Query-focused Sentence Compression in Linear Time

04/19/2019 ∙ by Abram Handler, et al. ∙ University of Massachusetts Amherst 0

Search applications often display shortened sentences which must contain certain query terms and must fit within the space constraints of a user interface. This work introduces a new transition-based sentence compression technique developed for such settings. Our method constructs length and lexically constrained compressions in linear time, by growing a subgraph in the dependency parse of a sentence. This approach achieves a 4x speed up over baseline ILP compression techniques, and better reconstructs gold shortenings under constraints. Such efficiency gains permit constrained compression of multiple sentences, without unreasonable lag.



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1 Introduction

Traditional study of extractive sentence compression seeks to create short, readable, single-sentence summaries which retain the most “important” information from source sentences. But search user interfaces often require compressions which must include a user’s query terms and must not exceed some maximum length, permitted by screen space. Figure 1 shows an example.

This study examines the English-language compression problem with such length and lexical requirements. In our constrained compression setting, a source sentence is shortened to a compression which (1) must include all tokens in a set of query terms and (2) must be no longer than a maximum budgeted character length, . Formally, constrained compression maps , such that respects and . We describe this task as query-focused compression because places a hard requirement on words from which must be included in .

Figure 1: A search user interface (boxed, top) returns a snippet consisting of three compressions which must contain a users’ query (bold) and must not exceed 75 characters in length. The third compression was derived from source sentence (italics, bottom).

Existing techniques are poorly suited to constrained compression. While methods based on integer linear programming (ILP) can trivially accommodate such length and lexical restrictions

Clarke and Lapata (2008); Filippova and Altun (2013); Wang et al. (2017), these approaches rely on slow third-party solvers to optimize an NP-hard integer linear programming objective, causing interface lag. An alternative LSTM tagging approach Filippova et al. (2015) does not allow practitioners to specify length or lexical constraints, and requires an expensive graphics processing unit (GPU) to achieve low runtime latency (a barrier in fields like social science and journalism). These deficits prevent application of existing compression techniques in search user interfaces Marchionini (2006); Hearst (2009), where length, lexical and latency requirements are paramount. We thus present a new stateful method for query-focused compression.

Our approach is theoretically and empirically faster than ILP-based techniques, and more accurately reconstructs gold standard compressions.

Approach Complexity Constrained
ilp exponential yes
LSTM tagger linear no
vertex addition linear yes
Table 1: Our vertex addition technique (§3) constructs constrained compressions in linear time. Prior work (§2) has higher computational complexity (ILP) or does not respect hard constraints (LSTM tagger).

2 Related work

Extractive compression shortens a sentence by removing tokens, typically for summarization Knight and Marcu (2000); Clarke and Lapata (2008); Filippova et al. (2015); Wang et al. (2017).111Some methods compress via generation instead of deletion Rush et al. (2015); Mallinson et al. (2018). Our extractive method is intended for practical, interpretable and trustworthy search systems Chuang et al. (2012). Users might not trust abstractive summaries Zhang and Cranshaw (2018), particularly in cases with semantic error. To our knowledge, this work is the first to consider extractive compression under hard length and lexical constraints.

We compare our vertex addition approach to ILP-based compression methods Clarke and Lapata (2008); Filippova and Altun (2013); Wang et al. (2017), which shorten sentences using an integer linear programming objective. ilp methods can easily accommodate lexical and budget restrictions via additional optimization constraints, but require worst-case exponential computation.222ILPs are exponential in when selecting Clarke and Lapata (2008) tokens and exponential in when selecting edges Filippova et al. (2015).

Finally, compression methods based on LSTM taggers Filippova et al. (2015) cannot currently enforce lexical or length requirements. Future work might address this limitation by applying and modifying constrained generation techniques Kikuchi et al. (2016); Post and Vilar (2018); Gehrmann et al. (2018).

3 Compression via vertex addition

We present a new transition-based method for shortening sentences under lexical and length constraints, inspired by similar approaches in transition-based parsing Nivre (2003). We describe our technique as vertex addition because it constructs a shortening by growing a (possibly disconnected) subgraph in the dependency parse of a sentence, one vertex at a time. This approach can construct constrained compressions with a linear algorithm, leading to 4x lower latency than ILP techniques (§4). To our knowledge, our method is also the first to construct compressions by adding vertexes rather than pruning subtrees in a parse Knight and Marcu (2000); Berg-Kirkpatrick et al. (2011); Almeida and Martins (2013); Filippova and Alfonseca (2015). We assume a boolean relevance model: must contain . We leave more sophisticated relevance models for future work.

