Please join us for the NLP SeminarĀ Monday, Mar 6 at 4:00pm in 205 South Hall.

Speaker: Joel Tetreault, Grammarly

Title: Analyzing Formality in Online Communication


Full natural language understanding requires comprehending not only the content or meaning of a piece of text or speech, but also the stylistic way in which it is conveyed. To enable real advancements in dialog systems, information extraction, and human-computer interaction, computers need to understand the entirety of what humans say, both the literal and the non-literal. This talk presents an in-depth investigation of one particular stylistic aspect, formality. First, we provide an analysis of humans’ subjective perceptions of formality in four different genres of online communication. We highlight areas of high and low agreement and extract patterns that consistently differentiate formal from informal text. Next, we develop a statistical model for predicting formality at the sentence level, using rich NLP and deep learning features, and then evaluate the model’s performance against human judgments across genres. Finally, we apply our model to analyze language use in online debate forums. Our results provide new evidence in support of theories of linguistic coordination, underlining the importance of formality for language generation systems.

This work was done with Ellie Pavlick (UPenn) during her summer internship at Yahoo Labs.