Standardised Definitions
David M. Howcroft | Anya Belz | Miruna-Adriana Clinciu | Dimitra Gkatzia | Sadid A. Hasan | Saad Mahamood | Simon Mille | Emiel van Miltenburg | Sashank Santhanam | Verena Rieser

Human assessment remains the most trusted form of evaluation in NLG, but highly diverse approaches and a proliferation of different quality criteria used by researchers make it difficult to compare results and draw conclusions across papers, with adverse implications for meta-evaluation and reproducibility. In this paper, we present (i) our dataset of 165 NLG papers with human evaluations, (ii) the annotation scheme we developed to label the papers for different aspects of evaluations, (iii) quantitative analyses of the annotations, and (iv) a set of recommendations for improving standards in evaluation reporting. We use the annotations as a basis for examining information included in evaluation reports, and levels of consistency in approaches, experimental design and terminology, focusing in particular on the 200+ different terms that have been used for evaluated aspects of quality. We conclude that due to a pervasive lack of clarity in reports and extreme diversity in approaches, human evaluation in NLG presents as extremely confused in 2020, and that the field is in urgent need of standard methods and terminology.

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Disentangling the Properties of Human Evaluation Methods: A Classification System to Support Comparability, Meta-Evaluation and Reproducibility Testing
Anya Belz | Simon Mille | David M. Howcroft

Current standards for designing and reporting human evaluations in NLP mean it is generally unclear which evaluations are comparable and can be expected to yield similar results when applied to the same system outputs. This has serious implications for reproducibility testing and meta-evaluation, in particular given that human evaluation is considered the gold standard against which the trustworthiness of automatic metrics is gauged. %and merging others, as well as deciding which evaluations should be able to reproduce each other’s results. Using examples from NLG, we propose a classification system for evaluations based on disentangling (i) what is being evaluated (which aspect of quality), and (ii) how it is evaluated in specific (a) evaluation modes and (b) experimental designs. We show that this approach provides a basis for determining comparability, hence for comparison of evaluations across papers, meta-evaluation experiments, reproducibility testing.

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Stable Style Transformer: Delete and Generate Approach with Encoder-Decoder for Text Style Transfer
Joosung Lee

Text style transfer is the task that generates a sentence by preserving the content of the input sentence and transferring the style. Most existing studies are progressing on non-parallel datasets because parallel datasets are limited and hard to construct. In this work, we introduce a method that follows two stages in non-parallel datasets. The first stage is to delete attribute markers of a sentence directly through a classifier. The second stage is to generate a transferred sentence by combining the content tokens and the target style. We experiment on two benchmark datasets and evaluate context, style, fluency, and semantic. It is difficult to select the best system using only these automatic metrics, but it is possible to select stable systems. We consider only robust systems in all automatic evaluation metrics to be the minimum conditions that can be used in real applications. Many previous systems are difficult to use in certain situations because performance is significantly lower in several evaluation metrics. However, our system is stable in all automatic evaluation metrics and has results comparable to other models. Also, we compare the performance results of our system and the unstable system through human evaluation.

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Listener’s Social Identity Matters in Personalised Response Generation
Guanyi Chen | Yinhe Zheng | Yupei Du

Personalised response generation enables generating human-like responses by means of assigning the generator a social identity. However, pragmatics theory suggests that human beings adjust the way of speaking based on not only who they are but also whom they are talking to. In other words, when modelling personalised dialogues, it might be favourable if we also take the listener’s social identity into consideration. To validate this idea, we use gender as a typical example of a social variable to investigate how the listener’s identity influences the language used in Chinese dialogues on social media. Also, we build personalised generators. The experiment results demonstrate that the listener’s identity indeed matters in the language use of responses and that the response generator can capture such differences in language use. More interestingly, by additionally modelling the listener’s identity, the personalised response generator performs better in its own identity.

