Speaker normalisation for large vocabulary multiparty conversational speech recognition
One of the main problems faced by automatic speech recognition is the variability of the testing conditions. This is due both to the acoustic conditions (different transmission channels, recording devices, noises etc.) and to the variability of speech across different speakers (i.e. due to different accents, coarticulation of phonemes and different vocal tract characteristics). Vocal tract length normalisation (VTLN) aims at normalising the acoustic signal, making it independent from the vocal tract length. This is done by a speaker specific warping of the frequency axis parameterised through a warping factor. In this thesis the application of VTLN to multiparty conversational speech was investigated focusing on the meeting domain. This is a challenging task showing a great variability of the speech acoustics both across different speakers and across time for a given speaker. VTL, the distance between the lips and the glottis, varies over time. We observed that the warping factors estimated using Maximum Likelihood seem to be context dependent: appearing to be influenced by the current conversational partner and being correlated with the behaviour of formant positions and the pitch. This is because VTL also influences the frequency of vibration of the vocal cords and thus the pitch. In this thesis we also investigated pitch-adaptive acoustic features with the goal of further improving the speaker normalisation provided by VTLN. We explored the use of acoustic features obtained using a pitch-adaptive analysis in combination with conventional features such as Mel frequency cepstral coefficients. These spectral representations were combined both at the acoustic feature level using heteroscedastic linear discriminant analysis (HLDA), and at the system level using ROVER. We evaluated this approach on a challenging large vocabulary speech recognition task: multiparty meeting transcription. We found that VTLN benefits the most from pitch-adaptive features. Our experiments also suggested that combining conventional and pitch-adaptive acoustic features using HLDA results in a consistent, significant decrease in the word error rate across all the tasks. Combining at the system level using ROVER resulted in a further significant improvement. Further experiments compared the use of pitch adaptive spectral representation with the adoption of a smoothed spectrogram for the extraction of cepstral coefficients. It was found that pitch adaptive spectral analysis, providing a representation which is less affected by pitch artefacts (especially for high pitched speakers), delivers features with an improved speaker independence. Furthermore this has also shown to be advantageous when HLDA is applied. The combination of a pitch adaptive spectral representation and VTLN based speaker normalisation in the context of LVCSR for multiparty conversational speech led to more speaker independent acoustic models improving the overall recognition performances.