Department of Computer Science

Machine Learning Research Group

University of Texas at Austin Artificial Intelligence Lab

Publications: Learning for Semantic Parsing

Semantic parsing is the process of mapping a natural-language sentence into a formal representation of its meaning. A shallow form of semantic representation is a case-role analysis (a.k.a. a semantic role labeling), which identifies roles such as agent, patient, source, and destination. A deeper semantic analysis provides a representation of the sentence in predicate logic or other formal language which supports automated reasoning. We have developed methods for automatically learning semantic parsers from annotated corpora using inductive logic programming and other learning methods. We have explored learning semantic parsers for mapping natural-language sentences to case-role analyses, formal database queries, and formal command languages (i.e. the Robocup coaching language for use in advice-taking learners). We have also explored methods for learning semantic lexicons, i.e. databases of words or phrases paired with one or more alternative formal meaning representations. Semantic lexicons can also be learned from semantically annotated sentences and are an important source of knowledge for semantic parsing. Learning for semantic parsing is part of our research on natural language learning.

"The fish trap exists because of the fish. Once you've gotten the fish you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit. Once you've gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning. Once you've gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him?"
-- The Writings of Chuang Tzu, 4th century B.C. (Original text in Chinese)

Demos of learned natural-language database interfaces:

Tutorial on semantic parsing presented at ACL 2010:

  1. Semantic Parsing using Distributional Semantics and Probabilistic Logic
    [Details] [PDF] [Poster]
    Islam Beltagy and Katrin Erk and Raymond Mooney
    In Proceedings of ACL 2014 Workshop on Semantic Parsing (SP-2014), 7--11, Baltimore, MD, June 2014.
    We propose a new approach to semantic parsing that is not constrained by a fixed formal ontology and purely logical inference. Instead, we use distributional semantics to generate only the relevant part of an on-the-fly ontology. Sentences and the on-the-fly ontology are represented in probabilistic logic. For inference, we use probabilistic logic frameworks like Markov Logic Networks (MLN) and Probabilistic Soft Logic (PSL). This semantic parsing approach is evaluated on two tasks, Textual Entitlement (RTE) and Textual Similarity (STS), both accomplished using inference in probabilistic logic. Experiments show the potential of the approach.
    ML ID: 301
  2. Grounded Language Learning Models for Ambiguous Supervision
    [Details] [PDF] [Slides]
    Joo Hyun Kim
    PhD Thesis, Department of Computer Science, University of Texas at Austin, December 2013.
    Communicating with natural language interfaces is a long-standing, ultimate goal for artificial intelligence (AI) agents to pursue, eventually. One core issue toward this goal is "grounded" language learning, a process of learning the semantics of natural language with respect to relevant perceptual inputs. In order to ground the meanings of language in a real world situation, computational systems are trained with data in the form of natural language sentences paired with relevant but ambiguous perceptual contexts. With such ambiguous supervision, it is required to resolve the ambiguity between a natural language (NL) sentence and a corresponding set of possible logical meaning representations (MR).

    In this thesis, we focus on devising effective models for simultaneously disambiguating such supervision and learning the underlying semantics of language to map NL sentences into proper logical MRs. We present probabilistic generative models for learning such correspondences along with a reranking model to improve the performance further.

    First, we present a probabilistic generative model that learns the mappings from NL sentences into logical forms where the true meaning of each NL sentence is one of a handful of candidate logical MRs. It simultaneously disambiguates the meaning of each sentence in the training data and learns to probabilistically map an NL sentence to its corresponding MR form depicted in a single tree structure. We perform evaluations on the RoboCup sportscasting corpus, proving that our model is more effective than those proposed by previous researchers.

    Next, we describe two PCFG induction models for grounded language learning that extend the previous grounded language learning model of Borschinger, Jones, and Johnson (2011). Borschinger et al.'s approach works well in situations of limited ambiguity, such as in the sportscasting task. However, it does not scale well to highly ambiguous situations when there are large sets of potential meaning possibilities for each sentence, such as in the navigation instruction following task first studied by Chen and Mooney (2011). The two models we present overcome such limitations by employing a learned semantic lexicon as a basic correspondence unit between NL and MR for PCFG rule generation.

    Finally, we present a method of adapting discriminative reranking to grounded language learning in order to improve the performance of our proposed generative models. Although such generative models are easy to implement and are intuitive, it is not always the case that generative models perform best, since they are maximizing the joint probability of data and model, rather than directly maximizing conditional probability. Because we do not have gold-standard references for training a secondary conditional reranker, we incorporate weak supervision of evaluations against the perceptual world during the process of improving model performance.

    All these approaches are evaluated on the two publicly available domains that have been actively used in many other grounded language learning studies. Our methods demonstrate consistently improved performance over those of previous studies in the domains with different languages; this proves that our methods are language-independent and can be generally applied to other grounded learning problems as well. Further possible applications of the presented approaches include summarized machine translation tasks and learning from real perception data assisted by computer vision and robotics.

    ML ID: 291
  3. Adapting Discriminative Reranking to Grounded Language Learning
    [Details] [PDF] [Slides]
    Joohyun Kim and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the 51st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL-2013), 218--227, Sofia, Bulgaria, August 2013.
    We adapt discriminative reranking to improve the performance of grounded language acquisition, specifically the task of learning to follow navigation instructions from observation. Unlike conventional reranking used in syntactic and semantic parsing, gold-standard reference trees are not naturally available in a grounded setting. Instead, we show how the weak supervision of response feedback (e.g. successful task completion) can be used as an alternative, experimentally demonstrating that its performance is comparable to training on gold-standard parse trees.
    ML ID: 286
  4. Generative Models of Grounded Language Learning with Ambiguous Supervision
    [Details] [PDF] [Slides]
    Joohyun Kim
    Technical Report, PhD proposal, Department of Computer Science, The University of Texas at Austin, June 2012.

    "Grounded" language learning is the process of learning the semantics of natural language with respect to relevant perceptual inputs. Toward this goal, computational systems are trained with data in the form of natural language sentences paired with relevant but ambiguous perceptual contexts. With such ambiguous supervision, it is required to resolve the ambiguity between a natural language (NL) sentence and a corresponding set of possible logical meaning representations (MR). My research focuses on devising effective models for simultaneously disambiguating such supervision and learning the underlying semantics of language to map NL sentences into proper logical forms. Specifically, I will present two probabilistic generative models for learning such correspondences. The models are applied to two publicly available datasets in two different domains, sportscasting and navigation, and compared with previous work on the same data.

    I will first present a probabilistic generative model that learns the mappings from NL sentences into logical forms where the true meaning of each NL sentence is one of a handful of candidate logical MRs. It simultaneously disambiguates the meaning of each sentence in the training data and learns to probabilistically map a NL sentence to its MR form depicted in a single tree structure. Evaluations are performed on the RoboCup sportscasting corpous, which show that it outperforms previous methods.

    Next, I present a PCFG induction model for grounded language learning that extends the model of Borschinger, Jones, and Johnson (2011) by utilizing a semantic lexicon. Borschinger et al.'s approach works well when there is limited ambiguity such as in the sportscasting task, but it does not scale well to highly ambiguous situations when there are large sets of potential meaning possibilities for each sentence, such as in the navigation instruction following task studied by Chen and Mooney (2011). Our model overcomes such limitations by employing a semantic lexicon as the basic building block for PCFG rule generation. Our model also allows for novel combination of MR outputs when parsing novel test sentences.

    For future work, I propose to extend our PCFG induction model in several ways: improving the lexicon learning algorithm, discriminative re-ranking of top-k parses, and integrating the meaning representation language (MRL) grammar for extra structural information. The longer-term agenda includes applying our approach to summarized machine translation, using real perception data such as robot sensorimeter and images/videos, and joint learning with other natural language processing tasks.

