Pun generation with surprise

He He, Nanyun Peng, Percy Liang

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

We tackle the problem of generating a pun sentence given a pair of homophones (e.g., “died” and “dyed”). Supervised text generation is inappropriate due to the lack of a large corpus of puns, and even if such a corpus existed, mimicry is at odds with generating novel content. In this paper, we propose an unsupervised approach to pun generation using a corpus of unhumorous text and what we call the local-global surprisal principle: we posit that in a pun sentence, there is a strong association between the pun word (e.g., “dyed”) and the distant context, as well as a strong association between the alternative word (e.g., “died”) and the immediate context. This contrast creates surprise and thus humor. We instantiate this principle for pun generation in two ways: (i) as a measure based on the ratio of probabilities under a language model, and (ii) a retrieve-and-edit approach based on words suggested by a skip-gram model. Human evaluation shows that our retrieve-and-edit approach generates puns successfully 31% of the time, tripling the success rate of a neural generation baseline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationLong and Short Papers
PublisherAssociation for Computational Linguistics (ACL)
Pages1734-1744
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781950737130
StatePublished - 2019
Event2019 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies, NAACL HLT 2019 - Minneapolis, United States
Duration: Jun 2 2019Jun 7 2019

Publication series

NameNAACL HLT 2019 - 2019 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies - Proceedings of the Conference
Volume1

Conference

Conference2019 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies, NAACL HLT 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityMinneapolis
Period6/2/196/7/19

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Linguistics and Language

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