Unsupervised subword modeling

Unsupervised subword modeling consist in providing speech features that highlight linguistically relevant properties of the speech signal (phoneme structure) and downplay the linguistically irrelevant ones (speaker ID, emotion, channel, etc). Several approaches have been used depending on the kind of model and the type and amount of data used. Here is a non exhaustive list:

Other models are possible of course, and in the present challenge, there are only two requirements:

Evaluation metrics

Typically, unsupervised subword models are evaluated using a decoding approach: train a classifier (linear, SVM, etc) to decode the representation into phonemes and evaluate the decoding against a gold transcription. A major problem with such an approach is that representations that are easily separable on the basis of labeled examples can be totally indiscriminable in the absence of those labels. This means that defects in a representation that would be fatal if it was to be used as part of a zero-resource system can be unduly corrected by an evaluation metric based on supervised classifiers. Another problem is that the final score is a compound of the quality of the representation and the quality of the decoder. Since the representations all vary in terms of number of dimensions, sparsity, and other statistical property, it is unclear how a single decoder would be appropriate for all of the above models. Here, we will use a minimal pair ABX task (Schatz et al 2013; 2014), which does not require any training at all, but only requires that each representation is provided with a frame-wise distance metric.

The ABX task is inspired by match-to-sample tasks used in human psychophysics and is a simple way to measure discriminability between two sound categories (where the sounds A and B belong to different categories x and y, respectively, and the task is to decide whether the sound X belongs to one or the other). Specifically, we define the ABX-discriminability of category x from category y as the probability that A and X are further apart than B and X according to some distance d over the (model-dependent) space of featural representations for these sounds when A and X are from category x and B is from category y. Given a set of sounds S(x) from category x and a set of sounds S(y) from category y, we estimate this probability using the following formula:

where m and n are the number of sounds in S(x) and S(y) and 1 denotes an indicator function. The notion of ABX discriminability defined above is asymmetric in the two categories. We obtain a symmetric measure by taking the average of the ABX discriminability of x from y and of y from x. Note that we do not require d to be a metric in the mathematical sense. The default distances provided in this challenge are based on DTW divergences with the underlying frame-to-frame distance being either cosine distance or KL-divergence. For most systems (signal processing, embeddings) the cosine distance usually gives good results, and for others (posteriorgrams) the KL distance is more appropriate. Contestants can experiment with their own distance functions if they wish (more details on the getting started page), as long as it was not obtained through supervised training.

As categories, we chose minimal pairs (eg, "beg" vs "bag"), because these represent the smallest difference in speech sound which makes a semantic difference, and therefore represents the hardest problem that a speech recognizer may want to solve. Since there are typically not enough word minimal pairs in a small corpus to do this kind of analysis, we use triphone minimal pairs, eg, sequences of 3 phonemes that differ in the middle sound (eg, "beg"-"bag", "api"-"ati", etc). Our compound measure sums over all possible such minimal pairs found in the corpus in a structured manner (see below for more details).

Within speaker ABX discriminability

In this version of the task all of the triphones belong to the same speaker. eg: A=begT1, B=bagT1, X=bag'T1. The scores for a given minimal pair are first averaged across all of the speakers for which this minimal pair can be measured. The resulting scores are then averaged over all found contexts for a given pair of central phones (eg. for the pair /a/-/e/, scores for contexts such as b_g, r_d, f_s or any other context present in the database are averaged). Finally the scores for every pair of central phones are averaged to yield the reported within-talker ABX discriminability.

Across speaker ABX discriminability

Here, A and B belong to the same speaker, and X to a different one. A=begT1, B=bagT1, X=bagT2. The scores for a given minimal pair are first averaged across all of the pairs of speakers for which this contrast can be made. As for the within-talker measure, the resulting scores are then averaged over all contexts for each possible pair of central phones and finally over all pairs of central phones.

In addition to these two ABX compound scores, we also provide a csv file with the detailed results listed for each minimal pair and each talker. This enable participants to evaluate how their scores are stable with respect to linguistic contrasts and/or talkers.