Learning to Write by Learning the Objective

Ari Holtzman, Jan Buys, Maxwell Forbes, Antoine Bosselut, Yejin Choi

Feb 15, 2018 (modified: Oct 27, 2017) ICLR 2018 Conference Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Abstract: Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs) are powerful autoregressive sequence models for learning prevalent patterns in natural language. Yet language generated by RNNs often shows several degenerate characteristics that are uncommon in human language; while fluent, RNN language production can be overly generic, repetitive, and even self-contradictory. We postulate that the objective function optimized by RNN language models, which amounts to the overall perplexity of a text, is not expressive enough to capture the abstract qualities of good generation such as Grice‚Äôs Maxims. In this paper, we introduce a general learning framework that can construct a decoding objective better suited for generation. Starting with a generatively trained RNN language model, our framework learns to construct a substantially stronger generator by combining several discriminatively trained models that can collectively address the limitations of RNN generation. Human evaluation demonstrates that text generated by the resulting generator is preferred over that of baselines by a large margin and significantly enhances the overall coherence, style, and information content of the generated text.
  • TL;DR: We build a stronger natural language generator by discriminatively training scoring functions that rank candidate generations with respect to various qualities of good writing.
  • Keywords: natural language generation
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