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Understanding and Explicitly Measuring Linguistic and Stylistic Properties of Deception via Generation and Translation
Emily Saldanha | Aparna Garimella | Svitlana Volkova

Massive digital disinformation is one of the main risks of modern society. Hundreds of models and linguistic analyses have been done to compare and contrast misleading and credible content online. However, most models do not remove the confounding factor of a topic or narrative when training, so the resulting models learn a clear topical separation for misleading versus credible content. We study the feasibility of using two strategies to disentangle the topic bias from the models to understand and explicitly measure linguistic and stylistic properties of content from misleading versus credible content. First, we develop conditional generative models to create news content that is characteristic of different credibility levels. We perform multi-dimensional evaluation of model performance on mimicking both the style and linguistic differences that distinguish news of different credibility using machine translation metrics and classification models. We show that even though generative models are able to imitate both the style and language of the original content, additional conditioning on both the news category and the topic leads to reduced performance. In a second approach, we perform deception style “transfer” by translating deceptive content into the style of credible content and vice versa. Extending earlier studies, we demonstrate that, when conditioned on a topic, deceptive content is shorter, less readable, more biased, and more subjective than credible content, and transferring the style from deceptive to credible content is more challenging than the opposite direction.

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Shared Task on Evaluating Accuracy
Ehud Reiter | Craig Thomson

We propose a shared task on methodologies and algorithms for evaluating the accuracy of generated texts, specifically summaries of basketball games produced from basketball box score and other game data. We welcome submissions based on protocols for human evaluation, automatic metrics, as well as combinations of human evaluations and metrics.

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ReproGen: Proposal for a Shared Task on Reproducibility of Human Evaluations in NLG
Anya Belz | Shubham Agarwal | Anastasia Shimorina | Ehud Reiter

Across NLP, a growing body of work is looking at the issue of reproducibility. However, replicability of human evaluation experiments and reproducibility of their results is currently under-addressed, and this is of particular concern for NLG where human evaluations are the norm. This paper outlines our ideas for a shared task on reproducibility of human evaluations in NLG which aims (i) to shed light on the extent to which past NLG evaluations are replicable and reproducible, and (ii) to draw conclusions regarding how evaluations can be designed and reported to increase replicability and reproducibility. If the task is run over several years, we hope to be able to document an overall increase in levels of replicability and reproducibility over time.

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Task Proposal: Abstractive Snippet Generation for Web Pages
Shahbaz Syed | Wei-Fan Chen | Matthias Hagen | Benno Stein | Henning Wachsmuth | Martin Potthast

We propose a shared task on abstractive snippet generation for web pages, a novel task of generating query-biased abstractive summaries for documents that are to be shown on a search results page. Conventional snippets are extractive in nature, which recently gave rise to copyright claims from news publishers as well as a new copyright legislation being passed in the European Union, limiting the fair use of web page contents for snippets. At the same time, abstractive summarization has matured considerably in recent years, potentially allowing for more personalization of snippets in the future. Taken together, these facts render further research into generating abstractive snippets both timely and promising.

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BERT-Based Simplification of Japanese Sentence-Ending Predicates in Descriptive Text
Taichi Kato | Rei Miyata | Satoshi Sato

Japanese sentence-ending predicates intricately combine content words and functional elements, such as aspect, modality, and honorifics; this can often hinder the understanding of language learners and children. Conventional lexical simplification methods, which replace difficult target words with simpler synonyms acquired from lexical resources in a word-by-word manner, are not always suitable for the simplification of such Japanese predicates. Given this situation, we propose a BERT-based simplification method, the core feature of which is the high ability to substitute the whole predicates with simple ones while maintaining their core meanings in the context by utilizing pre-trained masked language models. Experimental results showed that our proposed methods consistently outperformed the conventional thesaurus-based method by a wide margin. Furthermore, we investigated in detail the effectiveness of the average token embedding and dropout, and the remaining errors of our BERT-based methods.

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Amplifying the Range of News Stories with Creativity: Methods and their Evaluation, in Portuguese
Rui Mendes | Hugo Gonçalo Oliveira

Headlines are key for attracting people to a story, but writing appealing headlines requires time and talent. This work aims to automate the production of creative short texts (e.g., news headlines) for an input context (e.g., existing headlines), thus amplifying its range. Well-known expressions (e.g., proverbs, movie titles), which typically include word-play and resort to figurative language, are used as a starting point. Given an input text, they can be recommended by exploiting Semantic Textual Similarity (STS) techniques, or adapted towards higher relatedness. For the latter, three methods that exploit static word embeddings are proposed. Experimentation in Portuguese lead to some conclusions, based on human opinions: STS methods that look exclusively at the surface text, recommend more related expressions; resulting expressions are somewhat related to the input, but adaptation leads to higher relatedness and novelty; humour can be an indirect consequence, but most outputs are not funny.

