SemEval-2010 Task 8: Multi-Way Classification of Semantic Relations Between Pairs of Nominals

In response to the continuing research interest in computational semantic analysis, we have proposed a new task for SemEval-2010: multi-way classification of mutually exclusive semantic relations between pairs of nominals. The task is designed to compare different approaches to the problem and to provide a standard testbed for future research. In this paper, we define the task, describe the creation of the datasets, and discuss the results of the participating 28 systems submitted by 10 teams.


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1 Introduction

SemEval-2010 Task 8 focuses on semantic relations between pairs of nominals. For example, tea and ginseng are in an Entity-Origin relation in “The cup contained tea from dried ginseng.

”. The automatic recognition of semantic relations can have many applications, such as information extraction, document summarization, machine translation, or construction of thesauri and semantic networks. It can also facilitate auxiliary tasks such as word sense disambiguation, language modeling, paraphrasing, and recognizing textual entailment.

Our goal in SemEval-2010 Task 8 was to create a testbed for automatic classification of semantic relations. In developing the task we met several challenges: selecting a suitable set of relations, specifying the annotation procedure, and deciding on the details of the task itself. They are discussed briefly in Section 2; see also Hendrickx et al. hendrickx09:semeval_2010_task_8, which includes a survey of related work. The direct predecessor of Task 8 was Classification of semantic relations between nominals, Task 4 at SemEval-1 [4]. That task had a separate binary-labeled dataset for each of seven relations. We have defined SemEval-2010 Task 8 as multi-way classification, where the label for each example must be chosen from the complete set of ten relations. We have also produced a larger quantity of data: 10,717 annotated examples, contrasted with 1,529 in SemEval-1 Task 4.

2 Dataset Creation

2.1 The Inventory of Semantic Relations

We first decided on an inventory of semantic relations. Ideally, it should be exhaustive (enable the description of relations between any pair of nominals) and mutually exclusive (each pair of nominals in context should map onto only one relation). The literature, however, suggests that no relation inventory satisfies both needs, and, in practice, some trade-off between them must be accepted.

As a pragmatic compromise, we selected nine relations with coverage sufficiently broad to be of general and practical interest. We aimed at avoiding semantic overlap as much as possible. We included, however, two groups of strongly related relations (Entity-Origin / Entity-Destination and Content-Container / Component-Whole / Member-Collection), which can help assess models’ ability to make such fine-grained distinctions. Our inventory is given below. The first four relations appeared in SemEval-1 Task 4, but the annotation guidelines have been revised, and thus no complete continuity should be assumed.

Cause-Effect (CE).

An event or object yields an effect. Example: those cancers were caused by radiation exposures

Instrument-Agency (IA).

An agent uses an instrument. Example: phone operator

Product-Producer (PP).

A producer causes a product to exist. Example: a factory manufactures suits

Content-Container (CC).

An object is physically stored in a delineated area of space. Example: a bottle full of honey was weighed

Entity-Origin (EO).

An entity is coming or is derived from an origin (e.g., position or material). Example: letters from foreign countries

Entity-Destination (ED).

An entity is moving towards a destination. Eg. the boy went to bed

Component-Whole (CW).

An object is a component of a larger whole. Example: my apartment has a large kitchen

Member-Collection (MC).

A member forms a nonfunctional part of a collection. Example: there are many trees in the forest

Communication-Topic (CT).

An act of communication, written or spoken, is about a topic. Example: the lecture was about semantics

2.2 Annotation Guidelines

We defined a set of general annotation guidelines as well as detailed guidelines for each semantic relation. Here, we describe the general guidelines, which delineate the scope of the data to be collected and state general principles relevant to the annotation of all relations.111The full task guidelines are available at

Our objective is to annotate instances of semantic relations which are true in the sense of holding in the most plausible truth-conditional interpretation of the sentence. This is in the tradition of the Textual Entailment or Information Validation paradigm [3], and in contrast to “aboutness” annotation such as semantic roles [1, 2] or the BioNLP 2009 task [5] where negated relations are also labelled as positive. Similarly, we exclude instances of semantic relations which hold only in hypothetical or counterfactural scenarios. In practice, this means disallowing annotations within the scope of modals or negations, e.g., “Smoking may/may not have caused cancer in this case.

We accept as relation arguments only noun phrases with common-noun heads. This distinguishes our task from much work in Information Extraction, which tends to focus on specific classes of named entities and on considerably more fine-grained relations than we do. Named entities are a specific category of nominal expressions best dealt with using techniques which do not apply to common nouns. We only mark up the semantic heads of nominals, which usually span a single word, except for lexicalized terms such as science fiction.

