Semantic Decomposition of Question and SQL for Text-to-SQL Parsing

Ben Eyal, Amir Bachar, Ophir Haroche, Moran Mahabi, Michael Elhadad

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Text-to-SQL semantic parsing faces challenges in generalizing to cross-domain and complex queries. Recent research has employed a question decomposition strategy to enhance the parsing of complex SQL queries. However, this strategy encounters two major obstacles: (1) existing datasets lack question decomposition; (2) due to the syntactic complexity of SQL, most complex queries cannot be disentangled into sub-queries that can be readily recomposed. To address these challenges, we propose a new modular Query Plan Language (QPL) that systematically decomposes SQL queries into simple and regular sub-queries. We develop a translator from SQL to QPL by leveraging analysis of SQL server query optimization plans, and we augment the Spider dataset with QPL programs. Experimental results demonstrate that the modular nature of QPL benefits existing semantic-parsing architectures, and training text-to-QPL parsers is more effective than text-to-SQL parsing for semantically equivalent queries. The QPL approach offers two additional advantages: (1) QPL programs can be paraphrased as simple questions, which allows us to create a dataset of (complex question, decomposed questions). Training on this dataset, we obtain a Question Decomposer for data retrieval that is sensitive to database schemas. (2) QPL is more accessible to non-experts for complex queries, leading to more interpretable output from the semantic parser.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFindings of the Association for Computational Linguistics
Subtitle of host publicationEMNLP 2023
PublisherAssociation for Computational Linguistics (ACL)
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9798891760615
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023
Event2023 Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023 - Singapore, Singapore
Duration: 6 Dec 202310 Dec 2023

Publication series

NameFindings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023


Conference2023 Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Information Systems
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'Semantic Decomposition of Question and SQL for Text-to-SQL Parsing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this