3.1 Formal description

vertex addition builds a compression by maintaining a state where is a set of added candidates, is a priority queue of vertexes, and indexes a timestep during compression. Figure 2 shows a step-by-step example.

During initialization, we set and . Then, at each timestep, we pop some candidate from the head of and evaluate for inclusion in . (Neighbors of in get higher priority than non-neighbors; we break ties in left-to-right order, by sentence position.) If we accept , then . We discuss acceptance decisions in detail in §4.3. We continue adding vertexes to until either is empty or is characters long.333We linearize by left-to-right vertex position in , common for compression in English Filippova and Altun (2013). The appendix includes a formal algorithm.

vertex addition is linear in the token length of because we pop and evaluate some vertex from at each timestep, after . Additionally, because (1) we never accept if the length of is more than , and (2) we set , our method respects and .

Figure 2: A dependency parse of a sentence , shown across five timesteps of vertex addition (from left to right). Each node in the parse is a vertex in . Our stateful method produces the final compression A,C,B,E (rightmost). At each timestep, each candidate is boxed; rejected candidates are unshaded.

4 Evaluation

We observe the latency, readability and token-level F1 score of vertex addition, using a standard dataset (§4.1). We compare our method to an ilp baseline (§2) because ILP methods are the only known technique for constrained compression. All methods have similar compression ratios (shown in appendix), a well-known evaluation requirement Napoles et al. (2011). We evaluate the significance of differences between vertex addition and the ilp with bootstrap sampling Berg-Kirkpatrick et al. (2012). All differences are significant .

4.1 Constrained compression experiment

In order to evaluate different approaches to constrained compression, we require a dataset of sentences, constraints and known-good shortenings, which respect the constraints. This means we need tuples , where is a known-good compression of which respects and 1).

To support large-scale automatic evaluation, we reinterpret a standard compression corpus Filippova and Altun (2013) as a collection of input triples and constrained compressions. The original dataset contains pairs of sentences and compressions , generated using news headlines. For our experiment, we set equal to the character length of the gold compression . We then sample some query set from the nouns in so that the distribution of cardinalities of queries across our dataset simulates the observed distribution of cardinalities (i.e. number of query tokens) in real-world search Jansen et al. (2000). Sampled queries are short sets of nouns, such as “police, Syracuse”, “NHS” and “Hughes, manager, QPR,” approximating real-world behavior Barr et al. (2008).444See appendix for detailed discussion of query sampling.

By sampling queries and defining budgets in this manner, we create 199,152 training tuples and 9,969 test tuples, each of the form . Filippova and Altun (2013) define the train/test split. We re-tokenize, parse and tag with CoreNLP v3.8.0 Manning et al. (2014). We reserve 24,999 training tuples as a validation set.

4.2 Model: ilp

We compare our system to a baseline ilp method, presented in Filippova and Altun (2013)

. This approach represents each edge in a syntax tree with a vector of real-valued features, then learns feature weights using a structured perceptron trained on a corpus of

pairs.555Another ILP Wang et al. (2017) sets weights using a LSTM, achieving similar in-domain performance. This method requires a multi-stage computational process (i.e. run LSTM then ILP) that is poorly-suited to our query-focused setting, where low latency is crucial. Learned weights are used to compute a global compression objective, subject to structural constraints which ensure is a valid tree. This baseline can easily perform constrained compression: at test time, we add optimization constraints specifying that must include , and not exceed length .

To our knowledge, a public implementation of this method does not exist. We reimplement from scratch using Gurobi Optimization (2018), achieving a test-time, token-level F1 score of 0.76 on the unconstrained compression task, lower than the result (F1 = 84.3) reported by the original authors. There are some important differences between our reimplementation and original approach (described in detail in the appendix). Since vertex addition requires and , so we can only compare it to the ILP on the constrained (rather than traditional, unconstrained) compression task.

4.3 Models: vertex addition

Vertex addition accepts or rejects some candidate vertex at each timestep . We learn such decisions using a corpus of tuples 4.1). Given such a tuple, we can always execute an oracle path shortening to by first initializing vertex addition and then, at each timestep: (1) choosing and (2) adding to iff . We say that each if , and that if . We use decisions from oracle paths to train two models of inclusion decisions, .

The model vertex addition broadly follows neural approaches to transition-based parsing (e.g. Chen and Manning (2014)): we predict

using a LSTM classifier with a standard max-pooling architecture

Conneau et al. (2017), implemented with a common neural framework Gardner et al. (2017). Our classifier maintains four vocabulary embeddings matrixes, corresponding to the four disjoint subsets . Each LSTM input vector comes from the appropriate embedding for , depending on the state of the compression system at timestep

. The appendix details hyperparameter tuning and network optimization.