    ML ID: 273
  5. Unsupervised PCFG Induction for Grounded Language Learning with Highly Ambiguous Supervision
    [Details] [PDF]
    Joohyun Kim and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and Natural Language Learning (EMNLP-CoNLL '12), 433--444, Jeju Island, Korea, July 2012.
    "Grounded" language learning employs training data in the form of sentences paired with relevant but ambiguous perceptual contexts. Borschinger et al. (2011) introduced an approach to grounded language learning based on unsupervised PCFG induction. Their approach works well when each sentence potentially refers to one of a small set of possible meanings, such as in the sportscasting task. However, it does not scale to problems with a large set of potential meanings for each sentence, such as the navigation instruction following task studied by Chen and Mooney (2011). This paper presents an enhancement of the PCFG approach that scales to such problems with highly-ambiguous supervision. Experimental results on the navigation task demonstrates the effectiveness of our approach.
    ML ID: 272
  6. Learning Language from Ambiguous Perceptual Context
    [Details] [PDF] [Slides]
    David L. Chen
    PhD Thesis, Department of Computer Science, University of Texas at Austin, May 2012. 196.

    Building a computer system that can understand human languages has been one of the long-standing goals of artificial intelligence. Currently, most state-of-the-art natural language processing (NLP) systems use statistical machine learning methods to extract linguistic knowledge from large, annotated corpora. However, constructing such corpora can be expensive and time-consuming due to the expertise it requires to annotate such data. In this thesis, we explore alternative ways of learning which do not rely on direct human supervision. In particular, we draw our inspirations from the fact that humans are able to learn language through exposure to linguistic inputs in the context of a rich, relevant, perceptual environment.

    We first present a system that learned to sportscast for RoboCup simulation games by observing how humans commentate a game. Using the simple assumption that people generally talk about events that have just occurred, we pair each textual comment with a set of events that it could be referring to. By applying an EM-like algorithm, the system simultaneously learns a grounded language model and aligns each description to the corresponding event. The system does not use any prior language knowledge and was able to learn to sportscast in both English and Korean. Human evaluations of the generated commentaries indicate they are of reasonable quality and in some cases even on par with those produced by humans.

    For the sportscasting task, while each comment could be aligned to one of several events, the level of ambiguity was low enough that we could enumerate all the possible alignments. However, it is not always possible to restrict the set of possible alignments to such limited numbers. Thus, we present another system that allows each sentence to be aligned to one of exponentially many connected subgraphs without explicitly enumerating them. The system first learns a lexicon and uses it to prune the nodes in the graph that are unrelated to the words in the sentence. By only observing how humans follow navigation instructions, the system was able to infer the corresponding hidden navigation plans and parse previously unseen instructions in new environments for both English and Chinese data. With the rise in popularity of crowdsourcing, we also present results on collecting additional training data using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Since our system only needs supervision in the form of language being used in relevant contexts, it is easy for virtually anyone to contribute to the training data.

    ML ID: 269
  7. Learning to Interpret Natural Language Navigation Instructions from Observations
    [Details] [PDF] [Slides]
    David L. Chen and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the 25th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-2011), 859-865, August 2011.
    The ability to understand natural-language instructions is critical to building intelligent agents that interact with humans. We present a system that learns to transform natural-language navigation instructions into executable formal plans. Given no prior linguistic knowledge, the system learns by simply observing how humans follow navigation instructions. The system is evaluated in three complex virtual indoor environments with numerous objects and landmarks. A previously collected realistic corpus of complex English navigation instructions for these environments is used for training and testing data. By using a learned lexicon to refine inferred plans and a supervised learner to induce a semantic parser, the system is able to automatically learn to correctly interpret a reasonable fraction of the complex instructions in this corpus.
    ML ID: 264
  8. Generative Alignment and Semantic Parsing for Learning from Ambiguous Supervision
    [Details] [PDF]
    Joohyun Kim and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on Computational Linguistics (COLING 2010), 543--551, Beijing, China, August 2010.
    We present a probabilistic generative model for learning semantic parsers from ambiguous supervision. Our approach learns from natural language sentences paired with world states consisting of multiple potential logical meaning representations. It disambiguates the meaning of each sentence while simultaneously learning a semantic parser that maps sentences into logical form. Compared to a previous generative model for semantic alignment, it also supports full semantic parsing. Experimental results on the Robocup sportscasting corpora in both English and Korean indicate that our approach produces more accurate semantic alignments than existing methods and also produces competitive semantic parsers and improved language generators.
    ML ID: 251
  9. Learning for Semantic Parsing Using Statistical Syntactic Parsing Techniques
    [Details] [PDF] [Slides]
    Ruifang Ge
    PhD Thesis, Department of Computer Science, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, May 2010. 165 pages.
    Natural language understanding is a sub-field of natural language processing, which builds automated systems to understand natural language. It is such an ambitious task that it sometimes is referred to as an AI-complete problem, implying that its difficulty is equivalent to solving the central artificial intelligence problem -- making computers as intelligent as people. Despite its complexity, natural language understanding continues to be a fundamental problem in natural language processing in terms of its theoretical and empirical importance.

    In recent years, startling progress has been made at different levels of natural language processing tasks, which provides great opportunity for deeper natural language understanding. In this thesis, we focus on the task of semantic parsing, which maps a natural language sentence into a complete, formal meaning representation in a meaning representation language. We present two novel state-of-the-art learned syntax-based semantic parsers using statistical syntactic parsing techniques, motivated by the following two reasons. First, the syntax-based semantic parsing is theoretically well-founded in computational semantics. Second, adopting a syntax-based approach allows us to directly leverage the enormous progress made in statistical syntactic parsing.

    The first semantic parser, SCISSOR, adopts an integrated syntactic-semantic parsing approach, in which a statistical syntactic parser is augmented with semantic parameters to produce a semantically-augmented parse tree (SAPT). This integrated approach allows both syntactic and semantic information to be available during parsing time to obtain an accurate combined syntactic-semantic analysis. The performance of SCISSOR is further improved by using discriminative reranking for incorporating non-local features. The second semantic parser, SYNSEM, exploits an existing syntactic parser to produce disambiguated parse trees that drive the compositional semantic interpretation. This pipeline approach allows semantic parsing to conveniently leverage the most recent progress in statistical syntactic parsing.

    We report experimental results on two real applications: an interpreter for coaching instructions in robotic soccer and a natural-language database interface, showing that the improvement of SCISSOR and SYNSEM over other systems is mainly on long sentences, where the knowledge of syntax given in the form of annotated SAPTs or syntactic parses from an existing parser helps semantic composition. SYNSEM also significantly improves results with limited training data, and is shown to be robust to syntactic errors.

