Team, Visitors, External Collaborators
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: New Results

Speech production and perception

Articulatory modeling

Participants : Denis Jouvet, Anne Bonneau, Dominique Fohr, Yves Laprie, Vincent Colotte, Slim Ouni, Agnes Piquard-Kipffer, Elodie Gauthier, Manfred Pastatter, Théo Biasutto-Lervat, Sara Dahmani, Ioannis Douros, Amal Houidhek, Lou Lee, Shakeel Ahmad Sheikh, Anastasiia Tsukanova, Louis Delebecque, Valérian Girard, Thomas Girod, Seyed Ahmad Hosseini, Mathieu Hu, Leon Rohrbacher, Imene Zangar.

Articulatory speech synthesis

A number of simplifying assumptions have to be made in articulatory synthesis to enable the speech signal to be generated in a reasonable time. They mainly consist of approximating the propagation of the sound in the vocal tract as a plane wave and approximating the 3D vocal tract shape from the mid-sagittal shape [30], and also simplifying the vocal tract topology by removing small cavities [29]. The posture of the subject in the MRI machine was also investigated [31]. Vocal tract resonances were evaluated from the 3D acoustic simulation computed with the K-wave Matlab package from the complete 3D vocal tract shape recovered from MRI and compared to those of real speech [27].

We also developed an approach for using articulatory features for speech synthesis. The approach is based on a deep feed-forward neural network-based speech synthesizer trained with the standard recipe of Merlin on the audio recorded during real-time MRI (RT-MRI) acquisitions: denoised (and yet containing a residual noise of the MRI machine) speech in French and force-aligned state labels encoding phonetic and linguistic information [26]. The synthesizer was augmented with eight parameters representing articulatory information (lips opening and protrusion, distances between the tongue and the velum, between the velum and the pharyngeal wall, and between the tongue and the pharyngeal wall) that were automatically extracted from the captures and aligned with the audio signal and the linguistic specification.

Dynamics of vocal tract and glottal opening

The problem of creating a 3D dynamic atlas of the vocal tract that captures the dynamics of the articulators in all three dimensions has been addressed [28]. The core steps of the method are using 2D real time MRI in several sagittal planes and, after temporal alignment, combine them using adaptive kernel regression. As a preprocessing step, a reference space was created to be used in order to remove anatomical information of the speakers and keep only the variability in speech production for the construction of the atlas. Using adaptive kernel regression makes the choice of atlas time points independent of the time points of the frames that are used as an input for the atlas construction.

We started the development of a database of realistic glottal gestures which will be used to design the glottal opening dynamics in articulatory synthesis paradigms. Experimental measurements of glottal opening dynamics in VCV and VCCV sequences uttered by real subjects have been achieved thanks to a specifically designed external photoglottographic device (ePGG) [33]. The existence of different patterns of glottal opening is evidenced according to the class of the consonant articulated.

Multimodal coarticulation modeling

We have investigated labial coarticulation to animate a virtual face from speech. We experimented a sequential deep learning model, bidirectional gated recurrent networks, that have been used successfully in addressing the articulatory inversion problem. We have used phonetic information as input to ensure speaker independence. The initialization of the last layers of the network has greatly eased the training and helped to handle coarticulation. It relies on dimensionality reduction strategies, allowing injecting knowledge of useful latent representation of the visual data into the network. We have trained and evaluated the model with a corpus consisting of 4 hours of French speech, and we got a good average RMSE (Root Mean Square Error) close to 1.3 mm [21].

Identifying disfluency in stuttered speech

Within the ANR project BENEPHIDIRE, the goal is to automatically identify typical kinds of stuttering disfluency using acoustic and visual cues for their automatic detection. This year, we started analyzing existing stuttering acoustic speech datasets to characterize the kind of data.

Multimodal expressive speech

Arabic speech synthesis

We have continued working on Modern Standard Arabic speech synthesis with ENIT (École Nationale d’Ingénieurs de Tunis, Tunisia), using HMM and NN based approaches. This year we investigated the modeling of the fundamental frequency for Arabic speech synthesis with feedforward and recurrent DNN, and using specific linguistic features for Arabic like vowel quantity and gemination [50].

