Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Natural Language Processing Seminar & AI Seminar

Procedural Language and Knowledge

Yejin Choi

Assistant Professor
University of Washington
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
10:30am - 12:00pm
1670 BBB

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About the Event

Various types of how-to-knowledge are encoded in natural language instructions: from setting up a tent, to preparing a dish for dinner, and to executing biology lab experiments. These types of instructions are based on procedural language, which poses unique challenges. For example, verbal arguments are commonly elided when they can be inferred from context, e.g., ``bake for 30 minutes'', not specifying bake what and where. Entities frequently merge and split, e.g., ``vinegar’’ and ``oil’’ merging into ``dressing’’, creating challenges to reference resolution. And disambiguation often requires world knowledge, e.g., the implicit location argument of ``stir frying'' is on ``stove''. In this talk, I will present our recent approaches to interpreting and composing cooking recipes that aim to address these challenges. In the first part of the talk, I will present an unsupervised approach to interpreting recipes as action graphs, which define what actions should be performed on which objects and in what order. Our work demonstrates that it is possible to recover action graphs without having access to gold labels, virtual environments or simulations. The key insight is to rely on the redundancy across different variations of similar instructions that provides the learning bias to infer various types of background knowledge, such as the typical sequence of actions applied to an ingredient, or how a combination of ingredients (e.g., ``flour'', ``milk'', ``eggs'') becomes a new entity (e.g, ``wet mixture''). In the second part of the talk, I will present an approach to composing new recipes given a target dish name and a set of ingredients. The key challenge is to maintain global coherence while generating a goal-oriented text. We propose a Neural Checklist Model that attains global coherence by storing and updating a checklist of the agenda (e.g., an ingredient list) with paired attention mechanisms for tracking what has been already mentioned and what needs to be yet introduced. This model also achieves strong performance on dialogue system response generation. I will conclude the talk by discussing the challenges in modeling procedural language and acquiring the necessary background knowledge, pointing to avenues for future research.


Yejin Choi is an assistant professor at the Computer Science & Engineering Department of University of Washington. Her recent research focuses on language grounding, integrating language and vision, and modeling nonliteral meaning in text. She was among the IEEE’s AI Top 10 to Watch in 2015 and a co-recipient of the Marr Prize at ICCV 2013. Her work on detecting deceptive reviews, predicting the literary success, and learning to interpret connotation has been featured by numerous media outlets including NBC News for New York, NPR Radio, New York Times, and Bloomberg Business Week. She received her Ph.D. in Computer Science at Cornell University.

Additional Information

Sponsor(s): Toyota AI Seminar

Open to: Public