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Title: Recurrent neural network language generation for dialogue systems
Author: Wen, Tsung-Hsien
ISNI:       0000 0004 7229 671X
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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Language is the principal medium for ideas, while dialogue is the most natural and effective way for humans to interact with and access information from machines. Natural language generation (NLG) is a critical component of spoken dialogue and it has a significant impact on usability and perceived quality. Many commonly used NLG systems employ rules and heuristics, which tend to generate inflexible and stylised responses without the natural variation of human language. However, the frequent repetition of identical output forms can quickly make dialogue become tedious for most real-world users. Additionally, these rules and heuristics are not scalable and hence not trivially extensible to other domains or languages. A statistical approach to language generation can learn language decisions directly from data without relying on hand-coded rules or heuristics, which brings scalability and flexibility to NLG. Statistical models also provide an opportunity to learn in-domain human colloquialisms and cross-domain model adaptations. A robust and quasi-supervised NLG model is proposed in this thesis. The model leverages a Recurrent Neural Network (RNN)-based surface realiser and a gating mechanism applied to input semantics. The model is motivated by the Long-Short Term Memory (LSTM) network. The RNN-based surface realiser and gating mechanism use a neural network to learn end-to-end language generation decisions from input dialogue act and sentence pairs; it also integrates sentence planning and surface realisation into a single optimisation problem. The single optimisation not only bypasses the costly intermediate linguistic annotations but also generates more natural and human-like responses. Furthermore, a domain adaptation study shows that the proposed model can be readily adapted and extended to new dialogue domains via a proposed recipe. Continuing the success of end-to-end learning, the second part of the thesis speculates on building an end-to-end dialogue system by framing it as a conditional generation problem. The proposed model encapsulates a belief tracker with a minimal state representation and a generator that takes the dialogue context to produce responses. These features suggest comprehension and fast learning. The proposed model is capable of understanding requests and accomplishing tasks after training on only a few hundred human-human dialogues. A complementary Wizard-of-Oz data collection method is also introduced to facilitate the collection of human-human conversations from online workers. The results demonstrate that the proposed model can talk to human judges naturally, without any difficulty, for a sample application domain. In addition, the results also suggest that the introduction of a stochastic latent variable can help the system model intrinsic variation in communicative intention much better.
Supervisor: Young, Stephen Sponsor: Toshiba Research Europe Ltd ; Cambridge Research Laboratory
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: RNN ; dialogue ; recurrent neural networks ; deep learning ; converational ai ; latent variable models ; domain adaptation ; natural language generation ; data collection ; wizard of oz ; end to end dialogue modeling ; end to end learning ; human evaluation