    ML ID: 246
  10. Training a Multilingual Sportscaster: Using Perceptual Context to Learn Language
    [Details] [PDF]
    David L. Chen, Joohyun Kim, Raymond J. Mooney
    Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, 37:397--435, 2010.
    We present a novel framework for learning to interpret and generate language using only perceptual context as supervision. We demonstrate its capabilities by developing a system that learns to sportscast simulated robot soccer games in both English and Korean without any language-specific prior knowledge. Training employs only ambiguous supervision consisting of a stream of descriptive textual comments and a sequence of events extracted from the simulation trace. The system simultaneously establishes correspondences between individual comments and the events that they describe while building a translation model that supports both parsing and generation. We also present a novel algorithm for learning which events are worth describing. Human evaluations of the generated commentaries indicate they are of reasonable quality and in some cases even on par with those produced by humans for our limited domain.
    ML ID: 240
  11. Learning Language from Perceptual Context
    [Details] [PDF] [Slides]
    David L. Chen
    December 2009. Ph.D. proposal, Department of Computer Sciences, University of Texas at Austin.
    Most current natural language processing (NLP) systems are built using statistical learning algorithms trained on large annotated corpora which can be expensive and time-consuming to collect. In contrast, humans can learn language through exposure to linguistic input in the context of a rich, relevant, perceptual environment. If a machine learning system can acquire language in a similar manner without explicit human supervision, then it can leverage the large amount of available text that refers to observed world states (e.g. sportscasts, instruction manuals, weather forecasts, etc.) Thus, my research focuses on how to build systems that use both text and the perceptual context in which it is used in order to learn a language. I will first present a system we completed that can describe events in RoboCup 2D simulation games by learning only from sample language commentaries paired with traces of simulated activities without any language-specific prior knowledge. By applying an EM-like algorithm, the system was able to simultaneously learn a grounded language model as well as align the ambiguous training data. Human evaluations of the generated commentaries indicate they are of reasonable quality and in some cases even on par with those produced by humans. For future work, I am proposing to solve the more complex task of learning how to give and receive navigation instructions in a virtual environment. In this setting, each instruction corresponds to a navigation plan that is not directly observable. Since an exponential number of plans can all lead to the same observed actions, we have to learn from compact representations of all valid plans rather than enumerating all possible meanings as we did in the sportscasting task. Initially, the system will passively observe a human giving instruction to another human, and try to learn the correspondences between the instructions and the intended plan. After the system has a decent understanding of the language, it can then participate in the interactions to learn more directly by playing either the role of the instructor or the follower.
    ML ID: 239
  12. Learning a Compositional Semantic Parser using an Existing Syntactic Parser
    [Details] [PDF] [Slides]
    Ruifang Ge and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Joint Conference of the 47th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 4th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing of the Asian Federation of Natural Language Processing (ACL-IJCNLP 2009), 611--619, Suntec, Singapore, August 2009.
    We present a new approach to learning a semantic parser (a system that maps natural language sentences into logical form). Unlike previous methods, it exploits an existing syntactic parser to produce disambiguated parse trees that drive the compositional semantic interpretation. The resulting system produces improved results on standard corpora on natural language interfaces for database querying and simulated robot control.
    ML ID: 229
  13. A Dependency-based Word Subsequence Kernel
    [Details] [PDF]
    Rohit J. Kate
    In Proceedings of the conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-2008), 400--409, Waikiki, Honolulu, Hawaii, October 2008.
    This paper introduces a new kernel which computes similarity between two natural language sentences as the number of paths shared by their dependency trees. The paper gives a very efficient algorithm to compute it. This kernel is also an improvement over the word subsequence kernel because it only counts linguistically meaningful word subsequences which are based on word dependencies. It overcomes some of the difficulties encountered by syntactic tree kernels as well. Experimental results demonstrate the advantage of this kernel over word subsequence and syntactic tree kernels.
    ML ID: 223
  14. Transforming Meaning Representation Grammars to Improve Semantic Parsing
    [Details] [PDF]
    Rohit J. Kate
    In Proceedings of the Twelfth Conference on Computational Natural Language Learning (CoNLL-2008), 33--40, Manchester, UK, August 2008.
    A semantic parser learning system learns to map natural language sentences into their domain-specific formal meaning representations, but if the constructs of the meaning representation language do not correspond well with the natural language then the system may not learn a good semantic parser. This paper presents approaches for automatically transforming a meaning representation grammar (MRG) to conform it better with the natural language semantics. It introduces grammar transformation operators and meaning representation macros which are applied in an error-driven manner to transform an MRG while training a semantic parser learning system. Experimental results show that the automatically transformed MRGs lead to better learned semantic parsers which perform comparable to the semantic parsers learned using manually engineered MRGs.
    ML ID: 222
  15. Learning to Sportscast: A Test of Grounded Language Acquisition
    [Details] [PDF] [Slides] [Video]
    David L. Chen and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the 25th International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), Helsinki, Finland, July 2008.
    We present a novel commentator system that learns language from sportscasts of simulated soccer games. The system learns to parse and generate commentaries without any engineered knowledge about the English language. Training is done using only ambiguous supervision in the form of textual human commentaries and simulation states of the soccer games. The system simultaneously tries to establish correspondences between the commentaries and the simulation states as well as build a translation model. We also present a novel algorithm, Iterative Generation Strategy Learning (IGSL), for deciding which events to comment on. Human evaluations of the generated commentaries indicate they are of reasonable quality compared to human commentaries.
    ML ID: 219
  16. Learning for Semantic Parsing with Kernels under Various Forms of Supervision
    [Details] [PDF] [Slides]
    Rohit J. Kate
    PhD Thesis, Department of Computer Sciences, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, August 2007. 159 pages.
    Semantic parsing involves deep semantic analysis that maps natural language sentences to their formal executable meaning representations. This is a challenging problem and is critical for developing computing systems that understand natural language input. This thesis presents a new machine learning approach for semantic parsing based on string-kernel-based classification. It takes natural language sentences paired with their formal meaning representations as training data. For every production in the formal language grammar, a Support-Vector Machine (SVM) classifier is trained using string similarity as the kernel. Meaning representations for novel natural language sentences are obtained by finding the most probable semantic parse using these classifiers. This method does not use any hard-matching rules and unlike previous and other recent methods, does not use grammar rules for natural language, probabilistic or otherwise, which makes it more robust to noisy input.

    Besides being robust, this approach is also flexible and able to learn under a wide range of supervision, from extra to weaker forms of supervision. It can easily utilize extra supervision given in the form of syntactic parse trees for natural language sentences by using a syntactic tree kernel instead of a string kernel. Its learning algorithm can also take advantage of detailed supervision provided in the form of semantically augmented parse trees. A simple extension using transductive SVMs enables the system to do semi-supervised learning and improve its performance utilizing unannotated sentences which are usually easily available. Another extension involving EM-like retraining makes the system capable of learning under ambiguous supervision in which the correct meaning representation for each sentence is not explicitly given, but instead a set of possible meaning representations is given. This weaker and more general form of supervision is better representative of a natural training environment for a language-learning system requiring minimal human supervision.

    For a semantic parser to work well, conformity between natural language and meaning representation grammar is necessary. However meaning representation grammars are typically designed to best suit the application which will use the meaning representations with little consideration for how well they correspond to natural language semantics. We present approaches to automatically transform meaning representation grammars to make them more compatible with natural language semantics and hence more suitable for learning semantic parsers. Finally, we also show that ensembles of different semantic parser learning systems can obtain the best overall performance.

    ML ID: 215
  17. Learning for Semantic Parsing and Natural Language Generation Using Statistical Machine Translation Techniques
    [Details] [PDF]
    Yuk Wah Wong
    PhD Thesis, Department of Computer Sciences, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, August 2007. 188 pages. Also appears as Technical Report AI07-343, Artificial Intelligence Lab, University of Texas at Austin, August 2007.
    One of the main goals of natural language processing (NLP) is to build automated systems that can understand and generate human languages. This goal has so far remained elusive. Existing hand-crafted systems can provide in-depth analysis of domain sub-languages, but are often notoriously fragile and costly to build. Existing machine-learned systems are considerably more robust, but are limited to relatively shallow NLP tasks.

