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Statistical Parametric Methods for Articulatory-Based Foreign Accent Conversion
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Foreign accent conversion seeks to transform utterances from a non-native speaker (L2) to appear as if they had been produced by the same speaker but with a native (L1) accent. Such accent-modified utterances have been suggested to be effective in pronunciation training for adult second language learners. Accent modification involves separating the linguistic gestures and voice-quality cues from the L1 and L2 utterances, then transposing them across the two speakers. However, because of the complex interaction between these two sources of information, their separation in the acoustic domain is not straightforward. As a result, vocoding approaches to accent conversion results in a voice that is different from both the L1 and L2 speakers. In contrast, separation in the articulatory domain is straightforward since linguistic gestures are readily available via articulatory data. However, because of the difficulty in collecting articulatory data, conventional synthesis techniques based on unit selection are ill-suited for accent conversion given the small size of articulatory corpora and the inability to interpolate missing native sounds in L2 corpus. To address these issues, this dissertation presents two statistical parametric methods to accent conversion that operate in the acoustic and articulatory domains, respectively. The acoustic method uses a cross-speaker statistical mapping to generate L2 acoustic features from the trajectories of L1 acoustic features in a reference utterance. Our results show significant reductions in the perceived non-native accents compared to the corresponding L2 utterance. The results also show a strong voice-similarity between accent conversions and the original L2 utterance. Our second (articulatory-based) approach consists of building a statistical parametric articulatory synthesizer for a non-native speaker, then driving the synthesizer with the articulators from the reference L1 speaker. This statistical approach not only has low data requirements but also has the flexibility to interpolate missing sounds in the L2 corpus. In a series of listening tests, articulatory accent conversions were rated more intelligible and less accented than their L2 counterparts. In the final study, we compare the two approaches: acoustic and articulatory. Our results show that the articulatory approach, despite the direct access to the native linguistic gestures, is less effective in reducing perceived non-native accents than the acoustic approach.
Subjectforeign accent conversion
statistical parametric synthesis
Aryal, Sandesh (2015). Statistical Parametric Methods for Articulatory-Based Foreign Accent Conversion. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from