We analyze a few of the commonly used statistics based and machine learning algorithms for natural language disambiguation tasks and observe that they can be re-cast as learning linear separators in the feature space. Each of the methods makes a priori assumptions, which it employs, given the data, when searching for its hypothesis. Nevertheless, as we show, it searches a space that is as rich as the space of all linear separators. We use this to build an argument for a data driven approach which merely searches for a good linear separator in the feature space, without further assumptions on the domain or a specific problem. We present such an approach - a sparse network of linear separators, utilizing the Winnow learning algorithm - and show how to use it in a variety of ambiguity resolution problems. The learning approach presented is attribute-efficient and, therefore, appropriate for domains having very large number of attributes. In particular, we present an extensive experimental comparison of our approach with other methods on several well studied lexical disambiguation tasks such as context-sensitive spelling correction, prepositional phrase attachment and part of speech tagging. In all cases we show that our approach either outperforms other methods tried for these tasks or performs comparably to the best. Click to Read Paper
Math word problems provide a natural abstraction to a range of natural language understanding problems that involve reasoning about quantities, such as interpreting election results, news about casualties, and the financial section of a newspaper. Units associated with the quantities often provide information that is essential to support this reasoning. This paper proposes a principled way to capture and reason about units and shows how it can benefit an arithmetic word problem solver. This paper presents the concept of Unit Dependency Graphs (UDGs), which provides a compact representation of the dependencies between units of numbers mentioned in a given problem. Inducing the UDG alleviates the brittleness of the unit extraction system and allows for a natural way to leverage domain knowledge about unit compatibility, for word problem solving. We introduce a decomposed model for inducing UDGs with minimal additional annotations, and use it to augment the expressions used in the arithmetic word problem solver of (Roy and Roth 2015) via a constrained inference framework. We show that introduction of UDGs reduces the error of the solver by over 10 %, surpassing all existing systems for solving arithmetic word problems. In addition, it also makes the system more robust to adaptation to new vocabulary and equation forms . Click to Read Paper
Determining whether a given claim is supported by evidence is a fundamental NLP problem that is best modeled as Textual Entailment. However, given a large collection of text, finding evidence that could support or refute a given claim is a challenge in itself, amplified by the fact that different evidence might be needed to support or refute a claim. Nevertheless, most prior work decouples evidence identification from determining the truth value of the claim given the evidence. We propose to consider these two aspects jointly. We develop TwoWingOS (two-wing optimization strategy), a system that, while identifying appropriate evidence for a claim, also determines whether or not the claim is supported by the evidence. Given the claim, TwoWingOS attempts to identify a subset of the evidence candidates; given the predicted evidence, it then attempts to determine the truth value of the corresponding claim. We treat this challenge as coupled optimization problems, training a joint model for it. TwoWingOS offers two advantages: (i) Unlike pipeline systems, it facilitates flexible-size evidence set, and (ii) Joint training improves both the claim entailment and the evidence identification. Experiments on a benchmark dataset show state-of-the-art performance. Code: https://github.com/yinwenpeng/FEVER Click to Read Paper
Existing methods of hypernymy detection mainly rely on statistics over a big corpus, either mining some co-occurring patterns like "animals such as cats" or embedding words of interest into context-aware vectors. These approaches are therefore limited by the availability of a large enough corpus that can cover all terms of interest and provide sufficient contextual information to represent their meaning. In this work, we propose a new paradigm, HyperDef, for hypernymy detection -- expressing word meaning by encoding word definitions, along with context driven representation. This has two main benefits: (i) Definitional sentences express (sense-specific) corpus-independent meanings of words, hence definition-driven approaches enable strong generalization -- once trained, the model is expected to work well in open-domain testbeds; (ii) Global context from a large corpus and definitions provide complementary information for words. Consequently, our model, HyperDef, once trained on task-agnostic data, gets state-of-the-art results in multiple benchmarks Click to Read Paper
