Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Tutorial Abstracts
Meaning is a fundamental concept in Natural Language Processing (NLP), given its aim to build systems that mean what they say to you, and understand what you say to them. In order for NLP to scale beyond partial, task-specific solutions, it must be informed by what is known about how humans use language to express and understand communicative intents. The purpose of this tutorial is to present a selection of useful information about semantics and pragmatics, as understood in linguistics, in a way that’s accessible to and useful for NLP practitioners with minimal (or even no) prior training in linguistics. The tutorial content is based on a manuscript in progress I am co-authoring with Prof. Alex Lascarides of the University of Edinburgh.
This tutorial surveys neural approaches to conversational AI that were developed in the last few years. We group conversational systems into three categories: (1) question answering agents, (2) task-oriented dialogue agents, and (3) social bots. For each category, we present a review of state-of-the-art neural approaches, draw the connection between neural approaches and traditional symbolic approaches, and discuss the progress we have made and challenges we are facing, using specific systems and models as case studies.
NLP has seen a surge in neural network models in recent years. These models provide state-of-the-art performance on many supervised tasks. Unsupervised and semi-supervised learning has only been addressed scarcely, however. Deep generative models (DGMs) make it possible to integrate neural networks with probabilistic graphical models. Using DGMs one can easily design latent variable models that account for missing observations and thereby enable unsupervised and semi-supervised learning with neural networks. The method of choice for training these models is variational inference. This tutorial offers a general introduction to variational inference followed by a thorough and example-driven discussion of how to use variational methods for training DGMs. It provides both the mathematical background necessary for deriving the learning algorithms as well as practical implementation guidelines. Importantly, the tutorial will cover models with continuous and discrete variables. We provide practical coding exercises implemented in IPython notebooks as well as short notes on the more intricate mathematical details that the audience can use as a reference after the tutorial. We expect that with these additional materials the tutorial will have a long-lasting impact on the community.
A long-term goal of AI research is to build intelligent agents that can see the rich visual environment around us, communicate this understanding in natural language to humans and other agents, and act in a physical or embodied environment. To this end, recent advances at the intersection of language and vision have made incredible progress – from being able to generate natural language descriptions of images/videos, to answering questions about them, to even holding free-form conversations about visual content! However, while these agents can passively describe images or answer (a sequence of) questions about them, they cannot act in the world (what if I cannot answer a question from my current view, or I am asked to move or manipulate something?). Thus, the challenge now is to extend this progress in language and vision to embodied agents that take actions and actively interact with their visual environments. To reduce the entry barrier for new researchers, this tutorial will provide an overview of the growing number of multimodal tasks and datasets that combine textual and visual understanding. We will comprehensively review existing state-of-the-art approaches to selected tasks such as image captioning, visual question answering (VQA) and visual dialog, presenting the key architectural building blocks (such as co-attention) and novel algorithms (such as cooperative/adversarial games) used to train models for these tasks. We will then discuss some of the current and upcoming challenges of combining language, vision and actions, and introduce some recently-released interactive 3D simulation environments designed for this purpose.
Idioms and metaphors are characteristic to all areas of human activity and to all types of discourse. Their processing is a rapidly growing area in NLP, since they have become a big challenge for NLP systems. Their omnipresence in language has been established in a number of corpus studies and the role they play in human reasoning has also been confirmed in psychological experiments. This makes idioms and metaphors an important research area for computational and cognitive linguistics, and their automatic identification and interpretation indispensable for any semantics-oriented NLP application. This tutorial aims to provide attendees with a clear notion of the linguistic characteristics of idioms and metaphors, computational models of idioms and metaphors using state-of-the-art NLP techniques, their relevance for the intersection of deep learning and natural language processing, what methods and resources are available to support their use, and what more could be done in the future. Our target audience are researchers and practitioners in machine learning, parsing (syntactic and semantic) and language technology, not necessarily experts in idioms and metaphors, who are interested in tasks that involve or could benefit from considering idioms and metaphors as a pervasive phenomenon in human language and communication.
Semantic parsing, the study of translating natural language utterances into machine-executable programs, is a well-established research area and has applications in question answering, instruction following, voice assistants, and code generation. In the last two years, the models used for semantic parsing have changed dramatically with the introduction of neural encoder-decoder methods that allow us to rethink many of the previous assumptions underlying semantic parsing. We aim to inform those already interested in semantic parsing research of these new developments in the field, as well as introduce the topic as an exciting research area to those who are unfamiliar with it. Current approaches for neural semantic parsing share several similarities with neural machine translation, but the key difference between the two fields is that semantic parsing translates natural language into a formal language, while machine translation translates it into a different natural language. The formal language used in semantic parsing allows for constrained decoding, where the model is constrained to only produce outputs that are valid formal statements. We will describe the various approaches researchers have taken to do this. We will also discuss the choice of formal languages used by semantic parsers, and describe why much recent work has chosen to use standard programming languages instead of more linguistically-motivated representations. We will then describe a particularly challenging setting for semantic parsing, where there is additional context or interaction that the parser must take into account when translating natural language to formal language, and give an overview of recent work in this direction. Finally, we will introduce some tools available in AllenNLP for doing semantic parsing research.
Many Natural Language Processing (NLP) tasks (including generation, language grounding, reasoning, information extraction, coreference resolution, and dialog) can be formulated as deep reinforcement learning (DRL) problems. However, since language is often discrete and the space for all sentences is infinite, there are many challenges for formulating reinforcement learning problems of NLP tasks. In this tutorial, we provide a gentle introduction to the foundation of deep reinforcement learning, as well as some practical DRL solutions in NLP. We describe recent advances in designing deep reinforcement learning for NLP, with a special focus on generation, dialogue, and information extraction. Finally, we discuss why they succeed, and when they may fail, aiming at providing some practical advice about deep reinforcement learning for solving real-world NLP problems.
The primary goals of this tutorial are to review the framework of cross-lingual EL and motivate it as a broad paradigm for the Information Extraction task. We will start by discussing the traditional EL techniques and metrics and address questions relevant to the adequacy of these to across domains and languages. We will then present more recent approaches such as Neural EL, discuss the basic building blocks of a state-of-the-art neural EL system and analyze some of the current results on English EL. We will then proceed to Cross-lingual EL and discuss methods that work across languages. In particular, we will discuss and compare multiple methods that make use of multi-lingual word embeddings. We will also present EL methods that work for both name tagging and linking in very low resource languages. Finally, we will discuss the uses of cross-lingual EL in a variety of applications like search engines and commercial product selling applications. Also, contrary to the 2014 EL tutorial, we will also focus on Entity Discovery which is an essential component of EL.