    In this thesis, we present novel statistical methods for robust natural language understanding and generation. We focus on two important sub-tasks, semantic parsing and tactical generation. The key idea is that both tasks can be treated as the translation between natural languages and formal meaning representation languages, and therefore, can be performed using state-of-the-art statistical machine translation techniques. Specifically, we use a technique called synchronous parsing, which has been extensively used in syntax-based machine translation, as the unifying framework for semantic parsing and tactical generation. The parsing and generation algorithms learn all of their linguistic knowledge from annotated corpora, and can handle natural-language sentences that are conceptually complex.

    A nice feature of our algorithms is that the semantic parsers and tactical generators share the same learned synchronous grammars. Moreover, charts are used as the unifying language-processing architecture for efficient parsing and generation. Therefore, the generators are said to be the inverse of the parsers, an elegant property that has been widely advocated. Furthermore, we show that our parsers and generators can handle formal meaning representation languages containing logical variables, including predicate logic.

    Our basic semantic parsing algorithm is called WASP. Most of the other parsing and generation algorithms presented in this thesis are extensions of WASP or its inverse. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our parsing and generation algorithms by performing experiments in two real-world, restricted domains. Experimental results show that our algorithms are more robust and accurate than the currently best systems that require similar supervision. Our work is also the first attempt to use the same automatically-learned grammar for both parsing and generation. Unlike previous systems that require manually-constructed grammars and lexicons, our systems require much less knowledge engineering and can be easily ported to other languages and domains.

    ML ID: 214
  18. Learning Language Semantics from Ambiguous Supervision
    [Details] [PDF]
    Rohit J. Kate and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the 22nd Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-07), 895-900, Vancouver, Canada, July 2007.
    This paper presents a method for learning a semantic parser from ambiguous supervision. Training data consists of natural language sentences annotated with multiple potential meaning representations, only one of which is correct. Such ambiguous supervision models the type of supervision that can be more naturally available to language-learning systems. Given such weak supervision, our approach produces a semantic parser that maps sentences into meaning representations. An existing semantic parsing learning system that can only learn from unambiguous supervision is augmented to handle ambiguous supervision. Experimental results show that the resulting system is able to cope up with ambiguities and learn accurate semantic parsers.
    ML ID: 200
  19. Learning Synchronous Grammars for Semantic Parsing with Lambda Calculus
    [Details] [PDF]
    Yuk Wah Wong and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the 45th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL-2007), Prague, Czech Republic, June 2007.
    This paper presents the first empirical results to our knowledge on learning synchronous grammars that generate logical forms. Using statistical machine translation techniques, a semantic parser based on a synchronous context-free grammar augmented with lambda-operators is learned given a set of training sentences and their correct logical forms. The resulting parser is shown to be the best-performing system so far in a database query domain.
    ML ID: 199
  20. Semi-Supervised Learning for Semantic Parsing using Support Vector Machines
    [Details] [PDF] [Slides]
    Rohit J. Kate and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the Human Language Technology Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Short Papers (NAACL/HLT-2007), 81--84, Rochester, NY, April 2007.
    We present a method for utilizing unannotated sentences to improve a semantic parser which maps natural language (NL) sentences into their formal meaning representations (MRs). Given NL sentences annotated with their MRs, the initial supervised semantic parser learns the mapping by training Support Vector Machine (SVM) classifiers for every production in the MR grammar. Our new method applies the learned semantic parser to the unannotated sentences and collects unlabeled examples which are then used to retrain the classifiers using a variant of transductive SVMs. Experimental results show the improvements obtained over the purely supervised parser, particularly when the annotated training set is small.
    ML ID: 198
  21. Generation by Inverting a Semantic Parser That Uses Statistical Machine Translation
    [Details] [PDF]
    Yuk Wah Wong and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of Human Language Technologies: The Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics (NAACL-HLT-07), 172-179, Rochester, NY, 2007.
    This paper explores the use of statistical machine translation (SMT) methods for tactical natural language generation. We present results on using phrase-based SMT for learning to map meaning representations to natural language. Improved results are obtained by inverting a semantic parser that uses SMT methods to map sentences into meaning representations. Finally, we show that hybridizing these two approaches results in still more accurate generation systems. Automatic and human evaluation of generated sentences are presented across two domains and four languages.
    ML ID: 197
  22. Learning for Semantic Parsing
    [Details] [PDF]
    Raymond J. Mooney
    In A. Gelbukh, editors, Computational Linguistics and Intelligent Text Processing: Proceedings of the 8th International Conference (CICLing 2007), 311--324, Mexico City, Mexico, February 2007. Springer: Berlin, Germany. Invited paper.
    Semantic parsing is the task of mapping a natural language sentence into a complete, formal meaning representation. Over the past decade, we have developed a number of machine learning methods for inducing semantic parsers by training on a corpus of sentences paired with their meaning representations in a specified formal language. We have demonstrated these methods on the automated construction of natural-language interfaces to databases and robot command languages. This paper reviews our prior work on this topic and discusses directions for future research.
    ML ID: 196
  23. Using String-Kernels for Learning Semantic Parsers
    [Details] [PDF] [Slides]
    Rohit J. Kate and Raymond J. Mooney
    In ACL 2006: Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Computational Linguistics and the 44th annual meeting of the ACL, 913-920, Morristown, NJ, USA, 2006. Association for Computational Linguistics.
    We present a new approach for mapping natural language sentences to their formal meaning representations using string-kernel-based classifiers. Our system learns these classifiers for every production in the formal language grammar. Meaning representations for novel natural language sentences are obtained by finding the most probable semantic parse using these string classifiers. Our experiments on two real-world data sets show that this approach compares favorably to other existing systems and is particularly robust to noise.
    ML ID: 191
  24. Discriminative Reranking for Semantic Parsing
    [Details] [PDF]
    Ruifang Ge and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Computational Linguistics and 44th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (COLING/ACL-06), Sydney, Australia, July 2006.
    Semantic parsing is the task of mapping natural language sentences to complete formal meaning representations. The performance of semantic parsing can be potentially improved by using discriminative reranking, which explores arbitrary global features. In this paper, we investigate discriminative reranking upon a baseline semantic parser, SCISSOR, where the composition of meaning representations is guided by syntax. We examine if features used for syntactic parsing can be adapted for semantic parsing by creating similar semantic features based on the mapping between syntax and semantics. We report experimental results on two real applications, an interpreter for coaching instructions in robotic soccer and a natural-language database interface. The results show that reranking can improve the performance on the coaching interpreter, but not on the database interface.
    ML ID: 190
  25. Learning for Semantic Parsing with Statistical Machine Translation
    [Details] [PDF]
    Yuk Wah Wong and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of Human Language Technology Conference / North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics Annual Meeting (HLT-NAACL-06), 439-446, New York City, NY, 2006.
    We present a novel statistical approach to semantic parsing, WASP, for constructing a complete, formal meaning representation of a sentence. A semantic parser is learned given a set of sentences annotated with their correct meaning representations. The main innovation of WASP is its use of state-of-the-art statistical machine translation techniques. A word alignment model is used for lexical acquisition, and the parsing model itself can be seen as a syntax-based translation model. We show that WASP performs favorably in terms of both accuracy and coverage compared to existing learning methods requiring similar amount of supervision, and shows better robustness to variations in task complexity and word order.
    ML ID: 187
  26. Learning Semantic Parsers Using Statistical Syntactic Parsing Techniques
    [Details] [PDF]
    Ruifang Ge
    2006. Doctoral Dissertation Proposal, University of Texas at Austin" , year="2006.
    Most recent work on semantic analysis of natural language has focused on ``shallow'' semantics such as word-sense disambiguation and semantic role labeling. Our work addresses a more ambitious task we call semantic parsing where natural language sentences are mapped to complete formal meaning representations. We present our system Scissor based on a statistical parser that generates a semantically-augmented parse tree (SAPT), in which each internal node has both a syntactic and semantic label. A compositional-semantics procedure is then used to map the augmented parse tree into a final meaning representation. Training the system requires sentences annotated with augmented parse trees. We evaluate the system in two domains, a natural-language database interface and an interpreter for coaching instructions in robotic soccer. We present experimental results demonstrating that Scissor produces more accurate semantic representations than several previous approaches on long sentences.
    In the future, we intend to pursue several directions in developing more accurate semantic parsing algorithms and automating the annotation process. This work will involve exploring alternative tree representations for better generalization in parsing. We also plan to apply discriminative reranking methods to semantic parsing, which allows exploring arbitrary, potentially correlated features not usable by the baseline learner. We also propose to design a method for automating the SAPT-generation process to alleviate the extra annotation work currently required for training Scissor. Finally, we will investigate the impact of different statistical syntactic parsers on semantic parsing using the automated SAPT-generation process.
    ML ID: 184
  27. A Kernel-based Approach to Learning Semantic Parsers
    [Details] [PDF] [Slides]
    Rohit J. Kate
    2005. Doctoral Dissertation Proposal, University of Texas at Austin.
    Semantic parsing involves deep semantic analysis that maps natural language sentences to their formal executable meaning representations. This is a challenging problem and is critical for developing user-friendly natural language interfaces to computing systems. Most of the research in natural language understanding, however, has mainly focused on shallow semantic analysis like case-role analysis or word sense disambiguation. The existing work in semantic parsing either lack the robustness of statistical methods or are applicable only to simple domains where semantic analysis is equivalent to filling a single semantic frame.

