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Journal Article

Unsupervised speech segmentation: An analysis of the hypothesized phone boundaries


Ernestus,  Mirjam
Center for Language Studies, External organization;
Language Comprehension Group, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Scharenborg, O., Wan, V., & Ernestus, M. (2010). Unsupervised speech segmentation: An analysis of the hypothesized phone boundaries. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 127, 1084-1095. doi:10.1121/1.3277194.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0012-65BE-E
Despite using different algorithms, most unsupervised automatic phone segmentation methods achieve similar performance in terms of percentage correct boundary detection. Nevertheless, unsupervised segmentation algorithms are not able to perfectly reproduce manually obtained reference transcriptions. This paper investigates fundamental problems for unsupervised segmentation algorithms by comparing a phone segmentation obtained using only the acoustic information present in the signal with a reference segmentation created by human transcribers. The analyses of the output of an unsupervised speech segmentation method that uses acoustic change to hypothesize boundaries showed that acoustic change is a fairly good indicator of segment boundaries: over two-thirds of the hypothesized boundaries coincide with segment boundaries. Statistical analyses showed that the errors are related to segment duration, sequences of similar segments, and inherently dynamic phones. In order to improve unsupervised automatic speech segmentation, current one-stage bottom-up segmentation methods should be expanded into two-stage segmentation methods that are able to use a mix of bottom-up information extracted from the speech signal and automatically derived top-down information. In this way, unsupervised methods can be improved while remaining flexible and language-independent.