We also impose a syntactic locality requirement on example candidates, thus excluding instances where the relation arguments occur in separate sentential clauses. Permissible syntactic patterns include simple and relative clauses, compounds, and pre- and post-nominal modification. In addition, we did not annotate examples whose interpretation relied on discourse knowledge, which led to the exclusion of pronouns as arguments. See the guidelines for details on other issues (noun compounds, aspectual phenomena, temporal relations).

2.3 The Annotation Process

The annotation took place in three rounds. First, we manually collected for each relation around 1,200 sentences through pattern-based Web search. In order to ensure a wide variety of example sentences, we used a substantial number of patterns for each relation, typically between one hundred and several hundred. Importantly, in the first round, the relation itself was not annotated: the goal was merely to collect positive and near-miss candidate instances. A rough aim was to have 90% of candidates which instantiate the target relation (“positive instances”).

In the second round, the collected candidates for each relation went to two independent annotators for labeling. Since we have a multi-way classification task, the annotators used the full inventory of nine relations plus Other. The annotation was made easier by the fact that the cases of overlap were largely systematic, arising from general phenomena like metaphorical use and situations where more than one relation holds. For example, there is a systematic potential overlap between Content-Container and Entity-Destination depending on whether the situation described in the sentence is static or dynamic, e.g., “When I came, the e1apples/e1 were already put in the e2basket/e2.” is CC(e1, e2), while “Then, the e1apples/e1 were quickly put in the e2basket/e2.” is ED(e1, e2).

In the third round, the remaining disagreements were resolved, and, if no consensus could be achieved, examples were removed. Finally, we collected all examples for the individual relation datasets and merged them into a final dataset of 10,717 instances: we released 8,000 of them for training and kept the remainder for testing.222This set includes 891 examples from SemEval-1 Task 4. We re-annotated them and assigned them as the last examples of our training dataset to ensure that the test set was unseen.

Table 1

shows more statistics about the dataset. The second row (Pos) shows that the average share of positive instances was closer to 75% than to 90%, indicating that the patterns catch a substantial amount of “near-miss” cases. This effect, however, varies a lot across relations, causing the non-uniform relation distribution in the test set (first row). After the second round, we also computed inter-annotator agreement (third column, IAA) at the sentence level as the percentage of sentences for which the two annotations were identical. We do not report Kappa, since chance agreement on our preselected candidate datasets is difficult to estimate. IAA is between 60% and 95%, again with large relation-dependent variation. Some of the relations were particularly easy to annotate, notably

Content-Container, despite the systematic ambiguity mentioned above, which can be resolved through relatively clear criteria. Entity-Origin was the hardest relation to annotate. We encountered ontological difficulties in defining both Entity (e.g., in contrast to Effect) and Origin (as opposed to Cause). Our numbers are on average around 10% higher than those reported by Girju et al. girju09:_class_of_seman_relat_between_nomin. This may be a side effect of our data collection method. To gather 1,200 examples in realistic time, we had to seek productive search query patterns, which invited certain homogeneity. For example, many queries for Content-Container centered on “usual suspect” such as box or suitcase. Many instances of Member-Collection arose from available lists of collective names.

Relation Freq Pos IAA
Cause-Effect 1331 (12.4%) 91.2% 79.0%
Component-Whole 1253 (11.7%) 84.3% 70.0%
Entity-Destination 1137 (10.6%) 80.1% 75.2%
Entity-Origin 974 (9.1%) 69.2% 58.2%
Product-Producer 948 (8.8%) 66.3% 84.8%
Member-Collection 923 (8.6%) 74.7% 68.2%
Message-Topic 895 (8.4%) 74.4% 72.4%
Content-Container 732 (6.8%) 59.3% 95.8%
Instrument-Agency 660 (6.2%) 60.8% 65.0%
Other 1864 (17.4%)
Total 10717 (100%)
Table 1: Annotation Statistics. Freq: Absolute and relative frequency in the dataset; Pos: percentage of “positive” relation instances in the candidate set; IAA: inter-annotator agreement

3 The Task

The participating systems had the following task: given a sentence and two tagged nominals, predict the relation between those nominals and the direction of the relation.