    In this proposal, we present a new approach to semantic parsing based on string-kernel-based classification. Our system takes natural language sentences paired with their formal meaning representations as training data. For every production in the formal language grammar, a Support-Vector Machine (SVM) classifier is trained using string similarity as the kernel. Each classifier then gives the probability of the production covering any given natural language string of words. These classifiers are further refined using EM-type iterations based on their performance on the training data. Meaning representations for novel natural language sentences are obtained by finding the most probable semantic parse using these classifiers. Our experiments on two real-world data sets that have deep meaning representations show that this approach compares favorably to other existing systems in terms of accuracy and coverage.

    For future work, we propose to extend this approach so that it will also exploit the knowledge of natural language syntax by using the existing syntactic parsers. We also intend to broaden the scope of application domains, for example, domains where the sentences are noisy as typical in speech, or domains where corpora available for training do not have natural language sentences aligned with their unique meaning representations. We aim to test our system on the task of complex relation extraction as well. Finally, we also plan to investigate ways to combine our semantic parser with some recently developed semantic parsers to form committees in order to get the best overall performance.
    ML ID: 181
  28. Learning for Semantic Parsing Using Statistical Machine Translation Techniques
    [Details] [PDF]
    Yuk Wah Wong
    2005. Doctoral Dissertation Proposal, University of Texas at Austin.
    Semantic parsing is the construction of a complete, formal, symbolic meaning representation of a sentence. While it is crucial to natural language understanding, the problem of semantic parsing has received relatively little attention from the machine learning community. Recent work on natural language understanding has mainly focused on shallow semantic analysis, such as word- sense disambiguation and semantic role labeling. Semantic parsing, on the other hand, involves deep semantic analysis in which word senses, semantic roles and other components are combined to produce useful meaning representations for a particular application domain (e.g. database query). Prior research in machine learning for semantic parsing is mainly based on inductive logic programming or deterministic parsing, which lack some of the robustness that characterizes statistical learning. Existing statistical approaches to semantic parsing, however, are mostly concerned with relatively simple application domains in which a meaning representation is no more than a single semantic frame.

    In this proposal, we present a novel statistical approach to semantic parsing, WASP, which can handle meaning representations with a nested structure. The WASP algorithm learns a semantic parser given a set of sentences annotated with their correct meaning representations. The parsing model is based on the synchronous context-free grammar, where each rule maps a natural-language substring to its meaning representation. The main innovation of the algorithm is its use of state-of-the-art statistical machine translation techniques. A statistical word alignment model is used for lexical acquisition, and the parsing model itself can be seen as an instance of a syntax-based translation model. In initial evaluation on several real-world data sets, we show that WASP performs favorably in terms of both accuracy and coverage compared to existing learning methods requiring similar amount of supervision, and shows better robustness to variations in task complexity and word order.