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Lessons from Computational Modelling of Reference Production in Mandarin and English
Guanyi Chen | Kees van Deemter

Referring expression generation (REG) algorithms offer computational models of the production of referring expressions. In earlier work, a corpus of referring expressions (REs) in Mandarin was introduced. In the present paper, we annotate this corpus, evaluate classic REG algorithms on it, and compare the results with earlier results on the evaluation of REG for English referring expressions. Next, we offer an in-depth analysis of the corpus, focusing on issues that arise from the grammar of Mandarin. We discuss shortcomings of previous REG evaluations that came to light during our investigation and we highlight some surprising results. Perhaps most strikingly, we found a much higher proportion of under-specified expressions than previous studies had suggested, not just in Mandarin but in English as well.

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Generating Varied Training Corpora in Runyankore Using a Combined Semantic and Syntactic, Pattern-Grammar-based Approach
Joan Byamugisha

Machine learning algorithms have been applied to achieve high levels of accuracy in tasks associated with the processing of natural language. However, these algorithms require large amounts of training data in order to perform efficiently. Since most Bantu languages lack the required training corpora because they are computationally under-resourced, we investigated how to generate a large varied training corpus in Runyankore, a Bantu language indigenous to Uganda. We found the use of a combined semantic and syntactic, pattern and grammar-based approach to be applicable to this purpose, and used it to generate one million sentences, both labelled and unlabelled, which can be applied as training data for machine learning algorithms. The generated text was evaluated in two ways: (1) assessing the semantics encoded in word embeddings obtained from the generated text, which showed correct word similarity; and (2) applying the labelled data to tasks such as sentiment analysis, which achieved satisfactory levels of accuracy.

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Schema-Guided Natural Language Generation
Yuheng Du | Shereen Oraby | Vittorio Perera | Minmin Shen | Anjali Narayan-Chen | Tagyoung Chung | Anushree Venkatesh | Dilek Hakkani-Tur

Neural network based approaches to data-to-text natural language generation (NLG) have gained popularity in recent years, with the goal of generating a natural language prompt that accurately realizes an input meaning representation. To facilitate the training of neural network models, researchers created large datasets of paired utterances and their meaning representations. However, the creation of such datasets is an arduous task and they mostly consist of simple meaning representations composed of slot and value tokens to be realized. These representations do not include any contextual information that an NLG system can use when trying to generalize, such as domain information and descriptions of slots and values. In this paper, we present the novel task of Schema-Guided Natural Language Generation (SG-NLG). Here, the goal is still to generate a natural language prompt, but in SG-NLG, the input MRs are paired with rich schemata providing contextual information. To generate a dataset for SG-NLG we re-purpose an existing dataset for another task: dialog state tracking, which includes a large and rich schema spanning multiple different attributes, including information about the domain, user intent, and slot descriptions. We train different state-of-the-art models for neural natural language generation on this dataset and show that in many cases, including rich schema information allows our models to produce higher quality outputs both in terms of semantics and diversity. We also conduct experiments comparing model performance on seen versus unseen domains, and present a human evaluation demonstrating high ratings for overall output quality.

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OMEGA : A probabilistic approach to referring expression generation in a virtual environment
Maurice Langner

In recent years, referring expression genera- tion algorithms were inspired by game theory and probability theory. In this paper, an al- gorithm is designed for the generation of re- ferring expressions (REG) that base on both models by integrating maximization of utilities into the content determination process. It im- plements cognitive models for assessing visual salience of objects and additional features. In order to evaluate the algorithm properly and validate the applicability of existing models and evaluative information criteria, both, pro- duction and comprehension studies, are con- ducted using a complex domain of objects, pro- viding new directions of approaching the eval- uation of REG algorithms.

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Neural NLG for Methodius: From RST Meaning Representations to Texts
Symon Stevens-Guille | Aleksandre Maskharashvili | Amy Isard | Xintong Li | Michael White

While classic NLG systems typically made use of hierarchically structured content plans that included discourse relations as central components, more recent neural approaches have mostly mapped simple, flat inputs to texts without representing discourse relations explicitly. In this paper, we investigate whether it is beneficial to include discourse relations in the input to neural data-to-text generators for texts where discourse relations play an important role. To do so, we reimplement the sentence planning and realization components of a classic NLG system, Methodius, using LSTM sequence-to-sequence (seq2seq) models. We find that although seq2seq models can learn to generate fluent and grammatical texts remarkably well with sufficiently representative Methodius training data, they cannot learn to correctly express Methodius’s similarity and contrast comparisons unless the corresponding RST relations are included in the inputs. Additionally, we experiment with using self-training and reverse model reranking to better handle train/test data mismatches, and find that while these methods help reduce content errors, it remains essential to include discourse relations in the input to obtain optimal performance.

