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From Natural Language Specifications to Program Input Parsers

Tao Lei, Fan Long, Regina Barzilay and Martin Rinard

The 51st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL 2013)
Sofia, Bulgaria, August 4-9, 2013


We present a method for automatically generating input parsers from English specifications of input file formats. We use a Bayesian generative model to capture relevant natural language phenomena and translate the English specification into a specification tree, which is then translated into a C++ input parser. We model the problem as a joint dependency parsing and semantic role labeling task. Our method is based on two sources of information: (1) the correlation between the text and the specification tree and (2) noisy supervision as determined by the success of the generated C++ parser in reading input examples.

Our results show that our approach achieves 80.0\% F-Score accuracy compared to an F-Score of 66.7\% produced by a state-of-the-art semantic parser on a dataset of input format specifications from the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (which were written in English for humans with no intention of providing support for automated processing).

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