    In future work, we intend to pursue several directions in developing accurate semantic parsers for a variety of application domains. This will involve exploiting prior knowledge about the natural-language syntax and the application domain. We also plan to construct a syntax-aware word-based alignment model for lexical acquisition. Finally, we will generalize the learning algorithm to handle context-dependent sentences and accept noisy training data.
    ML ID: 180
  29. A Statistical Semantic Parser that Integrates Syntax and Semantics
    [Details] [PDF]
    Ruifang Ge and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of CoNLL-2005, Ann Arbor, Michigan, June 2005.
    We introduce a learning semantic parser, Scissor, that maps natural-language sentences to a detailed, formal, meaning-representation language. It first uses an integrated statistical parser to produce a semantically augmented parse tree, in which each non-terminal node has both a syntactic and a semantic label. A compositional-semantics procedure is then used to map the augmented parse tree into a final meaning representation. We evaluate the system in two domains, a natural-language database interface and an interpreter for coaching instructions in robotic soccer. We present experimental results demonstrating that Scissor produces more accurate semantic representations than several previous approaches.
    ML ID: 171
  30. Learning to Transform Natural to Formal Languages
    [Details] [PDF] [Slides]
    Rohit J. Kate, Yuk Wah Wong and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the Twentieth National Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-05), 1062-1068, Pittsburgh, PA, July 2005.
    This paper presents a method for inducing transformation rules that map natural-language sentences into a formal query or command language. The approach assumes a formal grammar for the target representation language and learns transformation rules that exploit the non-terminal symbols in this grammar. The learned transformation rules incrementally map a natural-language sentence or its syntactic parse tree into a parse-tree for the target formal language. Experimental results are presented for two corpora, one which maps English instructions into an existing formal coaching language for simulated RoboCup soccer agents, and another which maps English U.S.-geography questions into a database query language. We show that our method performs overall better and faster than previous approaches in both domains.
    ML ID: 160
  31. Learning Transformation Rules for Semantic Parsing
    [Details] [PDF]
    Rohit J. Kate, Yuk Wah Wong, Ruifang Ge, and Raymond J. Mooney
    April 2004. Unpublished Technical Report.
    This paper presents an approach for inducing transformation rules that map natural-language sentences into a formal semantic representation language. The approach assumes a formal grammar for the target representation language and learns transformation rules that exploit the non-terminal symbols in this grammar. Patterns for the transformation rules are learned using an induction algorithm based on longest-common-subsequences previously developed for an information extraction system. Experimental results are presented on learning to map English coaching instructions for Robocup soccer into an existing formal language for coaching simulated robotic agents.
    ML ID: 140
  32. Learning Semantic Parsers: An Important But Under-Studied Problem
    [Details] [PDF]
    Raymond J. Mooney
    In Papers from the AAAI 2004 Spring Symposium on Language Learning: An Interdisciplinary Perspective, 39--44, Stanford, CA, March 2004.
    Computational systems that learn to transform natural-language sentences into semantic representations have important practical applications in building natural-language interfaces. They can also provide insight into important issues in human language acquisition. However, within AI, computational linguistics, and machine learning, there has been relatively little research on developing systems that learn such semantic parsers. This paper briefly reviews our own work in this area and presents semantic-parser acquistion as an important challenge problem for AI.
    ML ID: 138
  33. Integrating Top-down and Bottom-up Approaches in Inductive Logic Programming: Applications in Natural Language Processing and Relational Data Mining
    [Details] [PDF]
    Lappoon R. Tang
    PhD Thesis, Department of Computer Sciences, University of Texas, Austin, TX, August 2003.
    Inductive Logic Programming (ILP) is the intersection of Machine Learning and Logic Programming in which the learner's hypothesis space is the set of logic programs. There are two major ILP approaches: top-down and bottom-up. The former searches the hypothesis space from general to specific while the latter the other way round. Integrating both approaches has been demonstrated to be more effective. Integrated ILP systems were previously developed for two tasks: learning semantic parsers (Chillin), and mining relational data (Progol). Two new integrated ILP systems for these tasks that overcome limitations of existing methods will be presented.
    Cocktail is a new ILP algorithm for inducing semantic parsers. For this task, two features of a parse state, functional structure and context, provide important information for disambiguation. A bottom-up approach is more suitable for learning the former, while top-down is better for the latter. By allowing both approaches to induce program clauses and choosing the best combination of their results, Cocktail learns more effective parsers. Experimental results on learning natural-language interfaces for two databases demonstrate that it learns more accurate parsers than Chillin, the previous best method for this task.
    Beth is a new integrated ILP algorithm for relational data mining. The Inverse Entailment approach to ILP, implemented in the Progol and Aleph systems, starts with the construction of a bottom clause, the most specific hypothesis covering a seed example. When mining relational data with a large number of background facts, the bottom clause becomes intractably large, making learning very inefficient. A top-down approach heuristically guides the construction of clauses without building a bottom clause; however, it wastes time exploring clauses that cover no positive examples. By using a top-down approach to heuristically guide the construction of generalizations of a bottom clause, Beth combines the strength of both approaches. Learning patterns for detecting potential terrorist activity is a current challenge problem for relational data mining. Experimental results on artificial data for this task with over half a million facts show that Beth is significantly more efficient at discovering such patterns than Aleph and m-Foil, two leading ILP systems.
    ML ID: 130
  34. Acquiring Word-Meaning Mappings for Natural Language Interfaces
    [Details] [PDF]
    Cynthia A. Thompson and Raymond J. Mooney
    Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, 18:1-44, 2003.
    This paper focuses on a system, Wolfie (WOrd Learning From Interpreted Examples), that acquires a semantic lexicon from a corpus of sentences paired with semantic representations. The lexicon learned consists of phrases paired with meaning representations. Wolfie is part of an integrated system that learns to parse representations such as logical database queries.
    Experimental results are presented demonstrating Wolfie's ability to learn useful lexicons for a database interface in four different natural languages. The usefulness of the lexicons learned by Wolfie are compared to those acquired by a similar system developed by Siskind (1996), with results favorable to Wolfie. A second set of experiments demonstrates Wolfie's ability to scale to larger and more difficult, albeit artificially generated, corpora.
    In natural language acquisition, it is difficult to gather the annotated data needed for supervised learning; however, unannotated data is fairly plentiful. Active learning methods (Cohn, Atlas, & Ladner, 1994) attempt to select for annotation and training only the most informative examples, and therefore are potentially very useful in natural language applications. However, most results to date for active learning have only considered standard classification tasks. To reduce annotation effort while maintaining accuracy, we apply active learning to semantic lexicons. We show that active learning can significantly reduce the number of annotated examples required to achieve a given level of performance.
    ML ID: 121
  35. Using Multiple Clause Constructors in Inductive Logic Programming for Semantic Parsing
    [Details] [PDF]
    Lappoon R. Tang and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the 12th European Conference on Machine Learning, 466-477, Freiburg, Germany, 2001.
    In this paper, we explored a learning approach which combines different learning methods in inductive logic programming (ILP) to allow a learner to produce more expressive hypothese than that of each individual learner. Such a learning approach may be useful when the performance of the task depends on solving a large amount of classification problems and each has its own characteristics which may or may not fit a particular learning method. The task of sematnic parser acquisition in two different domains was attempted and preliminary results demonstrated that such an approach is promising.
    ML ID: 107
  36. Automated Construction of Database Interfaces: Integrating Statistical and Relational Learning for Semantic Parsing
    [Details] [PDF]
    Lappoon R. Tang and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the Joint SIGDAT Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and Very Large Corpora(EMNLP/VLC-2000), 133-141, Hong Kong, October 2000.
    The development of natural language interfaces (NLI's) for databases has been a challenging problem in natural language processing (NLP) since the 1970's. The need for NLI's has become more pronounced due to the widespread access to complex databases now available through the Internet. A challenging problem for empirical NLP is the automated acquisition of NLI's from training examples. We present a method for integrating statistical and relational learning techniques for this task which exploits the strength of both approaches. Experimental results from three different domains suggest that such an approach is more robust than a previous purely logic-based approach.
    ML ID: 102
  37. Integrating Statistical and Relational Learning for Semantic Parsing: Applications to Learning Natural Language Interfaces for Databases
    [Details] [PDF]
    Lappoon R. Tang
    May 2000. Ph.D. proposal, Department of Computer Sciences, University of Texas at Austin.
    The development of natural language interfaces (NLIs) for databases has been an interesting problem in natural language processing since the 70's. The need for NLIs has become more pronounced given the widespread access to complex databases now available through the Internet. However, such systems are difficult to build and must be tailored to each application. A current research topic involves using machine learning methods to automate the development of NLI's. This proposal presents a method for learning semantic parsers (systems for mapping natural language to logical form) that integrates logic-based and probabilistic methods in order to exploit the complementary strengths of these competing approaches. More precisely, an inductive logic programming (ILP) method, TABULATE, is developed for learning multiple models that are integrated via linear weighted combination to produce probabilistic models for statistical semantic parsing. Initial experimental results from three different domains suggest that an integration of statistical and logical approaches to semantic parsing can outperform a purely logical approach. Future research will further develop this integrated approach and demonstrate its ability to improve the automated development of NLI's.
    ML ID: 99
  38. Learning for Semantic Interpretation: Scaling Up Without Dumbing Down
    [Details] [PDF]
    Raymond J. Mooney
    In Workshop Notes for the Workshop on Learning Language in Logic, 7-15, Bled, Slovenia, 2000.
    Most recent research in learning approaches to natural language have studied fairly ``low-level'' tasks such as morphology, part-of-speech tagging, and syntactic parsing. However, I believe that logical approaches may have the most relevance and impact at the level of semantic interpretation, where a logical representation of sentence meaning is important and useful. We have explored the use of inductive logic programming for learning parsers that map natural-language database queries into executable logical form. This work goes against the growing trend in computational linguistics of focusing on shallow but broad-coverage natural language tasks (``scaling up by dumbing down'') and instead concerns using logic-based learning to develop narrower, domain-specific systems that perform relatively deep processing. I first present a historical view of the shifting emphasis of research on various tasks in natural language processing and then briefly review our own work on learning for semantic interpretation. I will then attempt to encourage others to study such problems and explain why I believe logical approaches have the most to offer at the level of producing semantic interpretations of complete sentences.
    ML ID: 93
  39. Automatic Construction of Semantic Lexicons for Learning Natural Language Interfaces
    [Details] [PDF]
    Cynthia A. Thompson and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the Sixteenth National Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-99), 487-493, Orlando, FL, July 1999.