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From “Before” to “After”: Generating Natural Language Instructions from Image Pairs in a Simple Visual Domain
Robin Rojowiec | Jana Götze | Philipp Sadler | Henrik Voigt | Sina Zarrieß | David Schlangen

While certain types of instructions can be com-pactly expressed via images, there are situations where one might want to verbalise them, for example when directing someone. We investigate the task of Instruction Generation from Before/After Image Pairs which is to derive from images an instruction for effecting the implied change. For this, we make use of prior work on instruction following in a visual environment. We take an existing dataset, the BLOCKS data collected by Bisk et al. (2016) and investigate whether it is suitable for training an instruction generator as well. We find that it is, and investigate several simple baselines, taking these from the related task of image captioning. Through a series of experiments that simplify the task (by making image processing easier or completely side-stepping it; and by creating template-based targeted instructions), we investigate areas for improvement. We find that captioning models get some way towards solving the task, but have some difficulty with it, and future improvements must lie in the way the change is detected in the instruction.

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What BERT Sees: Cross-Modal Transfer for Visual Question Generation
Thomas Scialom | Patrick Bordes | Paul-Alexis Dray | Jacopo Staiano | Patrick Gallinari

Pre-trained language models have recently contributed to significant advances in NLP tasks. Recently, multi-modal versions of BERT have been developed, using heavy pre-training relying on vast corpora of aligned textual and image data, primarily applied to classification tasks such as VQA. In this paper, we are interested in evaluating the visual capabilities of BERT out-of-the-box, by avoiding pre-training made on supplementary data. We choose to study Visual Question Generation, a task of great interest for grounded dialog, that enables to study the impact of each modality (as input can be visual and/or textual). Moreover, the generation aspect of the task requires an adaptation since BERT is primarily designed as an encoder. We introduce BERT-gen, a BERT-based architecture for text generation, able to leverage on either mono- or multi- modal representations. The results reported under different configurations indicate an innate capacity for BERT-gen to adapt to multi-modal data and text generation, even with few data available, avoiding expensive pre-training. The proposed model obtains substantial improvements over the state-of-the-art on two established VQG datasets.

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When an Image Tells a Story: The Role of Visual and Semantic Information for Generating Paragraph Descriptions
Nikolai Ilinykh | Simon Dobnik

Generating multi-sentence image descriptions is a challenging task, which requires a good model to produce coherent and accurate paragraphs, describing salient objects in the image. We argue that multiple sources of information are beneficial when describing visual scenes with long sequences. These include (i) perceptual information and (ii) semantic (language) information about how to describe what is in the image. We also compare the effects of using two different pooling mechanisms on either a single modality or their combination. We demonstrate that the model which utilises both visual and language inputs can be used to generate accurate and diverse paragraphs when combined with a particular pooling mechanism. The results of our automatic and human evaluation show that learning to embed semantic information along with visual stimuli into the paragraph generation model is not trivial, raising a variety of proposals for future experiments.

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Transformer based Natural Language Generation for Question-Answering
Imen Akermi | Johannes Heinecke | Frédéric Herledan

This paper explores Natural Language Generation within the context of Question-Answering task. The several works addressing this task only focused on generating a short answer or a long text span that contains the answer, while reasoning over a Web page or processing structured data. Such answers’ length are usually not appropriate as the answer tend to be perceived as too brief or too long to be read out loud by an intelligent assistant. In this work, we aim at generating a concise answer for a given question using an unsupervised approach that does not require annotated data. Tested over English and French datasets, the proposed approach shows very promising results.

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Rapformer: Conditional Rap Lyrics Generation with Denoising Autoencoders
Nikola I. Nikolov | Eric Malmi | Curtis Northcutt | Loreto Parisi

The ability to combine symbols to generate language is a defining characteristic of human intelligence, particularly in the context of artistic story-telling through lyrics. We develop a method for synthesizing a rap verse based on the content of any text (e.g., a news article), or for augmenting pre-existing rap lyrics. Our method, called Rapformer, is based on training a Transformer-based denoising autoencoder to reconstruct rap lyrics from content words extracted from the lyrics, trying to preserve the essential meaning, while matching the target style. Rapformer features a novel BERT-based paraphrasing scheme for rhyme enhancement which increases the average rhyme density of output lyrics by 10%. Experimental results on three diverse input domains show that Rapformer is capable of generating technically fluent verses that offer a good trade-off between content preservation and style transfer. Furthermore, a Turing-test-like experiment reveals that Rapformer fools human lyrics experts 25% of the time.