Math word problems form a natural abstraction to a range of quantitative reasoning problems, such as understanding financial news, sports results, and casualties of war. Solving such problems requires the understanding of several mathematical concepts such as dimensional analysis, subset relationships, etc. In this paper, we develop declarative rules which govern the translation of natural language description of these concepts to math expressions. We then present a framework for incorporating such declarative knowledge into word problem solving. Our method learns to map arithmetic word problem text to math expressions, by learning to select the relevant declarative knowledge for each operation of the solution expression. This provides a way to handle multiple concepts in the same problem while, at the same time, support interpretability of the answer expression. Our method models the mapping to declarative knowledge as a latent variable, thus removing the need for expensive annotations. Experimental evaluation suggests that our domain knowledge based solver outperforms all other systems, and that it generalizes better in the realistic case where the training data it is exposed to is biased in a different way than the test data. Click to Read Paper
Machine learning has become pervasive in multiple domains, impacting a wide variety of applications, such as knowledge discovery and data mining, natural language processing, information retrieval, computer vision, social and health informatics, ubiquitous computing, etc. Two essential problems of machine learning are how to generate features and how to acquire labels for machines to learn. Particularly, labeling large amount of data for each domain-specific problem can be very time consuming and costly. It has become a key obstacle in making learning protocols realistic in applications. In this paper, we will discuss how to use the existing general-purpose world knowledge to enhance machine learning processes, by enriching the features or reducing the labeling work. We start from the comparison of world knowledge with domain-specific knowledge, and then introduce three key problems in using world knowledge in learning processes, i.e., explicit and implicit feature representation, inference for knowledge linking and disambiguation, and learning with direct or indirect supervision. Finally we discuss the future directions of this research topic. Click to Read Paper
This paper presents a novel approach to automatically solving arithmetic word problems. This is the first algorithmic approach that can handle arithmetic problems with multiple steps and operations, without depending on additional annotations or predefined templates. We develop a theory for expression trees that can be used to represent and evaluate the target arithmetic expressions; we use it to uniquely decompose the target arithmetic problem to multiple classification problems; we then compose an expression tree, combining these with world knowledge through a constrained inference framework. Our classifiers gain from the use of {\em quantity schemas} that supports better extraction of features. Experimental results show that our method outperforms existing systems, achieving state of the art performance on benchmark datasets of arithmetic word problems. Click to Read Paper
Natural language understanding often requires deep semantic knowledge. Expanding on previous proposals, we suggest that some important aspects of semantic knowledge can be modeled as a language model if done at an appropriate level of abstraction. We develop two distinct models that capture semantic frame chains and discourse information while abstracting over the specific mentions of predicates and entities. For each model, we investigate four implementations: a "standard" N-gram language model and three discriminatively trained "neural" language models that generate embeddings for semantic frames. The quality of the semantic language models (SemLM) is evaluated both intrinsically, using perplexity and a narrative cloze test and extrinsically - we show that our SemLM helps improve performance on semantic natural language processing tasks such as co-reference resolution and discourse parsing. Click to Read Paper
We describe an inventory of semantic relations that are expressed by prepositions. We define these relations by building on the word sense disambiguation task for prepositions and propose a mapping from preposition senses to the relation labels by collapsing semantically related senses across prepositions. Click to Read Paper
Structured prediction is the cornerstone of several machine learning applications. Unfortunately, in structured prediction settings with expressive inter-variable interactions, exact inference-based learning algorithms, e.g. Structural SVM, are often intractable. We present a new way, Decomposed Learning (DecL), which performs efficient learning by restricting the inference step to a limited part of the structured spaces. We provide characterizations based on the structure, target parameters, and gold labels, under which DecL is equivalent to exact learning. We then show that in real world settings, where our theoretical assumptions may not completely hold, DecL-based algorithms are significantly more efficient and as accurate as exact learning. Click to Read Paper
