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Modelling Hierarchical Structure between Dialogue Policy and Natural Language Generator with Option Framework for Task-oriented Dialogue System

Jianhong Wang · Yuan Zhang · Tae-Kyun Kim · Yunjie Gu

Keywords: [ Task-oriented Dialogue System ] [ policy optimization ] [ hierarchical reinforcement learning ] [ natural language processing ]


Designing task-oriented dialogue systems is a challenging research topic, since it needs not only to generate utterances fulfilling user requests but also to guarantee the comprehensibility. Many previous works trained end-to-end (E2E) models with supervised learning (SL), however, the bias in annotated system utterances remains as a bottleneck. Reinforcement learning (RL) deals with the problem through using non-differentiable evaluation metrics (e.g., the success rate) as rewards. Nonetheless, existing works with RL showed that the comprehensibility of generated system utterances could be corrupted when improving the performance on fulfilling user requests. In our work, we (1) propose modelling the hierarchical structure between dialogue policy and natural language generator (NLG) with the option framework, called HDNO, where the latent dialogue act is applied to avoid designing specific dialogue act representations; (2) train HDNO via hierarchical reinforcement learning (HRL), as well as suggest the asynchronous updates between dialogue policy and NLG during training to theoretically guarantee their convergence to a local maximizer; and (3) propose using a discriminator modelled with language models as an additional reward to further improve the comprehensibility. We test HDNO on MultiWoz 2.0 and MultiWoz 2.1, the datasets on multi-domain dialogues, in comparison with word-level E2E model trained with RL, LaRL and HDSA, showing improvements on the performance evaluated by automatic evaluation metrics and human evaluation. Finally, we demonstrate the semantic meanings of latent dialogue acts to show the explanability for HDNO.

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