Modelling input texts: from Tree Kernels to Deep Learning

Severyn, Aliaksei (2015) Modelling input texts: from Tree Kernels to Deep Learning. PhD thesis, University of Trento.

PDF - Doctoral Thesis


One of the core questions when designing modern Natural Language Processing (NLP) systems is how to model input textual data such that the learning algorithm is provided with enough information to estimate accurate decision functions. The mainstream approach is to represent input objects as feature vectors where each value encodes some of their aspects, e.g., syntax, semantics, etc. Feature-based methods have demonstrated state-of-the-art results on various NLP tasks. However, designing good features is a highly empirical-driven process, it greatly depends on a task requiring a significant amount of domain expertise. Moreover, extracting features for complex NLP tasks often requires expensive pre-processing steps running a large number of linguistic tools while relying on external knowledge sources that are often not available or hard to get. Hence, this process is not cheap and often constitutes one of the major challenges when attempting a new task or adapting to a different language or domain. The problem of modelling input objects is even more acute in cases when the input examples are not just single objects but pairs of objects, such as in various learning to rank problems in Information Retrieval and Natural Language processing. An alternative to feature-based methods is using kernels which are essentially non-linear functions mapping input examples into some high dimensional space thus allowing for learning decision functions with higher discriminative power. Kernels implicitly generate a very large number of features computing similarity between input examples in that implicit space. A well-designed kernel function can greatly reduce the effort to design a large set of manually designed features often leading to superior results. However, in the recent years, the use of kernel methods in NLP has been greatly under-estimated primarily due to the following reasons: (i) learning with kernels is slow as it requires to carry out optimization in the dual space leading to quadratic complexity; (ii) applying kernels to the input objects encoded with vanilla structures, e.g., generated by syntactic parsers, often yields minor improvements over carefully designed feature-based methods. In this thesis, we adopt the kernel learning approach for solving complex NLP tasks and primarily focus on solutions to the aforementioned problems posed by the use of kernels. In particular, we design novel learning algorithms for training Support Vector Machines with structural kernels, e.g., tree kernels, considerably speeding up the training over the conventional SVM training methods. We show that using the training algorithms developed in this thesis allows for training tree kernel models on large-scale datasets containing millions of instances, which was not possible before. Next, we focus on the problem of designing input structures that are fed to tree kernel functions to automatically generate a large set of tree-fragment features. We demonstrate that previously used plain structures generated by syntactic parsers, e.g., syntactic or dependency trees, are often a poor choice thus compromising the expressivity offered by a tree kernel learning framework. We propose several effective design patterns of the input tree structures for various NLP tasks ranging from sentiment analysis to answer passage reranking. The central idea is to inject additional semantic information relevant for the task directly into the tree nodes and let the expressive kernels generate rich feature spaces. For the opinion mining tasks, the additional semantic information injected into tree nodes can be word polarity labels, while for more complex tasks of modelling text pairs the relational information about overlapping words in a pair appears to significantly improve the accuracy of the resulting models. Finally, we observe that both feature-based and kernel methods typically treat words as atomic units where matching different yet semantically similar words is problematic. Conversely, the idea of distributional approaches to model words as vectors is much more effective in establishing a semantic match between words and phrases. While tree kernel functions do allow for a more flexible matching between phrases and sentences through matching their syntactic contexts, their representation can not be tuned on the training set as it is possible with distributional approaches. Recently, deep learning approaches have been applied to generalize the distributional word matching problem to matching sentences taking it one step further by learning the optimal sentence representations for a given task. Deep neural networks have already claimed state-of-the-art performance in many computer vision, speech recognition, and natural language tasks. Following this trend, this thesis also explores the virtue of deep learning architectures for modelling input texts and text pairs where we build on some of the ideas to model input objects proposed within the tree kernel learning framework. In particular, we explore the idea of relational linking (proposed in the preceding chapters to encode text pairs using linguistic tree structures) to design a state-of-the-art deep learning architecture for modelling text pairs. We compare the proposed deep learning models that require even less manual intervention in the feature design process then previously described tree kernel methods that already offer a very good trade-off between the feature-engineering effort and the expressivity of the resulting representation. Our deep learning models demonstrate the state-of-the-art performance on a recent benchmark for Twitter Sentiment Analysis, Answer Sentence Selection and Microblog retrieval.

Item Type:Doctoral Thesis (PhD)
Doctoral School:Information and Communication Technology
PhD Cycle:25
Subjects:Area 01 - Scienze matematiche e informatiche > INF/01 INFORMATICA
Repository Staff approval on:13 May 2015 14:25

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