We study the problem of combining the outcomes of several different classifiers in a way that provides a coherent inference that satisfies some constraints. In particular, we develop two general approaches for an important subproblem-identifying phrase structure. The first is a Markovian approach that extends standard HMMs to allow the use of a rich observation structure and of general classifiers to model state-observation dependencies. The second is an extension of constraint satisfaction formalisms. We develop efficient combination algorithms under both models and study them experimentally in the context of shallow parsing. Click to Read Paper
Many classification problems require decisions among a large number of competing classes. These tasks, however, are not handled well by general purpose learning methods and are usually addressed in an ad-hoc fashion. We suggest a general approach -- a sequential learning model that utilizes classifiers to sequentially restrict the number of competing classes while maintaining, with high probability, the presence of the true outcome in the candidates set. Some theoretical and computational properties of the model are discussed and we argue that these are important in NLP-like domains. The advantages of the model are illustrated in an experiment in part-of-speech tagging. Click to Read Paper
The eventual goal of a language model is to accurately predict the value of a missing word given its context. We present an approach to word prediction that is based on learning a representation for each word as a function of words and linguistics predicates in its context. This approach raises a few new questions that we address. First, in order to learn good word representations it is necessary to use an expressive representation of the context. We present a way that uses external knowledge to generate expressive context representations, along with a learning method capable of handling the large number of features generated this way that can, potentially, contribute to each prediction. Second, since the number of words ``competing'' for each prediction is large, there is a need to ``focus the attention'' on a smaller subset of these. We exhibit the contribution of a ``focus of attention'' mechanism to the performance of the word predictor. Finally, we describe a large scale experimental study in which the approach presented is shown to yield significant improvements in word prediction tasks. Click to Read Paper
A large class of machine-learning problems in natural language require the characterization of linguistic context. Two characteristic properties of such problems are that their feature space is of very high dimensionality, and their target concepts refer to only a small subset of the features in the space. Under such conditions, multiplicative weight-update algorithms such as Winnow have been shown to have exceptionally good theoretical properties. We present an algorithm combining variants of Winnow and weighted-majority voting, and apply it to a problem in the aforementioned class: context-sensitive spelling correction. This is the task of fixing spelling errors that happen to result in valid words, such as substituting "to" for "too", "casual" for "causal", etc. We evaluate our algorithm, WinSpell, by comparing it against BaySpell, a statistics-based method representing the state of the art for this task. We find: (1) When run with a full (unpruned) set of features, WinSpell achieves accuracies significantly higher than BaySpell was able to achieve in either the pruned or unpruned condition; (2) When compared with other systems in the literature, WinSpell exhibits the highest performance; (3) The primary reason that WinSpell outperforms BaySpell is that WinSpell learns a better linear separator; (4) When run on a test set drawn from a different corpus than the training set was drawn from, WinSpell is better able than BaySpell to adapt, using a strategy we will present that combines supervised learning on the training set with unsupervised learning on the (noisy) test set. Click to Read Paper
Multiplicative weight-updating algorithms such as Winnow have been studied extensively in the COLT literature, but only recently have people started to use them in applications. In this paper, we apply a Winnow-based algorithm to a task in natural language: context-sensitive spelling correction. This is the task of fixing spelling errors that happen to result in valid words, such as substituting {\it to\/} for {\it too}, {\it casual\/} for {\it causal}, and so on. Previous approaches to this problem have been statistics-based; we compare Winnow to one of the more successful such approaches, which uses Bayesian classifiers. We find that: (1)~When the standard (heavily-pruned) set of features is used to describe problem instances, Winnow performs comparably to the Bayesian method; (2)~When the full (unpruned) set of features is used, Winnow is able to exploit the new features and convincingly outperform Bayes; and (3)~When a test set is encountered that is dissimilar to the training set, Winnow is better than Bayes at adapting to the unfamiliar test set, using a strategy we will present for combining learning on the training set with unsupervised learning on the (noisy) test set. Click to Read Paper
