Section: New Results
Evaluating Speech Features with the Minimal-Pair ABX task
Participants : Thomas Schatz [correspondent] , Vijayaditya Peddinti, Francis Bach, Aren Jansen, Hynek Hermansky, Emmanuel Dupoux.
In  we introduce a new framework for the evaluation of speech representations in zero-resource settings, that extends and complements previous work by Carlin, Jansen and Hermansky  . In particular, we replace their Same/Different discrimination task by several Minimal-Pair ABX (MP-ABX) tasks. We explain the analytical advantages of this new framework and apply it to decompose the standard signal processing pipelines for computing PLP and MFC coefficients. This method enables us to confirm and quantify a variety of well-known and not-so-well-known results in a single framework.
Speech recognition technology crucially rests on adequate speech features for encoding input data. Several such features have been proposed and studied (MFCCs, PLPs, etc), but they are often evaluated indirectly using complex tasks like phone classification or word identification. Such an evaluation technique suffers from several limitations. First, it requires a large enough annotated corpus in order to train the classifier/recognizer. Such a resource may not be available in all languages or dialects (the so-called “zero or limited resource” setting). Second, supervised classifiers may be too powerful and may compensate for potential defects of speech features (for instance noisy/unreliable channels). However, such defects are problematic in unsupervised learning techniques. Finally, the particular statistical assumptions of the classifier (linear, Gaussian, etc.) may not be suited for specific speech features (for instance sparse neural codes as in Hermansky  ). It is therefore important to replace these complex evaluation schemes by simpler ones which tap more directly the properties of the speech features.
We extend and complement the framework proposed by Carlin, Jansen and Hermansky  for the evaluation of speech features in zero resource settings. This framework uses a Same-Different word discrimination task that does not depend on phonetically labelled data, nor on training a classifier. It assumes a speech corpus segmented into words, and derives a word-by-word acoustic distance matrix computed by comparing every word with every other one using Dynamic Time Warping (DTW). Carlin et al. then compute an average precision score which is used to evaluate speech features (the higher average precision, the better the features).
We explore an extension of this technique through Minimal-Pair ABX tasks (MP-ABX tasks) tested on a phonetically balanced corpus  . This improves the interpretability of the Carlin et al evaluation results in three different ways. First, the Same/Different task requires the computation of a ROC curve in order to derive average precision. In contrast, the ABX task is a discrimination task used in psychophysics (see  , chapter 9) which allows for the direct computation of an error rate or a d' measure that are easier to interpret than average precision  and involve no assumption about ROC curves. Second, the Same/Different task compares sets of words, and as a result is influenced by the mix of similar versus distinct words or short versus long words in the corpus. The ABX task, in contrast, is computed on word pairs, and therefore enables to make linguistically precise comparisons, as in word minimal pairs, i.e. words differing by only one phoneme. Variants of the task enable to study phoneme discrimination across talkers and/or phonetic contexts, as well as talker discrimination across phonemes. Because it is more controlled and provides a parameter and model-free metric, the MP-ABX error rate also enables to compare performance across databases or across languages. Third, we compute bootstrap-based estimates of the variability of our performance measures, which allows us to derive confidence intervals for the error rates and tests of the significance of the difference between the error rates obtained with different representations.