Compositional generalization, the ability to predict complex meanings from training on simpler sentences, poses challenges for powerful pretrained seq2seq models. In this paper, we show that data augmentation methods that sample MRs and backtranslate them can be effective for compositional generalization, but only if we sample from the right distribution. Remarkably, sampling from a uniform distribution performs almost as well as sampling from the test distribution, and greatly outperforms earlier methods that sampled from the training distribution. We further conduct experiments to investigate the reason why this happens and where the benefit of such data augmentation methods come from.
LLMs are being increasingly used for planning-style tasks, but their capabilities for planning and reasoning are poorly understood. We present a novel method for automatically converting planning benchmarks written in PDDL into textual descriptions and offer a benchmark dataset created with our method. We show that while the best LLM planners do well on many planning tasks, others remain out of reach of current methods.
The ability to predict an NLP model's accuracy on unseen, potentially out-of-distribution data is a prerequisite for trustworthiness. We present a novel model that establishes upper and lower bounds on the accuracy, without requiring gold labels for the unseen data. We achieve this by training a discriminator which predicts whether the output of a given sequence-to-sequence model is correct or not. We show across a variety of tagging, parsing, and semantic parsing tasks that the gold accuracy is reliably between the predicted upper and lower bounds, and that these bounds are remarkably close together.
Large Language Models (LLMs) are increasingly being used for interactive decision-making tasks requiring planning and adapting to the environment. Recent works employ LLMs-as-agents in broadly two ways: iteratively determining the next action (iterative executors) or generating plans and executing sub-tasks using LLMs (plan-and-execute). However, these methods struggle with task complexity, as the inability to execute any sub-task may lead to task failure. To address these shortcomings, we introduce As-Needed Decomposition and Planning for complex Tasks (ADaPT), an approach that explicitly plans and decomposes complex sub-tasks as-needed, i.e., when the LLM is unable to execute them. ADaPT recursively decomposes sub-tasks to adapt to both task complexity and LLM capability. Our results demonstrate that ADaPT substantially outperforms established strong baselines, achieving success rates up to 28.3% higher in ALFWorld, 27% in WebShop, and 33% in TextCraft -- a novel compositional dataset that we introduce. Through extensive analysis, we illustrate the importance of multilevel decomposition and establish that ADaPT dynamically adjusts to the capabilities of the executor LLM as well as to task complexity.
The goal of compositional generalization benchmarks is to evaluate how well models generalize to new complex linguistic expressions. Existing benchmarks often focus on lexical generalization, the interpretation of novel lexical items in syntactic structures familiar from training; structural generalization tasks, where a model needs to interpret syntactic structures that are themselves unfamiliar from training, are often underrepresented, resulting in overly optimistic perceptions of how well models can generalize. We introduce SLOG, a semantic parsing dataset that extends COGS (Kim and Linzen, 2020) with 17 structural generalization cases. In our experiments, the generalization accuracy of Transformer models, including pretrained ones, only reaches 40.6%, while a structure-aware parser only achieves 70.8%. These results are far from the near-perfect accuracy existing models achieve on COGS, demonstrating the role of SLOG in foregrounding the large discrepancy between models' lexical and structural generalization capacities.
Despite their ubiquity in language generation, it remains unknown why truncation sampling heuristics like nucleus sampling are so effective. We provide a theoretical explanation for the effectiveness of the truncation sampling by proving that truncation methods that discard tokens below some probability threshold (the most common type of truncation) can guarantee that all sampled tokens have nonzero true probability. However, thresholds are a coarse heuristic, and necessarily discard some tokens with nonzero true probability as well. In pursuit of a more precise sampling strategy, we show that we can leverage a known source of model errors, the softmax bottleneck, to prove that certain tokens have nonzero true probability, without relying on a threshold. Based on our findings, we develop an experimental truncation strategy and the present pilot studies demonstrating the promise of this type of algorithm. Our evaluations show that our method outperforms its threshold-based counterparts under automatic and human evaluation metrics for low-entropy (i.e., close to greedy) open-ended text generation. Our theoretical findings and pilot experiments provide both insight into why truncation sampling works, and make progress toward more expressive sampling algorithms that better surface the generative capabilities of large language models.
Strong inductive biases enable learning from little data and help generalization outside of the training distribution. Popular neural architectures such as Transformers lack strong structural inductive biases for seq2seq NLP tasks on their own. Consequently, they struggle with systematic generalization beyond the training distribution, e.g. with extrapolating to longer inputs, even when pre-trained on large amounts of text. We show how a structural inductive bias can be injected into a seq2seq model by pre-training it to simulate structural transformations on synthetic data. Specifically, we inject an inductive bias towards Finite State Transducers (FSTs) into a Transformer by pre-training it to simulate FSTs given their descriptions. Our experiments show that our method imparts the desired inductive bias, resulting in improved systematic generalization and better few-shot learning for FST-like tasks.
Seq2seq models have been shown to struggle with compositional generalization in semantic parsing, i.e. generalizing to unseen compositions of phenomena that the model handles correctly in isolation. We phrase semantic parsing as a two-step process: we first tag each input token with a multiset of output tokens. Then we arrange the tokens into an output sequence using a new way of parameterizing and predicting permutations. We formulate predicting a permutation as solving a regularized linear program and we backpropagate through the solver. In contrast to prior work, our approach does not place a priori restrictions on possible permutations, making it very expressive. Our model outperforms pretrained seq2seq models and prior work on realistic semantic parsing tasks that require generalization to longer examples. We also outperform non-tree-based models on structural generalization on the COGS benchmark. For the first time, we show that a model without an inductive bias provided by trees achieves high accuracy on generalization to deeper recursion.
In the last five years, there has been a significant focus in Natural Language Processing (NLP) on developing larger Pretrained Language Models (PLMs) and introducing benchmarks such as SuperGLUE and SQuAD to measure their abilities in language understanding, reasoning, and reading comprehension. These PLMs have achieved impressive results on these benchmarks, even surpassing human performance in some cases. This has led to claims of superhuman capabilities and the provocative idea that certain tasks have been solved. In this position paper, we take a critical look at these claims and ask whether PLMs truly have superhuman abilities and what the current benchmarks are really evaluating. We show that these benchmarks have serious limitations affecting the comparison between humans and PLMs and provide recommendations for fairer and more transparent benchmarks.
Ambiguity is an intrinsic feature of natural language. Managing ambiguity is a key part of human language understanding, allowing us to anticipate misunderstanding as communicators and revise our interpretations as listeners. As language models (LMs) are increasingly employed as dialogue interfaces and writing aids, handling ambiguous language is critical to their success. We characterize ambiguity in a sentence by its effect on entailment relations with another sentence, and collect AmbiEnt, a linguist-annotated benchmark of 1,645 examples with diverse kinds of ambiguity. We design a suite of tests based on AmbiEnt, presenting the first evaluation of pretrained LMs to recognize ambiguity and disentangle possible meanings. We find that the task remains extremely challenging, including for the recent GPT-4, whose generated disambiguations are considered correct only 32% of the time in human evaluation, compared to 90% for disambiguations in our dataset. Finally, to illustrate the value of ambiguity-sensitive tools, we show that a multilabel NLI model can flag political claims in the wild that are misleading due to ambiguity. We encourage the field to rediscover the importance of ambiguity for NLP.