Generating the English transliteration of a name written in a foreign script is an important and challenging step in multilingual knowledge acquisition and information extraction. Existing approaches to transliteration generation require a large (>5000) number of training examples. This difficulty contrasts with transliteration discovery, a somewhat easier task that involves picking a plausible transliteration from a given list. In this work, we present a bootstrapping algorithm that uses constrained discovery to improve generation, and can be used with as few as 500 training examples, which we show can be sourced from annotators in a matter of hours. This opens the task to languages for which large number of training examples are unavailable. We evaluate transliteration generation performance itself, as well the improvement it brings to cross-lingual candidate generation for entity linking, a typical downstream task. We present a comprehensive evaluation of our approach on nine languages, each written in a unique script. Click to Read Paper
Cross-lingual Entity Linking (XEL) aims to ground entity mentions written in any language to an English Knowledge Base (KB), such as Wikipedia. XEL for most languages is challenging, owing to limited availability of resources as supervision. We address this challenge by developing the first XEL approach that combines supervision from multiple languages jointly. This enables our approach to: (a) augment the limited supervision in the target language with additional supervision from a high-resource language (like English), and (b) train a single entity linking model for multiple languages, improving upon individually trained models for each language. Extensive evaluation on three benchmark datasets across 8 languages shows that our approach significantly improves over the current state-of-the-art. We also provide analyses in two limited resource settings: (a) zero-shot setting, when no supervision in the target language is available, and in (b) low-resource setting, when some supervision in the target language is available. Our analysis provides insights into the limitations of zero-shot XEL approaches in realistic scenarios, and shows the value of joint supervision in low-resource settings. Click to Read Paper
Words are polysemous and multi-faceted, with many shades of meanings. We suggest that sparse distributed representations are more suitable than other, commonly used, (dense) representations to express these multiple facets, and present Category Builder, a working system that, as we show, makes use of sparse representations to support multi-faceted lexical representations. We argue that the set expansion task is well suited to study these meaning distinctions since a word may belong to multiple sets with a different reason for membership in each. We therefore exhibit the performance of Category Builder on this task, while showing that our representation captures at the same time analogy problems such as "the Ganga of Egypt" or "the Voldemort of Tolkien". Category Builder is shown to be a more expressive lexical representation and to outperform dense representations such as Word2Vec in some analogy classes despite being shown only two of the three input terms. Click to Read Paper
This work deals with SciTail, a natural entailment challenge derived from a multi-choice question answering problem. The premises and hypotheses in SciTail were generated with no awareness of each other, and did not specifically aim at the entailment task. This makes it more challenging than other entailment data sets and more directly useful to the end-task -- question answering. We propose DEISTE (deep explorations of inter-sentence interactions for textual entailment) for this entailment task. Given word-to-word interactions between the premise-hypothesis pair ($P$, $H$), DEISTE consists of: (i) a parameter-dynamic convolution to make important words in $P$ and $H$ play a dominant role in learnt representations; and (ii) a position-aware attentive convolution to encode the representation and position information of the aligned word pairs. Experiments show that DEISTE gets $\approx$5\% improvement over prior state of the art and that the pretrained DEISTE on SciTail generalizes well on RTE-5. Click to Read Paper
Existing temporal relation (TempRel) annotation schemes often have low inter-annotator agreements (IAA) even between experts, suggesting that the current annotation task needs a better definition. This paper proposes a new multi-axis modeling to better capture the temporal structure of events. In addition, we identify that event end-points are a major source of confusion in annotation, so we also propose to annotate TempRels based on start-points only. A pilot expert annotation using the proposed scheme shows significant improvement in IAA from the conventional 60's to 80's (Cohen's Kappa). This better-defined annotation scheme further enables the use of crowdsourcing to alleviate the labor intensity for each annotator. We hope that this work can foster more interesting studies towards event understanding. Click to Read Paper