Neural Compositional Denotational Semantics for Question Answering

Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

By: Nitish Gupta, Mike Lewis


Answering compositional questions requiring multi-step reasoning is challenging. We introduce an end-to-end differentiable model for interpreting questions about a knowledge graph (KG), which is inspired by formal approaches to semantics. Each span of text is represented by a denotation in a KG, together with a vector that captures ungrounded aspects of meaning. Learned composition modules recursively combine constituents, culminating in a grounding for the complete sentence which answers the question. For example, to interpret “not green”, the model represents “green” as a set of KG entities and “not” as a trainable ungrounded vector—and then uses this vector to parameterize a composition function to performs a complement operation. For each sentence, we build a parse chart subsuming all possible parses, allowing the model to jointly learn both the composition operators and output structure by gradient descent from end-task supervision. The model learns a variety of challenging semantic operators, such as quantifiers, disjunctions and composed relations, and infers latent syntactic structure. The model also generalizes well to longer sentences than seen in its training data, in contrast to LSTM, semantic parsing, and RelNet baselines.