Advances in Statistical Script Learning (2017)
When humans encode information into natural language, they do so with the clear assumption that the reader will be able to seamlessly make inferences based on world knowledge. For example, given the sentence ``Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself,'' one can make a number of probable inferences based on event co-occurrences: she bought flowers, she went to a store, she took the flowers home, and so on.

Observing this, it is clear that many different useful natural language end-tasks could benefit from models of events as they typically co-occur (so-called script models). Robust question-answering systems must be able to infer highly-probable implicit events from what is explicitly stated in a text, as must robust information-extraction systems that map from unstructured text to formal assertions about relations expressed in the text. Coreference resolution systems, semantic role labeling, and even syntactic parsing systems could, in principle, benefit from event co-occurrence models.

To this end, we present a number of contributions related to statistical event co-occurrence models. First, we investigate a method of incorporating multiple entities into events in a count-based co-occurrence model. We find that modeling multiple entities interacting across events allows for improved empirical performance on the task of modeling sequences of events in documents.

Second, we give a method of applying Recurrent Neural Network sequence models to the task of predicting held-out predicate-argument structures from documents. This model allows us to easily incorporate entity noun information, and can allow for more complex, higher-arity events than a count-based co-occurrence model. We find the neural model improves performance considerably over the count-based co-occurrence model.

Third, we investigate the performance of a sequence-to-sequence encoder-decoder neural model on the task of predicting held-out predicate-argument events from text. This model does not explicitly model any external syntactic information, and does not require a parser. We find the text-level model to be competitive in predictive performance with an event level model directly mediated by an external syntactic analysis.

Finally, motivated by this result, we investigate incorporating features derived from these models into a baseline noun coreference resolution system. We find that, while our additional features do not appreciably improve top-level performance, we can nonetheless provide empirical improvement on a number of restricted classes of difficult coreference decisions.

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PhD Thesis, Department of Computer Science, The University of Texas at Austin.
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Karl Pichotta Ph.D. Student pichotta [at] cs utexas edu