Expressive audiovisual synthesis

After acquiring a high quality expressive audio-visual corpus based on fine linguistic analysis, motion capture, and naturalistic acting techniques, we have analyzed, processed, and phonetically aligned it with speech. We used conditional variational autoencoders (CVAE) to generate the duration, acoustic and visual aspects of speech without using emotion labels. Perceptual experiments have confirmed the capacity of our system to generate recognizable emotions. Moreover, the generative nature of the CVAE allowed us to generate well-perceived nuances of the six emotions and to blend different emotions together [23].

Lipsync - synchronization of lips movements with speech

In the ATT Dynalips-2, we have developed an English version of the system which allows us having a full multilingual lipsync system. During this ATT, we also worked on the business aspects (business plan, funding, investment, search for clients, etc.) with the goal of creating a startup, spinoff of the laboratory, during 2020.

Categorization of sounds and prosody

Non-native speech production

We analysed voicing in sequences of obstruents with French as L1 and German as L2, that is languages characterized by strong differences in the voicing dimension, including assimilation direction. To that purpose, we studied the realizations of two sequences of obstruents, where the first consonant, in final position, was fortis, and the second consonant, in initial position, was either a lenis stop or a lenis fricative. These sequences lead to a possible anticipation of voicing in French, a direction not allowed in German given German phonetics and phonology. Highly variable realizations were observed: progressive and regressive assimilation, and absence of assimilation, often accompanied by an unexpected pause [22].

We also started investigating non-native phoneme productions of French learners of German in comparison to phoneme productions by native German speakers. A set of research questions has been developed for which a customized French/German corpus was designed, and recorded by one reference native speaker of German so far. Based on these initial recordings and according to the targeted research questions, analysis strategies and algorithms have been elaborated and implemented, and are ready to be employed onto a larger data set. By means of these methods we expect to access phonetic and phonological grounds of recurrently occurring mis-pronunciation.

Language and reading acquisition by children having some language impairments

We continued examining the schooling experience of 170 children, teenagers and young adults with specific language impairment (dysphasia, dyslexia, dysorthographia) facing severe difficulties in learning to read. The phonemic discrimination, phonological and phonemic analysis difficulties faced in their childhoods had raised reading difficulties, which the pupils did not overcome. With 120 of these young people, we explored the presence of other neuro-developmental disorders. We also studied their reading habits to achieve better understanding of their difficulties.

We continued investigating the acquisition of language by hard-of-hearing children via cued speech (i.e. augmenting the audiovisual speech signal by visualizing the syllables uttered via a code of hand positions). We have used a digital book and a children’s picture book with 3 hard-of-hearing children in order to compare scaffolding by the speech therapist or the teacher in these two situations.

We started to examine language difficulties and related problems with children with autism and to work with their parents with a view to creating an environment conducive to their progress [39].

Computer assisted language learning

In the METAL project, experiments are planned to investigate the use of speech technologies for foreign language learning and to experiment with middle and high school students learning German. This includes tutoring aspects based on a talking head to show proper articulation of words and sentences; as well as using automatic tools derived from speech recognition technology, for analyzing student pronunciations. The web application is under development, and experiments have continued for analyzing the performance of an automatic detection of mispronunciations made by language learners.

The ALOE project deals with children learning to read. In this project, we are also involved with tutoring aspects based on a talking head, and with grapheme-to-phoneme conversion which is a critical tool for the development of the digitized version of ALOE reading learning tools (tools which were previously developed and offered only in a paper form).


The keynote [15] summarizes recent research on speech processing and prosody, and presents the extraction of prosodic features, as well as their usage in various tasks. Prosodic correlates of discourse particles have been investigated further. It was found that occurrences of different discourse particles with the same pragmatic value have a great tendency to share the same prosodic pattern; hence, the question of their commutability have been studied [37].