Overall Objectives
Research Program
Application Domains
Highlights of the Year
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Bilateral Contracts and Grants with Industry
Partnerships and Cooperations
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Section: Research Program

Statistical Modeling of Speech

Whereas the first research direction deals with the physical aspects of speech and its explicit modeling, this second research direction is concerned by investigating statistical models for speech data. Acoustic models are used to represent the pronunciation of the sounds or other acoustic events such as noises. Whether they are used for source separation, for speech recognition, for speech transcription, or for speech synthesis, the achieved performance strongly depends on the accuracy of these models. At the linguistic level, MULTISPEECH investigates models for handling the context (beyond the few preceding words currently handled by the n-gram models) and evolutive lexicons necessary when dealing with diachronic audio documents. Statistical approaches are also useful for generating speech signals. Along this direction, MULTISPEECH considers voice transformation techniques, with their application to pathological voices, and statistical speech synthesis applied to expressive multimodal speech synthesis.

Source separation

Acoustic modeling is a key issue for automatic speech recognition. Despite the progress made for many years, current speech recognition applications rely on strong constraints (close-talk microphone, limited vocabulary, or restricted syntax) to achieve acceptable performance. The quality of the input speech signals is particularly important and performance degrades quickly with noisy signals. Accurate signal enhancement techniques are therefore essential to increase the robustness of both automatic speech recognition and speech-text alignment systems to noise and non-speech events.

In MULTISPEECH, focus is set on source separation techniques using multiple microphones and/or models of non-speech events. Some of the challenges include getting the most of the new modeling frameworks based on alpha-stable distributions and deep neural networks, combining them with established spatial filtering approaches, modeling more complex properties of speech and audio sources (phase, inter-frame and inter-frequency properties), and exploiting large data sets of speech, noise, and acoustic impulse responses to automatically discover new models. Beyond the definition of such models, the difficulty will be to design scalable estimation algorithms robust to overfitting, that will integrate into the recently developed FASST [6] and KAM software frameworks.

Linguistic modeling

MULTISPEECH investigates lexical and language models in speech recognition with a focus on improving the processing of proper names and of spontaneous speech. Proper names are relevant keys in information indexing, but are a real problem in transcribing many diachronic spoken documents which refer to data, especially proper names, that evolve over the time. This leads to the challenge of dynamically adjusting lexicons and language models through the use of the context of the documents or of some relevant external information. We also investigate language models defined on a continuous space (through neural network based approaches) in order to achieve a better generalization on unseen data, and to model long-term dependencies. We also want to introduce into these models additional relevant information such as linguistic features, semantic relation, topic or user-dependent information.

Other topics are spontaneous speech and prononciation lexicons. Spontaneous speech utterances are often ill-formed and frequently contain disfluencies (hesitations, repetitions, ...) that degrade speech recognition performance. Hence the objective of improving the modeling of disfluences and of spontaneous speech prononciation variants. Attention will also be set on pronunciation lexicons with respect to non-native speech and foreign names. Non-native pronunciation variants have to take into account frequent miss-pronunciations due to differences between mother tongue and target language phoneme inventories. Proper name pronunciation variants are a similar problem where difficulties are mainly observed for names of foreign origin that can be pronounced either in a French way or kept close to foreign origin native pronunciation.

Speech generation by statistical methods

Voice conversion consists in building a function that transforms a given voice into another one. MULTISPEECH applies voice conversion techniques to enhance pathological voices that result from vocal folds problems, especially esophageal voice or pathological whispered voice. In addition to the statistical aspects of the voice conversion approaches, signal processing is critical for good quality speech output. As the fundamental frequency is chaotic in the case of esophageal speech, the excitation spectrum must be predicted or corrected. Voice conversion techniques are also of interest for text-to-speech synthesis systems as they aim at making possible the generation of new voice corpora (other kind of voice, or same voice with different kind of emotion). Also, in the context of acoustic feedback in foreign language learning, voice modification approaches will be investigated to modify the learner’s (or teacher’s) voice in order to emphasize the difference between the learner’s acoustic realization and the expected realization.

Over the last few years statistical speech synthesis has emerged as an alternative to corpus-based speech synthesis. The announced advantages of the statistical speech synthesis are the possibility to deal with small amounts of speech resources and the flexibility for adapting models (for new emotions or new speaker), however, the quality is not as good as that of the concatenation-based speech synthesis. MULTISPEECH will focus on an hybrid approach, combining corpus-based synthesis, for its high-quality speech signal output, and HMM-based speech synthesis for its flexibility to drive selection, and the main challenge will be on its application to producing expressive audio-visual speech.