    This paper describes a system, Wolfie (WOrd Learning From Interpreted Examples), that acquires a semantic lexicon from a corpus of sentences paired with semantic representations. The lexicon learned consists of words paired with meaning representations. Wolfie is part of an integrated system that learns to parse novel sentences into semantic representations, such as logical database queries. Experimental results are presented demonstrating Wolfie's ability to learn useful lexicons for a database interface in four different natural languages. The lexicons learned by Wolfie are compared to those acquired by a competing system developed by Siskind.
    ML ID: 95
  40. Active Learning for Natural Language Parsing and Information Extraction
    [Details] [PDF]
    Cynthia A. Thompson, Mary Elaine Califf and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the Sixteenth International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML-99), 406-414, Bled, Slovenia, June 1999.
    In natural language acquisition, it is difficult to gather the annotated data needed for supervised learning; however, unannotated data is fairly plentiful. Active learning methods attempt to select for annotation and training only the most informative examples, and therefore are potentially very useful in natural language applications. However, existing results for active learning have only considered standard classification tasks. To reduce annotation effort while maintaining accuracy, we apply active learning to two non-classification tasks in natural language processing: semantic parsing and information extraction. We show that active learning can significantly reduce the number of annotated examples required to achieve a given level of performance for these complex tasks.
    ML ID: 92
  41. Semantic Lexicon Acquisition for Learning Natural Language Interfaces
    [Details] [PDF]
    Cynthia Ann Thompson
    PhD Thesis, Department of Computer Sciences, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, December 1998. 101 pages. Also appears as Technical Report AI 99-278, Artificial Intelligence Lab, University of Texas at Austin.
    A long-standing goal for the field of artificial intelligence is to enable computer understanding of human languages. A core requirement in reaching this goal is the ability to transform individual sentences into a form better suited for computer manipulation. This ability, called semantic parsing, requires several knowledge sources, such as a grammar, lexicon, and parsing mechanism.
    Building natural language parsing systems by hand is a tedious, error-prone undertaking. We build on previous research in automating the construction of such systems using machine learning techniques. The result is a combined system that learns semantic lexicons and semantic parsers from one common set of training examples. The input required is a corpus of sentence/representation pairs, where the representations are in the output format desired. A new system, Wolfie, learns semantic lexicons to be used as background knowledge by a previously developed parser acquisition system, Chill. The combined system is tested on a real world domain of answering database queries. We also compare this combination to a combination of Chill with a previously developed lexicon learner, demonstrating superior performance with our system. In addition, we show the ability of the system to learn to process natural languages other than English. Finally, we test the system on an alternate sentence representation, and on a set of large, artificial corpora with varying levels of ambiguity and synonymy.
    One difficulty in using machine learning methods for building natural language interfaces is building the required annotated corpus. Therefore, we also address this issue by using active learning to reduce the number of training examples required by both Wolfie and Chill. Experimental results show that the number of examples needed to reach a given level of performance can be significantly reduced with this method.
    ML ID: 90
  42. Semantic Lexicon Acquisition for Learning Natural Language Interfaces
    [Details] [PDF]
    Cynthia A. Thompson and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the Sixth Workshop on Very Large Corpora, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, August 1998. Also available as TR AI 98-273, Artificial Intelligence Lab, University of Texas at Austin, May 1998.
    This paper describes a system, WOLFIE (WOrd Learning From Interpreted Examples), that acquires a semantic lexicon from a corpus of sentences paired with representations of their meaning. The lexicon learned consists of words paired with meaning representations. WOLFIE is part of an integrated system that learns to parse novel sentences into semantic representations, such as logical database queries. Experimental results are presented demonstrating WOLFIE's ability to learn useful lexicons for a database interface in four different natural languages. The lexicons learned by WOLFIE are compared to those acquired by a competing system developed by Siskind (1996).
    ML ID: 89
  43. Learning to Parse Natural Language Database Queries into Logical Form
    [Details] [PDF]
    Cynthia A. Thompson, Raymond J. Mooney, and Lappoon R. Tang
    In Proceedings of the ML-97 Workshop on Automata Induction, Grammatical Inference, and Language Acquisition, Nashville, TN, July 1997.
    For most natural language processing tasks, a parser that maps sentences into a semantic representation is significantly more useful than a grammar or automata that simply recognizes syntactically well-formed strings. This paper reviews our work on using inductive logic programming methods to learn deterministic shift-reduce parsers that translate natural language into a semantic representation. We focus on the task of mapping database queries directly into executable logical form. An overview of the system is presented followed by recent experimental results on corpora of Spanish geography queries and English job-search queries.
    ML ID: 75
  44. An Inductive Logic Programming Method for Corpus-based Parser Construction
    [Details] [PDF]
    John M. Zelle and Raymond J. Mooney
    January 1997. Unpublished Technical Note.
    Empirical methods for building natural language systems has become an important area of research in recent years. Most current approaches are based on propositional learning algorithms and have been applied to the problem of acquiring broad-coverage parsers for relatively shallow (syntactic) representations. This paper outlines an alternative empirical approach based on techniques from a subfield of machine learning known as Inductive Logic Programming (ILP). ILP algorithms, which learn relational (first-order) rules, are used in a parser acquisition system called CHILL that learns rules to control the behavior of a traditional shift-reduce parser. Using this approach, CHILL is able to learn parsers for a variety of different types of analyses, from traditional syntax trees to more meaning-oriented case-role and database query forms. Experimental evidence shows that CHILL performs comparably to propositional learning systems on similar tasks, and is able to go beyond the broad-but-shallow paradigm and learn mappings directly from sentences into useful semantic representations. In a complete database-query application, parsers learned by CHILL outperform an existing hand-crafted system, demonstrating the promise of empricial techniques for automating the construction certain NLP systems.
    ML ID: 71
  45. Semantic Lexicon Acquisition for Learning Parsers
    [Details] [PDF]
    Cynthia A. Thompson and Raymond J. Mooney
    1997. Submitted for review.
    This paper describes a system, WOLFIE (WOrd Learning From Interpreted Examples), that learns a semantic lexicon from a corpus of sentences paired with representations of their meaning. The lexicon learned consists of words paired with representations of their meaning, and allows for both synonymy and polysemy. WOLFIE is part of an integrated system that learns to parse novel sentences into their meaning representations. Experimental results are presented that demonstrate WOLFIE's ability to learn useful lexicons for a realistic domain. The lexicons learned by WOLFIE are also compared to those learned by another lexical acquisition system, that of Siskind (1996).
    ML ID: 69
  46. Inductive Logic Programming for Natural Language Processing
    [Details] [PDF]
    Raymond J. Mooney
    In Stephen Muggleton, editors, Inductive Logic Programming: Selected papers from the 6th International Workshop, 3-22, Berlin, 1996. Springer Verlag.
    This paper reviews our recent work on applying inductive logic programming to the construction of natural language processing systems. We have developed a system, CHILL, that learns a parser from a training corpus of parsed sentences by inducing heuristics that control an initial overly-general shift-reduce parser. CHILL learns syntactic parsers as well as ones that translate English database queries directly into executable logical form. The ATIS corpus of airline information queries was used to test the acquisition of syntactic parsers, and CHILL performed competitively with recent statistical methods. English queries to a small database on U.S. geography were used to test the acquisition of a complete natural language interface, and the parser that CHILL acquired was more accurate than an existing hand-coded system. The paper also includes a discussion of several issues this work has raised regarding the capabilities and testing of ILP systems as well as a summary of our current research directions.
    ML ID: 68
  47. Learning to Parse Database Queries using Inductive Logic Programming
    [Details] [PDF]
    John M. Zelle and Raymond J. Mooney
    In AAAI/IAAI, 1050-1055, Portland, OR, August 1996. AAAI Press/MIT Press.
    This paper presents recent work using the CHILL parser acquisition system to automate the construction of a natural-language interface for database queries. CHILL treats parser acquisition as the learning of search-control rules within a logic program representing a shift-reduce parser and uses techniques from Inductive Logic Programming to learn relational control knowledge. Starting with a general framework for constructing a suitable logical form, CHILL is able to train on a corpus comprising sentences paired with database queries and induce parsers that map subsequent sentences directly into executable queries. Experimental results with a complete database-query application for U.S. geography show that CHILL is able to learn parsers that outperform a pre-existing, hand-crafted counterpart. These results demonstrate the ability of a corpus-based system to produce more than purely syntactic representations. They also provide direct evidence of the utility of an empirical approach at the level of a complete natural language application.
    ML ID: 66
  48. Corpus-Based Lexical Acquisition For Semantic Parsing
    [Details] [PDF]
    Cynthia Thompson
    February 1996. Ph.D. proposal.
    Building accurate and efficient natural language processing (NLP) systems is an important and difficult problem. There has been increasing interest in automating this process. The lexicon, or the mapping from words to meanings, is one component that is typically difficult to update and that changes from one domain to the next. Therefore, automating the acquisition of the lexicon is an important task in automating the acquisition of NLP systems. This proposal describes a system, WOLFIE (WOrd Learning From Interpreted Examples), that learns a lexicon from input consisting of sentences paired with representations of their meanings. Preliminary experimental results show that this system can learn correct and useful mappings. The correctness is evaluated by comparing a known lexicon to one learned from the training input. The usefulness is evaluated by examining the effect of using the lexicon learned by WOLFIE to assist a parser acquisition system, where previously this lexicon had to be hand-built. Future work in the form of extensions to the algorithm, further evaluation, and possible applications is discussed.
    ML ID: 57
  49. Lexical Acquisition: A Novel Machine Learning Problem
    [Details] [PDF]
    Cynthia A. Thompson and Raymond J. Mooney
    Technical Report, Artificial Intelligence Lab, University of Texas at Austin, January 1996.
    This paper defines a new machine learning problem to which standard machine learning algorithms cannot easily be applied. The problem occurs in the domain of lexical acquisition. The ambiguous and synonymous nature of words causes the difficulty of using standard induction techniques to learn a lexicon. Additionally, negative examples are typically unavailable or difficult to construct in this domain. One approach to solve the lexical acquisition problem is presented, along with preliminary experimental results on an artificial corpus. Future work includes extending the algorithm and performing tests on a more realistic corpus.
    ML ID: 56
  50. Using Inductive Logic Programming to Automate the Construction of Natural Language Parsers
    [Details] [PDF]
    John M. Zelle
    PhD Thesis, Department of Computer Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, 1995.
    Designing computer systems to understand natural language input is a difficult task. In recent years there has been considerable interest in corpus-based methods for constructing natural language parsers. These empirical approaches replace hand-crafted grammars with linguistic models acquired through automated training over language corpora. A common thread among such methods to date is the use of propositional or probablistic representations for the learned knowledge. This dissertation presents an alternative approach based on techniques from a subfield of machine learning known as inductive logic programming (ILP). ILP, which investigates the learning of relational (first-order) rules, provides an empirical method for acquiring knowledge within traditional, symbolic parsing frameworks.