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Reducing Non-Normative Text Generation from Language Models
Xiangyu Peng | Siyan Li | Spencer Frazier | Mark Riedl

Large-scale, transformer-based language models such as GPT-2 are pretrained on diverse corpora scraped from the internet. Consequently, they are prone to generating non-normative text (i.e. in violation of social norms). We introduce a technique for fine-tuning GPT-2, using a policy gradient reinforcement learning technique and a normative text classifier to produce reward and punishment values. We evaluate our technique on five data sets using automated and human participant experiments. The normative text classifier is 81-90% accurate when compared to gold-standard human judgements of normative and non-normative generated text. Our normative fine-tuning technique is able to reduce non-normative text by 27-61%, depending on the data set.

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ReviewRobot: Explainable Paper Review Generation based on Knowledge Synthesis
Qingyun Wang | Qi Zeng | Lifu Huang | Kevin Knight | Heng Ji | Nazneen Fatema Rajani

To assist human review process, we build a novel ReviewRobot to automatically assign a review score and write comments for multiple categories such as novelty and meaningful comparison. A good review needs to be knowledgeable, namely that the comments should be constructive and informative to help improve the paper; and explainable by providing detailed evidence. ReviewRobot achieves these goals via three steps: (1) We perform domain-specific Information Extraction to construct a knowledge graph (KG) from the target paper under review, a related work KG from the papers cited by the target paper, and a background KG from a large collection of previous papers in the domain. (2) By comparing these three KGs, we predict a review score and detailed structured knowledge as evidence for each review category. (3) We carefully select and generalize human review sentences into templates, and apply these templates to transform the review scores and evidence into natural language comments. Experimental results show that our review score predictor reaches 71.4%-100% accuracy. Human assessment by domain experts shows that 41.7%-70.5% of the comments generated by ReviewRobot are valid and constructive, and better than human-written ones for 20% of the time. Thus, ReviewRobot can serve as an assistant for paper reviewers, program chairs and authors.

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Gradations of Error Severity in Automatic Image Descriptions
Emiel van Miltenburg | Wei-Ting Lu | Emiel Krahmer | Albert Gatt | Guanyi Chen | Lin Li | Kees van Deemter

Earlier research has shown that evaluation metrics based on textual similarity (e.g., BLEU, CIDEr, Meteor) do not correlate well with human evaluation scores for automatically generated text. We carried out an experiment with Chinese speakers, where we systematically manipulated image descriptions to contain different kinds of errors. Because our manipulated descriptions form minimal pairs with the reference descriptions, we are able to assess the impact of different kinds of errors on the perceived quality of the descriptions. Our results show that different kinds of errors elicit significantly different evaluation scores, even though all erroneous descriptions differ in only one character from the reference descriptions. Evaluation metrics based solely on textual similarity are unable to capture these differences, which (at least partially) explains their poor correlation with human judgments. Our work provides the foundations for future work, where we aim to understand why different errors are seen as more or less severe.

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Policy-Driven Neural Response Generation for Knowledge-Grounded Dialog Systems
Behnam Hedayatnia | Karthik Gopalakrishnan | Seokhwan Kim | Yang Liu | Mihail Eric | Dilek Hakkani-Tur

Open-domain dialog systems aim to generate relevant, informative and engaging responses. In this paper, we propose using a dialog policy to plan the content and style of target, open domain responses in the form of an action plan, which includes knowledge sentences related to the dialog context, targeted dialog acts, topic information, etc. For training, the attributes within the action plan are obtained by automatically annotating the publicly released Topical-Chat dataset. We condition neural response generators on the action plan which is then realized as target utterances at the turn and sentence levels. We also investigate different dialog policy models to predict an action plan given the dialog context. Through automated and human evaluation, we measure the appropriateness of the generated responses and check if the generation models indeed learn to realize the given action plans. We demonstrate that a basic dialog policy that operates at the sentence level generates better responses in comparison to turn level generation as well as baseline models with no action plan. Additionally the basic dialog policy has the added benefit of controllability.