The model vertex addition

uses binary logistic regression,

666We implement with Python 3 using scikit-learn Pedregosa et al. (2011). We tune the inverse regularization constant to via grid search over powers of ten, to optimize validation set F1. with features that fall into 3 classes.

Edge features describe the properties of the edge between and . We use the edge-based feature function from Filippova and Altun (2013), described in detail in the appendix. This allows us to compare the performance of a vertex addition method based on local decisions with an ILP method that optimizes a global objective (§4.5), using the same feature set.

Stateful features represent the relationship between and the compression at timestep . Stateful features include information such as the position of in the sentence, relative to the right-most and left-most vertex in , as well as history-based information such as the fraction of the character budget used so far. Such features allow the model to reason about which sort of should be added, given , and .

Interaction features are formed by crossing all stateful features with the type of the dependency edge governing , as well as with indicators identifying if governs , if governs or if there is no edge in the parse.

4.4 Metrics: F1, Latency and SLOR

We measure the token-level F1 score of each compression method against gold compressions in the test set. F1 is the standard automatic evaluation metric for extractive compression

Filippova et al. (2015); Klerke et al. (2016); Wang et al. (2017).

In addition to measuring F1, researchers often evaluate compression systems with human importance and readability judgements Knight and Marcu (2000); Filippova et al. (2015). In our setting determines the “important” information from , so importance evaluations are inappropriate. To check readability, we use the automated SLOR metric Lau et al. (2015), which correlates with human readability judgements Kann et al. (2018).

Finally, we measure the latency of each compression method, in milliseconds per sentence. We observe that theoretical gains from vertex addition (Table 1) translate to real speedups: vertex addition is on average 4x faster than the ilp (Table 2

). (Edge feature extraction code is shared across both methods.) We measure latency of

vertex addition using a CPU, to test if the method is practical in settings without GPUs. The appendix describes additional details related to our measurement of latency and SLOR.

4.5 Analysis: ablated & random

For comparison, we implement an ablated vertex addition method, which makes inclusion decisions using a model trained on only edge features from Filippova and Altun (2013). This method achieves a lower F1 than the ILP, which integrates the same edge-level information to optimize a global objective. However, adding stateful and interaction features in vertex addition raises the F1 score. The relatively strong performance of ablated hints that edge-level information alone can largely guide acceptance decisions, e.g. should some verb governing some object in via be included?

We also evaluate a random baseline, which accepts each randomly in proportion to across training data. random achieves reasonable F1 because (1) and (2) F1 correlates with compression rate Napoles et al. (2011), and is set to the length of .

Approach F1 SLOR Latency
random (lower bound) 0.653 0.371 0.5
ablated (edge only) 0.820 0.665 3.5
vertex addition 0.884 0.731 98.4
ilp 0.856 0.755 21.9
vertex addition 0.881 0.745 5.2
Table 2: Test results for constrained compression. Latency is shown in milliseconds (ms.) per sentence. vertex addition achieves higher F1 than the ilp. The method is also 4.2 times faster. Differences between all scores for vertex addition and ilp are significant . vertex addition achieves the highest F1, but runs slowly on a CPU.

5 Conclusion

Both novel and traditional search user interfaces would benefit from low-latency, query-focused sentence compression. We introduce a new vertex addition technique for such settings. Our method is 4x faster than an ilp baseline while better reconstructing known-good compressions, as measured by F1 score.

In search applications, the latency gains from vertex addition are non-trivial: real users are measurably hindered by interface lags Nielsen (1993); Liu and Heer (2014). Fast, query-focused compression better enables search systems to create snippets at the “pace of human thought” Heer and Shneiderman (2012).

Appendix A Appendix

a.1 Algorithm

We formally present the vertex addition compression algorithm, using notation defined in the paper. linearizes a vertex set, based on left-to-right position in . indicates the number of tokens in the priority queue.

input : , ,
while  and  do
       if  and  then
       end if
end while
Algorithm 1 vertex addition

a.2 Neural network tuning and optimization

We learn network weights for vertex addition by minimizing cross-entropy loss with AdaGrad Duchi et al. (2011). The hyperparameters of the network are: the learning rate, the dimensionality of embeddings, the weight decay parameter, and the hidden state size of the LSTM. We tune hyperparameters via random search Bergstra and Bengio (2012)

, selecting parameters which achieve highest accuracy in predicting oracle decisions for the validation set. We train for 10 epochs, and use parameters from the best-performing ecoch (by validation accuracy) at test time.