We released a detailed scorer which outputs (1) a confusion matrix, (2) accuracy and coverage, (3) precision (P), recall (R), and F1-score for each relation, (4) micro-averaged P, R, F1, (5) macro-averaged P, R, F1. For (4) and (5), the calculations ignored the

Other relation. Our official scoring metric is macro-averaged F1-score for (9+1)-way classification, taking directionality into account.

The teams were asked to submit test data predictions for varying fractions of the training data. Specifically, we requested results for the first 1000, 2000, 4000, and 8000 training instances, called TD1 through TD4 (TD4 was the full training set).

4 Participants and Results

Table 2 lists the participants and provides a rough overview of the system features. Table 3

shows the results. Unless noted otherwise, all quoted numbers are F-scores.

System Institution Team Description Res. Class.
Baseline Task organizers local context of 2 words only BN
ECNU-SR-1 East China Normal University Man Lan, Yuan Chen, Zhimin Zhou, Yu Xu stem, POS, syntactic patterns S SVM (multi)
ECNU-SR-2,3 features like ECNU-SR-1, different prob. thresholds SVM (binary)
ECNU-SR-4 stem, POS, syntactic patterns, hyponymy and meronymy relations WN, S SVM (multi)
ECNU-SR-5,6 features like ECNU-SR-4, different prob. thresholds SVM (binary)
ECNU-SR-7 majority vote of ECNU-1,2,4,5
FBK_IRST-6C32 Fondazione Bruno Kessler Claudio Giuliano, Kateryna Tymoshenko 3-word window context features (word form, part of speech, orthography) + Cyc; parameter estimation by optimization on training set Cyc SVM
FBK_IRST-12C32 FBK_IRST-6C32 + distance features
FBK_IRST-12VBC32 FBK_IRST-12C32 + verbs
FBK_IRST-6CA, -12CA, -12VBCA features as above, parameter estimation by cross-validation
FBK_NK-RES1 Fondazione Bruno Kessler Matteo Negri, Milen Kouylekov collocations, glosses, semantic relations of nominals + context features WN BN
FBK_NK-RES 2,3,4 like FBK_NK-RES1 with different context windows and collocation cutoffs
ISI Information Sciences Institute, University of Southern California Stephen Tratz features from different resources, a noun compound relation system, and various feature related to capitalization, affixes, closed-class words WN, RT, G ME
ISTI-1,2 Istituto di scienca e tecnologie dell’informazione “A. Faedo” Andrea Esuli, Diego Marcheggiani, Fabrizio Sebastiani Boosting-based classification. Runs differ in their initialization. WN 2S
JU Jadavpur University Santanu Pal, Partha Pakray, Dipankar Das, Sivaji Bandyopadhyay Verbs, nouns, and prepositions; seed lists for semantic relations; parse features and NEs WN, S CRF
SEKA Hungarian Academy of Sciences Eszter Simon, Andras Kornai

Levin and Roget classes, n-grams; other grammatical and formal features

TUD-base Technische Universität Darmstadt György Szarvas, Iryna Gurevych word, POS n-grams, dependency path, distance S ME
TUD-wp TUD-base + ESA semantic relatedness scores +WP
TUD-comb TUD-base + own semantic relatedness scores +WP,WN
TUD-comb-threshold TUD-comb with higher threshold for Other
UNITN University of Trento Fabio Celli punctuation, context words, prepositional patterns, estimation of semantic relation DR
UTD University of Texas at Dallas Bryan Rink, Sanda Harabagiu context wods, hypernyms, POS, dependencies, distance, semantic roles, Levin classes, paraphrases WN, S, G, PB/NB, LC SVM, 2S
Table 2: Participants of SemEval-2010 Task 8. Res: Resources used (WN: WordNet data; WP: Wikipedia data; S: syntax; LC: Levin classes; G: Google n-grams, RT: Roget’s Thesaurus, PB/NB: PropBank/NomBank). Class: Classification style (ME: Maximum Entropy; BN: Bayes Net; DR: Decision Rules; CRF: Conditional Random Fields; 2S: two-step classification)
System TD1 TD2 TD3 TD4 Acc TD4 Rank Best Cat Worst Cat-9
Baseline 33.04 42.41 50.89 57.52 50.0 - MC (75.1) IA (28.0)
ECNU-SR-1 52.13 56.58 58.16 60.08 57.1 4 CE (79.7) IA (32.2)
ECNU-SR-2 46.24 47.99 69.83 72.59 67.1 CE (84.4) IA (52.2)
ECNU-SR-3 39.89 42.29 65.47 68.50 62.0 CE (83.4) IA (46.5)
ECNU-SR-4 67.95 70.58 72.99 74.82 70.5 CE (84.6) IA (61.4)
ECNU-SR-5 49.32 50.70 72.63 75.43 70.2 CE (85.1) IA (60.7)
ECNU-SR-6 42.88 45.54 68.87 72.19 65.8 CE (85.2) IA (56.7)
ECNU-SR-7 58.67 58.87 72.79 75.21 70.2 CE (86.1) IA (61.8)
FBK_IRST-6C32 60.19 67.31 71.78 76.81 72.4 2 ED (82.6) IA (69.4)
FBK_IRST-12C32 60.66 67.91 72.04 76.91 72.4 MC (84.2) IA (68.8)
FBK_IRST-12VBC32 62.64 69.86 73.19 77.11 72.3 ED (85.9) PP (68.1)
FBK_IRST-6CA 60.58 67.14 71.63 76.28 71.4 CE (82.3) IA (67.7)
FBK_IRST-12CA 61.33 67.80 71.65 76.39 71.4 ED (81.8) IA (67.5)
FBK_IRST-12VBCA 63.61 70.20 73.40 77.62 72.8 ED (86.5) IA (67.3)
FBK_NK-RES1 55.71 64.06 67.80 68.02 62.1 7 ED (77.6) IA (52.9)
FBK_NK-RES2 54.27 63.68 67.08 67.48 61.4 ED (77.4) PP (55.2)
FBK_NK-RES3 54.25 62.73 66.11 66.90 60.5 MC (76.7) IA (56.3)
FBK_NK-RES4 44.11 58.85 63.06 65.84 59.4 MC (76.1) IA/PP (58.0)
ISI 66.68 71.01 75.51 77.57 72.7 3 CE (87.6) IA (61.5)
ISTI-1 50.49 55.80 61.14 68.42 63.2 6 ED (80.7) PP (53.8)
ISTI-2 50.69 54.29 59.77 66.65 61.5 ED (80.2) IA (48.9)
JU 41.62 44.98 47.81 52.16 50.2 9 CE (75.6) IA (27.8)
SEKA 51.81 56.34 61.10 66.33 61.9 8 CE (84.0) PP (43.7)
TUD-base 50.81 54.61 56.98 60.50 56.1 5 CE (80.7) IA (31.1)
TUD-wp 55.34 60.90 63.78 68.00 63.5 ED (82.9) IA (44.1)
TUD-comb 57.84 62.52 66.41 68.88 64.6 CE (83.8) IA (46.8)
TUD-comb- 58.35 62.45 66.86 69.23 65.4 CE (83.4) IA (46.9)
UNITN 16.57 18.56 22.45 26.67 27.4 10 ED (46.4) PP (0)
UTD 73.08 77.02 79.93 82.19 77.9 1 CE (89.6) IA (68.5)
Table 3: Performance (F Score) of all submitted systems on the test dataset as a function of the size of the training dataset: TD1=1000, TD2=2000, TD3=4000, TD4=8000 training examples. The official results are calculated on TD4. The results marked with were submitted after the deadline. The best-performing run for each participant is italicized.

Overall Ranking and Training Data.

We ranked the teams by the performance of their best system on TD4, since a per-system ranking would favor teams with many submitted runs. UTD submitted the best system, with a performance of over 82%, more than 4% better than the second-best system. FBK_IRST was placed second, with 77.62%, a tiny margin ahead of ISI (77.57%). Notably, the ISI system outperforms the FBK_IRST system for TD1 to TD3, where it was second-best. The accuracy numbers for TD4 (Acc TD4) lead to the same overall ranking: micro- versus macro-averaging does not appear to make much difference either. A random baseline gives an uninteresting score of 6%. Our baseline system is a simple Naive Bayes classifier which relies on words in the sentential context only; two systems scored below this baseline.

As for the amount of training data, we see a substantial improvement for all systems between TD1 and TD4, with diminishing returns for the transition between TD3 and TD4 for many, but not all, systems. Overall, the differences between systems are smaller for TD4 than they are for TD1. The spread between the top three systems is around 10% at TD1, but below 5% at TD4. Still, there are clear differences in the influence of training data size even among systems with the same overall architecture. Notably, ECNU-SR-4 is the second-best system at TD1 (67.95%), but gains only 7% from the eightfold increase of the size of the training data. At the same time, ECNU-SR-3 improves from less than 40% to almost 69%. The difference between the systems is that ECNU-SR-4 uses a multi-way classifier including the class Other, while ECNU-SR-3 uses binary classifiers and assigns Other if no other relation was assigned with

0.5. It appears that these probability estimates for classes are only reliable enough for TD3 and TD4.

The Influence of System Architecture.

We investigate the classification scheme and the resources used. Almost all systems used either MaxEnt or SVM classifiers, with no clear advantage for either. Similarly, two systems, UTD and ISTI (rank 1 and 6) split the task into two classification steps (relation and direction), but the 2nd- and 3rd-ranked systems do not. The use of a sequence model did not show a benefit either.

The systems use a variety of resources. Generally, richer feature sets lead to better performance (although the differences are often small – compare the different FBK_IRST systems). This can be explained by the need for semantic generalization from training to test data. This need can be addressed using WordNet (contrast ECNU-1 to -3 with ECNU-4 to -6), the Google -gram collection (see ISI and UTD), or a “deep” semantic resource (FBK_IRST uses Cyc). Yet, most of these resources are also included in the less successful systems, so it does not seem easy to achieve a beneficial integration of knowledge sources in systems for semantic relation classification.

System Combination.

The differences between the systems suggest that it might be possible to achieve improvements by building an ensemble system. Exploring this idea, we first combined the top three systems (UTD, FBK_IRST-12VBCA, and ISI) by outputting the majority vote, or Other if there was none. This combination yielded small improvement over the UTD system with an F-score of 82.79%. For a combination of the top five systems using the same method, the performance decreased again, yielding 80.42%. This suggests that the best system outperforms the rest by a margin that cannot be compensated with system combination, at least not with a crude majority vote. We see a similar pattern among the ECNU systems, where the ECNU-SR-7 combination system is outperformed by ECNU-SR-5, presumably since it incorporates the rather inferior ECNU-SR-1 system.

Relation-specific Analysis.

We also analyzed the performance on individual relations, especially the extremes. There are very stable patterns across all systems. The best relation (presumably the easiest to classify) was CE, far ahead of ED and MC. Notably, the performance for the best relation was 75% or above for almost all systems, with comparatively small differences between the systems. The hardest relation was generally IA, followed by PP.333The relation Other, which we ignore in the overall F-score, did even worse, often below 40%. This is to be expected, since the Other examples in our datasets are near misses for other relations, thus making a very incoherent class. Here, the spread among the systems is much larger, so perhaps the highest-ranking systems outperform others on the difficult relations. Recall was the main problem for both IA and PP: many examples of these two relations are misclassified, most frequently as Other. Even at TD4, these datasets seem to be less homogeneous than the others. Intriguingly, PP shows a very high inter-annotator agreement (Table 1). Its difficulty may therefore be due not to questionable annotation, but either to genuine intrinsic variability, or at least more varied pattern selection by the dataset creator. Conversely, MC – among the easiest relations to model – had a relatively modest IAA.

Difficult Instances.

There were 152 examples that were classified incorrectly by all systems. We analyzed them, looking for sources of errors. In addition to a handful of annotation errors and some borderline cases, they are made up of instances which illustrate the limits of current shallow modeling approaches in that they require more lexical knowledge and complex reasoning. A case in point: The bottle carrier converts your e1bottle/e1 into a e2canteen/e2. This instance of Other has been misclassified either as CC (due to the nominals) or as ED (because of the preposition into). Another example: Flanking or backing e1rudders/e1 are used by e2towboats/e2 and other vessels that require a high degree of manoeuvrability. This is an instance of CW misclassified as IA, probably on account of the verb use which is a frequent indicator of an agentive relation.

5 Discussion and Conclusion

There is little doubt that 19-way classification is a non-trivial challenge. It is even harder when the domain is lexical semantics, with its inherent idiosyncrasies, and the classes are not necessarily disjoint, despite our best intentions. It speaks to the success of the exercise that the participating systems’ performance was generally quite high, well over an order of magnitude above random guessing. This may be due to the impressive array of tools and lexical-semantic resources deployed by the participants.

Section 4 suggests a few ways of interpreting and analyzing the results. Long-term lessons will undoubtedly emerge from the workshop discussion. One optimistic-pessimistic conclusion concerns the size of the training data. The notable gain TD3 TD4 suggests that even more data would be even better, but that is so much easier said than done: it took the organizers in excess of 1000 person-hours to pin down the problem, hone the guidelines and relation definitions, construct sufficient amounts of trustworthy training data, and run the task…


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