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Section: New Results

Explicit modeling of speech production and perception

Participants : Yves Laprie, Slim Ouni, Vincent Colotte, Anne Bonneau, Agnès Piquard-Kipffer, Martine Cadot [Univ. Lorraine] , Antoine Liutkus, Emmanuel Vincent, Odile Mella, Benjamin Elie, Camille Fauth, Julie Busset, Andrea Bandini, Guillaume Gris, Simon Meoni.

Articulatory modeling

Acquisition of articulatory data

Acquisition of articulatory data plays a central role in the construction of articulatory models and investigation of articulatory gestures. In cooperation with the IADI laboratory (Nancy hospital) we thus conducted a series of preliminary experiments intended to acquire cine-MRI data. Images of the film are reconstructed thanks to the cine-GRICS algorithm developed at IADI [56] .

The second research track concerns ultrasound (US) imaging which presents the interest of offering a good temporal resolution without any health hazard and at a reasonable price. However, it cannot be used alone because there is no reference coordinate system and no spatial calibration. We thus used a multimodal acquisition system developed by the Magrit team, which uses electromagnetography sensors to locate the US probe, and the method used to calibrate the US modality. We experimented this system to investigate the most appropriate acquisition protocol for Magnetic Resonance Imaging [37] .

We also use an articulograph to acquire articulatory data. Within the framework of the EQUIPEX ORTOLANG, we acquired this year an AG501, a 24-channel articulograph. This system is the most advanced electromagnetography acquisition system. It has been used for two articulatory studies: (1) investigating the effects of posture and noise on speech production [48] and (2) studying the pauses in spontaneous speech from an articulatory point of view. We also conducted an exploratory study on retrieving the 3D shape of the palate from electromagnetography tracings (the work of Simon Meoni, a master student in Cognitive Sciences).

Acoustic-to-articulatory inversion

Our previous works about acoustic-to-articulatory inversion relied on the exploration of a vast articulatory codebook covering the whole articulatory space that could be reached by a speaker. This solution presents the main drawback of requiring the construction a codebook for each speaker. We thus developed a multimodal approach to estimate the area function and the length of the vocal tract of oral vowels. The method is based on an iterative technique consisting in deforming an initial area function so that the output acoustic vector matches a specified target. The chosen acoustic vector is the formant frequency pattern. In order to regularize the ill-defined problem, several constraints are added to the algorithm. First, the lip termination area is estimated via a facial capture software. Then, the area function is constrained so that it does not get too far from a neutral position, and so that it does not change too quickly from a temporal frame to the next, when dealing with dynamic inversion. The method proves to be efficient for approximating the area function and the length of the vocal tract for oral French vowels, both in static and dynamic configurations.

Articulatory models

The development of articulatory models is a crucial aspect of articulatory synthesis since this determines the success of synthesis. The previous model was developed for X-ray images. This means that the laryngeal part of the model associates the larynx with the piriform sinuses event if these two structures are not in the same sagittal plane. The new model separates the two structures if needed. Additionally, the larynx and the epiglottis are controlled independently which corresponds to the anatomical truth. Previous attempts to modeling epiglottis used principal component analysis applied to the contours drawn on X-ray images. Unfortunately the width of the epiglottis varies from one image to the other and PCA thus learns a spurious “inflating” component. The new model uses the epiglottis centerline plus a constant width which prevents this error.

The second major improvement concerns the use of virtual targets in the construction of the articulatory model. Virtual targets are used to separate the contribution of the tongue contour from those of the palate. The objective it to render the articulation of consonants more correctly since they require a contact between the tongue and the palate at a very precise point [38] .

These two improvements of the articulatory model were used in the articulatory copy synthesis experiments [11] .

The construction of models was also tackled from a data mining point of view. A robust data mining approach was designed to automatically extract complex statistically significant connections between data (e.g. interactions between more than two variables). This work could be used for data other than X-ray images [54] .

Expressive acoustic-visual synthesis

Right now, we are investigating the state-of-the-art of the field of expressive speech and how to acquire efficiently expressive speech corpus. As a first step, we are also investigating visual acquisition techniques to track facial expression. This is the work of the visiting PhD student Andrea Bandini (from University of Bologna). Another step toward expressive speech synthesis is to have an expressive face model. In this context, the expressivity is mainly based on the dynamics. In fact, when the human facial movements are natural and accurately replicated on the 3D model, we can reach a reasonable expressivity. In this context, we are conducting new research toward an expressive talking head. In this context, we acquired a high-resolution 3D model of a human speaker and we are developing methods to animate the model using motion capture data. This was the work the master student Guillaume Gris. We also investigated the advantage of generating visual speech from sequences of 2D Images, when the 3D data is lacking [43] .

Categorization of sounds and prosody for native and non-native speech

Categorization of sounds and prosody for non-native speech is the object of the ANR+DFG project IFCASL devoted to French and German languages. Within this project, we built a bilingual corpus and started a study about the realization of (final) voicing in both languages. We also gave a training course about non-native phonetic realizations for a Spring School devoted to Individualized centered approaches to speech processing [63] .

Bilingual speech corpus of French and German language learners

We designed a corpus of native and non-native speech for the French-German language pair, with a special emphasis on phonetic and prosodic aspects. To our knowledge there is no suitable corpus, in terms of size and coverage, currently available for this target language pair [9] .

We adopted a two step process to create the corpus. Firstly, a bilingual corpus including all sounds of each language and all speech phenomena of potential interest was recorded from a few speakers (14), and analyzed. Its analysis revealed/confirmed: 1) the existence of special strategies due to sentence reading and sentence listening conditions, 2) the importance of recording duration (the recording sessions should not last more than one hour to avoid subjects’ fatigue), 3) the frequence and importance of some mispronunciations (voicing problems, erroneous presence (or absence) of /h/ for German (or French) non-native speakers, rhythm ...). Secondly, we specified and collected the final corpus [24] , which is focused on the problems revealed by the preliminary corpus. One hundred speakers (50 French and 50 German speakers), beginners and advanced speakers, recorded 60 sentences in their second language and 30 in their native language, which gave a total amount of about 6000 non-native and 3000 native sentence realizations. The sentences were read in two conditions depending upon whether or not the subjects listen to a reference before producing the sentence. A small text as well as sentences devoted to focus analysis completed the corpus. The data was segmented and labelled at word and phone levels by an automatic alignment algorithm elaborated by our team (cf. ). The outputs were then manually checked at the levels of phones and words (phonetic transcription) and corrections were made if necessary. In order to check the homogeneity of the corrections made by the seven annotators, phone boundaries were compared with those achieved by a golden annotator on a few sentences using the CoALT tool.

Devoicing of final obstruents by German learners

We investigated a typical example of L1-L2 interference: the realization of voiced fricatives in final position, where the opposition between voiced and unvoiced consonants is neutralized in German (with a bias towards unvoiced consonants) but not in French. As a consequence, German speakers learning French as a second language often produce unvoiced fricatives in final position instead of the expected voiced consonants. We analysed the production of French voiced fricatives for 40 non-native (beginners and advanced speakers) and 8 native speakers. We measured the ratio of locally unvoiced frames in the consonantal segment and also the ratio of consonantal duration vs. the duration of the preceding vowel. Results showed that the realizations of French fricatives by German speakers varied with speakers, speakers’ level and experimental condition (there were two conditions depending on whether or not the subjects listened to a reference before producing the sentence) [23] . As could be expected we observed a continuum between typically voiced and typically unvoiced realizations, and best level speakers tend to produce more typically French realizations. Our next study will concern the perceptual identification of learners’ realizations and the link between perceptual answers and acoustic cues values.