Learning rate 4.212
Embedding dim. 813
Weight decay 6.677
Hidden dim. 141
Table 3: Hyperparameters for vertex addition

a.3 Reimplementation of Filippova and Altun (2013)

In this work, we reimplement the method of Filippova and Altun (2013), who in turn implement a method partially described in Filippova and Strube (2008). There are inevitable discrepancies between our implementation and the methods described in these two prior papers.

  1. Where the original authors train on only 100,000 sentences, we learn weights with the full training set to compare fairly with vertex addition (each model trains on the full training set.)

  2. We use Gurobi Optimization (2018) (v8) to solve the liner program. Filippova and Strube (2008) report using LPsolve.777http://sourceforge.net/projects/lpsolve

  3. We implement with the common Universal Dependencies (UD, v1) framework Nivre et al. (2016). Prior work Filippova and Strube (2008) implements with older dependency formalisms Briscoe et al. (2006); de Marneffe et al. (2006).

  4. In Table 1 of their original paper, Filippova and Altun (2013) provide an overview of the syntactic, structural, semantic and lexical features in their model. We implement every feature described in the table. We do not implement features which are not described in the paper.

  5. Filippova and Altun (2013) augment edge labels in the dependency parse of as a preprocessing step. We reimplement this step using off-the-shelf augmented modifiers and augmented conjuncts available with the enhanced dependencies representation in CoreNLP Schuster and Manning (2016).

  6. Filippova and Altun (2013) preprocess dependency parses by adding an edge between the root node and all verbs in a sentence.888This step ensures that subclauses can be removed from parse trees, and then merged together to create a compression from different clauses of a sentence. We found that replicating this transform literally (i.e. only adding edges from the original root to all tokens tagged as verbs) made it impossible for the ILP to recreate some gold compressions. (We suspect that this is due to differences in output from part-of-speech taggers.) We thus add an edge between the root node and all tokens in a sentence during preprocessing, allowing the ILP to always return the gold compression.

We assess convergence of the ILP by examining validation F1 score on the traditional sentence compression task. We terminate training after six epochs, when F1 score stabilizes (i.e. changes by fewer than points).

a.4 Implementation of SLOR

We use the SLOR function to measure the readability of the shortened sentences produced by each compression system. SLOR normalizes the probability of a token sequence assigned from a language model by adjusting for both the probability of the individual unigrams in the sentence and for the sentence length.

999Longer sentences are always less probable than shorter sentences; rarer words make a sequence less probable.

Following Lau et al. (2015), we define the function as


where is a sequence of words, is the unigram probability of this sequence of words and is the probability of the sequence, assigned by a language model. is the length (in tokens) of the sentence.

We use a 3-gram language model trained on the training set of the Filippova and Altun (2013) corpus. We implement with KenLM Heafield (2011). Because compression often results in shortenings where the first token is not capitalized (e.g. a compression which begins with the third token in ) we ignore case when calculating language model probabilities.

a.5 Latency evaluation

To measure latency, for each technique, we sample 100,000 sentences with replacement from the test test. We observe the mean time per sentence using Python’s built-in timeit module. We measure with an Intel Xeon processor with a clock rate of 2.80GHz.

a.6 Query sampling

We sample queries for our synthetic constrained compression experiment to mimic real-world searches: the distribution of query token lengths and the distribution of query part-of-speech tags employed in our experiment closely match empirical distributions observed in real search Jansen et al. (2000); Barr et al. (2008). To create queries, for each sentence in our corpus we: (1) sample a query token length in proportion to the real-world distribution over query token lengths (2) sample a proper or common noun from in proportion to the distribution over proper and common nouns in real-world queries (3) add to the query set (4) repeat steps 2 and 3 until the cardinality of is the query token length specified in step 1. We exclude sentences in cases where the gold compression does not contain enough nouns to fill to the desired token length.

a.7 Compression ratios

When comparing sentence compression systems, it is important to ensure that all approaches use the same rate of compression Napoles et al. (2011). Following Filippova et al. (2015), we define the compression ratio as the character length of the compression divided by the character length of the sentence. We present test set compression ratios for all methods in Table 4. Because ratios are similar, our comparison is appropriate.

random 0.404
ilp 0.407
ablated 0.398
vertex addition 0.404
vertex addition 0.405
Train 0.383
Test 0.412
Table 4: Mean test time compression ratios for all techniques. We also show mean ratios for gold compressions across the train and test sets.



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