    This dissertation details the architecture, implementation and evaluation of CHILL a computer system for acquiring natural language parsers by training over corpora of parsed text. CHILL treats language acquisition as the learning of search-control rules within a logic program that implements a shift-reduce parser. Control rules are induced using a novel ILP algorithm which handles difficult issues arising in the induction of search-control heuristics. Both the control-rule framework and the induction algorithm are crucial to CHILL's success.

    The main advantage of CHILL over propositional counterparts is its flexibility in handling varied representations. CHILL has produced parsers for various analyses including case-role mapping, detailed syntactic parse trees, and a logical form suitable for expressing first-order database queries. All of these tasks are accomplished within the same framework, using a single, general learning method that can acquire new syntactic and semantic categories for resolving ambiguities.

    Experimental evidence from both aritificial and real-world corpora demonstrate that CHILL learns parsers as well or better than previous artificial neural network or probablistic approaches on comparable tasks. In the database query domain, which goes beyond the scope of previous empirical approaches, the learned parser outperforms an existing hand-crafted system. These results support the claim that ILP techniques as implemented in CHILL represent a viable alternative with significant potential advantages over neural-network, propositional, and probablistic approaches to empirical parser construction.

    ML ID: 48
  51. A Comparison of Two Methods Employing Inductive Logic Programming for Corpus-based Parser Constuction
    [Details] [PDF]
    John M. Zelle and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Working Notes of the IJCAI-95 Workshop on New Approaches to Learning for Natural Language Processing, 79--86, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, August 1995.
    This paper presents results from recent experiments with CHILL, a corpus-based parser acquisition system. CHILL treats grammar acquisition as the learning of search-control rules within a logic program. Unlike many current corpus-based approaches that use propositional or probabilistic learning algorithms, CHILL uses techniques from inductive logic programming (ILP) to learn relational representations. The reported experiments compare CHILL's performance to that of a more naive application of ILP to parser acquisition. The results show that ILP techniques, as employed in CHILL, are a viable alternative to propositional methods and that the control-rule framework is fundamental to CHILL's success.
    ML ID: 47
  52. Acquisition of a Lexicon from Semantic Representations of Sentences
    [Details] [PDF]
    Cynthia A. Thompson
    In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL-95), 335-337, Cambridge, MA, 1995.
    A system, WOLFIE, that acquires a mapping of words to their semantic representation is presented and a preliminary evaluation is performed. Tree least general generalizations (TLGGs) of the representations of input sentences are performed to assist in determining the representations of individual words in the sentences. The best guess for a meaning of a word is the TLGG which overlaps with the highest percentage of sentence representations in which that word appears. Some promising experimental results on a non-artificial data set are presented.
    ML ID: 45
  53. Learning Semantic Grammars With Constructive Inductive Logic Programming
    [Details] [PDF]
    John M. Zelle and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the 11th National Conference on Artificial Intelligence, 817-822, 1993. Menlo Park, CA: AAAI Press.
    Automating the construction of semantic grammars is a difficult and interesting problem for machine learning. This paper shows how the semantic-grammar acquisition problem can be viewed as the learning of search-control heuristics in a logic program. Appropriate control rules are learned using a new first-order induction algorithm that automatically invents useful syntactic and semantic categories. Empirical results show that the learned parsers generalize well to novel sentences and out-perform previous approaches based on connectionist techniques.
    ML ID: 25
  54. Learning Search-Control Heuristics for Logic Programs: Applications to Speedup Learning and Language Acquisition
    [Details] [PDF]
    John M. Zelle
    March 1993. Ph.D. proposal, Department of Computer Sciences, University of Texas at Austin.
    This paper presents a general framework, learning search-control heuristics for logic programs, which can be used to improve both the efficiency and accuracy of knowledge-based systems expressed as definite-clause logic programs. The approach combines techniques of explanation-based learning and recent advances in inductive logic programming to learn clause-selection heuristics that guide program execution. Two specific applications of this framework are detailed: dynamic optimization of Prolog programs (improving efficiency) and natural language acquisition (improving accuracy). In the area of program optimization, a prototype system, DOLPHIN, is able to transform some intractable specifications into polynomial-time algorithms, and outperforms competing approaches in several benchmark speedup domains. A prototype language acquisition system, CHILL, is also described. It is capable of automatically acquiring semantic grammars, which uniformly incorprate syntactic and semantic constraints to parse sentences into case-role representations. Initial experiments show that this approach is able to construct accurate parsers which generalize well to novel sentences and significantly outperform previous approaches to learning case-role mapping based on connectionist techniques. Planned extensions of the general framework and the specific applications as well as plans for further evaluation are also discussed.
    ML ID: 21