Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

What if we used poetry to teach computers to speak better?

Date:
November 18, 2010
Source:
McGill University
Summary:
A better understanding of how we use acoustic cues to stress new information and put old information in the background may help computer programmers produce more realistic-sounding speech.

A better understanding of how we use acoustic cues to stress new information and put old information in the background may help computer programmers produce more realistic-sounding speech. Dr. Michael Wagner, a researcher in McGill's Department of Linguistics, has compared the way French- and English-speakers evaluate poetry, as a way of finding evidence for a systematic difference in how the two languages use these cues.

"Voice synthesis has become quite impressive in terms of the pronunciation of individual words," Wagner explained. "But when a computer 'speaks,' whole sentences still sound artificial because of the complicated way we put emphasis on parts of them, depending on context and what we want to get across."

A first step to understanding this complexity is to gain better knowledge of how we decide where to put emphasis. This is where poetry comes into play. Wagner has looked at prosody, which means the rhythm, stress and intonation of speech. Poetry relies heavily on prosody, and by making a comparison between languages, he is able to uncover how prosody functions differently in English and French.

Working with Katherine McCurdy at Harvard University, Wagner recently published research that examined the use of identical rhymes in each language. "These are rhymes in which the stressed syllables do not just rhyme, but are identical, such as write/right or attire/retire," Wagner explained. "It is commonly used in French poetry, while in English poetry it is considered to be unconventional and even unacceptable." Wagner gave the following example from a book by John Hollander:

The weakest way in which two words can chime Is with the most expected kind of rhyme -- (If it's the only rhyme that you can write, A homophone will never sound quite right.)

The study shows that identical rhymes fit into a general pattern that also applies outside of poetry: even when repeated words differ in meaning and merely sound the same, the repeated information should be acoustically reduced, otherwise it sounds distinctly odd. "It's sort of a bug of the way English uses prosody," Wagner said, "but one that hardly ever creates a problem, because it occurs so rarely in natural speech." Wagner is now working on a model that makes better predictions about where emphasis should fall in a sentence given the discourse context. His findings were published in the journal Cognition and received funding Quebec's Fonds de recherche sur la société et la culture and a Canada Research Chair in Speech and Language Processing grant.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by McGill University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Michael Wagner, Katherine McCurdy. Poetic rhyme reflects cross-linguistic differences in information structure. Cognition, 2010; 117 (2): 166 DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2010.08.007

Cite This Page:

McGill University. "What if we used poetry to teach computers to speak better?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101118083731.htm>.
McGill University. (2010, November 18). What if we used poetry to teach computers to speak better?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101118083731.htm
McGill University. "What if we used poetry to teach computers to speak better?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101118083731.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Newsy (July 23, 2014) — An 8-year-old boy helped his younger brother, who has a rare genetic condition that's confined him to a wheelchair, finish a triathlon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Newsy (July 22, 2014) — The 83 new genetic markers could open dozens of new avenues for schizophrenia treatment research. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Newsy (July 22, 2014) — The new sci-fi thriller "Lucy" is making people question whether we really use all our brainpower. But, as scientists have insisted for years, we do. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Newsy (July 18, 2014) — Yale researchers tested 135 men and women, and it was only obese women who were deemed to have "impaired associative learning." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins