Purdue University Graduate School
Thesis_MLPacheco_final_fixed.pdf (4.86 MB)

Neural-Symbolic Modeling for Natural Language Discourse

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posted on 2022-05-13, 19:48 authored by Maria Leonor Pacheco GonzalesMaria Leonor Pacheco Gonzales

Language “in the wild” is complex and ambiguous and relies on a shared understanding of the world for its interpretation. Most current natural language processing methods represent language by learning word co-occurrence patterns from massive amounts of linguistic data. This representation can be very powerful, but it is insufficient to capture the meaning behind written and spoken communication. 


In this dissertation, I will motivate neural-symbolic representations for dealing with these challenges. On the one hand, symbols have inherent explanatory power, and they can help us express contextual knowledge and enforce consistency across different decisions. On the other hand, neural networks allow us to learn expressive distributed representations and make sense of large amounts of linguistic data. I will introduce a holistic framework that covers all stages of the neural-symbolic pipeline: modeling, learning, inference, and its application for diverse discourse scenarios, such as analyzing online discussions, mining argumentative structures, and understanding public discourse at scale. I will show the advantages of neural-symbolic representations with respect to end-to-end neural approaches and traditional statistical relational learning methods.

In addition to this, I will demonstrate the advantages of neural-symbolic representations for learning in low-supervision settings, as well as their capabilities to decompose and explain high-level decision. Lastly, I will explore interactive protocols to help human experts in making sense of large repositories of textual data, and leverage neural-symbolic representations as the interface to inject expert human knowledge in the process of partitioning, classifying and organizing large language resources. 


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Computer Science

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dan Goldwasser

Additional Committee Member 2

Jean Honorio

Additional Committee Member 3

Tiark Rompf

Additional Committee Member 4

Ming Yin